University announces new Executive Director for Latino Education Institute

June 14, 2022
By: WSU News

After a nationwide search, the University has announced the appointment of Maria Juncos-Gautier, Ph.D., as the new executive director for the Latino Education Institute – LEI.

Juncos-Gautier most recently served three years as the graduate researcher and consultant in the Office of Sustainability, Agro-ecology and Livelihoods Collaborative at the University of Vermont, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. Prior to this, she served 14 years as the director and founder of the Center of Sustainable Development Studies at the School of Environmental Affairs at Universidad Metropolitana/UMET — renamed the Ana G. Mendez University — in San Juan.

Under her direction, Juncos-Gautier managed a team that conceptualized, planned, and successfully completed outreach educational and research projects, most prominently on urban sustainability and resilience. Her work uses a social justice lens in the improvement of life opportunities for marginalized communities. She has garnered awards and recognitions including one from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service (2012) for Outstanding Program. She has co-authored two books with the collaboration and sponsorship of professional associations and federal agencies, and has written articles for local newspapers and magazines to advocate for her work with the Center.

Juncos-Gautier, who is bilingual and originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, has a bachelor’s degree in communications from UMass Amherst, an MS in environmental management from Ana. G. Mendez University, San Juan, and a Ph.D. in environmental studies from York University in Toronto.

The mission of LEI is to improve the academic achievement and wellbeing of Latino students (grades K-16) and their families from the City of Worcester. Most recently, LEI’s efforts in advancing health equity have earned accolades from the city and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This spring, the Worcester City Council gave special recognition to LEI’s ‘Health Ambassadors,’ a group of eight Worcester State University students from the community who have worked to promote health through outreach to and advocating for underserved and underrepresented populations.

“As an educator, Maria brings extensive expertise and lived experiences to this position which will enhance the myriad of programs and projects of the Latino Education Institute and support several hundred families and students each year,” said President Barry Maloney in announcing her appointment.

She will begin employment with Worcester State University on July 5.

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