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Dias Named New Director Of Montserrat Coalition

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Thursday, December 12, 2013

Updated: Thursday, December 12, 2013 04:12

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Robin Kim / Heights Staff

The Montserrat Coalition welcomed a new program manager to its office this November. Paula Dias, BC ’07, was appointed as program manager on Nov. 18, replacing Marina Pastrana, the former program manager and founder of the coalition.

Pastrana accepted a position at Catholic Extension, a national fundraising organization that supports poor mission dioceses across the country, in mid-October. The BC alumna developed the Montserrat Coalition, an initiative under University Mission and Ministry that assists students at high levels of financial need, and developed it since its formation in 2008. Dias says she is excited to continue Pastrana’s work.

“The reason I applied for the position is because I think that this program has become a really important part of Boston College,” Dias said. “Marina did such an amazing job building it from the ground up and I was really impressed with the University’s commitment to supporting her.”

Dias joins the BC community after working at Middlesex Community College—a mid-size commuter college in Bedford and Lowell Massachusetts—for four and a half years as a student engagement specialist, developing programs to integrate academic and co-curricular learning.

“[A] Majority of the students at Middlesex College were high financial need,” Dias said. “There was also a very diverse student body, both in age and educational background … I got to work with a lot of different kinds of students and I found that students, especially from a low income background, don’t always participate in as much … The population that I was working with there was similar to the Montserrat students in many ways.”

In her first month at BC, Dias says she has been keeping busy, spending much of her time meeting with students and developing partnerships with administrators and faculty members across campus.

“I’ve been trying to meet with as many students as I can,” she said. “I want to hear about their experiences, hear what they like about BC, what their challenges are at BC ... I want to know what the current status of BC students is.”

While Dias has spent many days running back and forth between meetings, she says she has no immediate plans for change in the Montserrat Coalition.

“I don’t want to make any decisions on something that I’m not informed about, so I think it’s really important to be as informed as possible,” she said. “I want to try and find the gaps … What are the things that we could be doing better work on? Where are the places that we could improve? And that’s not going to happen right away. I think it happens over time and after talking to people. I see this year as a learning experience.”

As an alumna of BC, Dias brings her own memories as an undergraduate and graduate student to her new position, having graduated from BC with a philosophy major in the Perspectives program and studying in the Lynch School of Education’s Masters of Arts Higher Education Administration program.

Dias was heavily involved in the Brazil service trip as an undergrad, but, looking back on her experience, she expressed a wish that she had participated in other activities on campus. She, like many Montserrat students, had to pick her co-curriculars based on what she could afford.

“I remember not doing things because they were too expensive,” Dias said. “I worked full time as an undergrad, and I had to pick and choose where my money went. I didn’t have the money to do everything.”

Dias now hopes to help BC students experiencing similar challenges.

“I want to be a person that advocates for students on their behalf,” she said. “There is so much more we can be doing, and that’s what I’m trying to figure out now. I’m asking, ‘What do we already do? How can we keep doing that well? And what else do we need to explore?’”

Although Dias is happy to be back on BC’s campus, she says she chose to return not because she is an alumna, but because of the work done in the Montserrat Coalition.

“I wanted to be a part of something that was really meaningful to me,” Dias said. “I don’t just want a job. I want to do something that really matters to me. The fact that I’m back at BC is a really great bonus.” 

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