The Greenfield Intercultural Center appointed Mary Ann Baricuatro as its new associate director this semester, formalizing a position to support Native and Indigenous students at Penn.
Baricuatro serves as the first advisor for Natives at Penn, which is part of Penn’s 7B groups. Baricuatro’s position will continue to foster GIC’s goals of community building, wellness, and student leadership development, according to Valerie De Cruz, the current director of GIC. Baricuatro will join 2016 Graduate School of Education graduate Kia Lor, who is also a current associate director.
“Fall 2023 is the first time that GIC, in its almost 40-year history, has had two associate directors,” De Cruz said.
Baricuatro said the Hawaiian proverb “I ola ʻoe, i ola mākou nei,” which translates to “when you thrive, we thrive,” is a metaphor for higher education and student affairs.
“When we invest in our students as individuals, we recognize each person's potential to uplift their communities in their own special way,” Baricuatro said. “In my first few weeks here, I have already begun to see the passion and resilience of our NAP students, and I am excited to be part of their journeys as they blossom into the next generation of Indigenous leaders.”
Through her position, Baricuatro also said she aims to relieve some of the responsibilities placed on students in NAP.
“Having [Baricuatro] supporting us means we can focus on supporting our members more instead of trying to fix Penn’s relationship with Native students,” College senior and chair of Natives at Penn Aubrey Welch said.
Specifically, Baricuatro said she wants to focus on offering the group guidance and support in organizing the Powwow and planning Native American Heritage Month.
The Powwow, which will take place in the spring, provides Indigenous and Native students with the opportunity to connect with their culture, featuring vendors from the community, workshops, and Indigenous crafts.
“[The Powwow] is so much more than just a meeting. It is a celebration. There's so much spirit in it, and it still takes for all of us to connect with each other, with our identities, with our ancestors,” Baricuatro said.
Baricuatro said she hopes to increase her capacity to support students while building relationships, adding that she would like to get to know students at an individual level. She also told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she emphasizes the importance of building a deeper relationship with the local Lenape group, while pushing Penn to be better connected with the host tribe.
“With Mary Ann, we can focus on providing fun events … rather than using all our resources to fight for an equal representation and proper support on campus,” Welch said.