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Q&A With Jacquida Mars, Director of Multicultural Affairs

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Photo Caption: As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc., a historically African American sorority founded November 12, 1922, Jacquida Mars proudly wears the bright gold sweater and shield of the organization. 

Jacquida Mars joined the Bay Path community as the director of Multicultural Affairs in October.  From the moment Jacquida set foot on campus, her boundless energy and clear vision began making an impact on students, faculty, alumni, and staff.  She launched the first-ever "First-Generation Celebration" that provided a platform for meaningful discussions and insights from our first-generation students, alumni and allies, and helped coordinate the return of the Women of Culture Club’s annual Cultural Extravaganza.  An advocate and ambassador of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), she is committed to the University’s Core Values and transforming our campus culture into a more inclusive and equitable place for all.

Tell us a little about yourself.

When I was 12, my family moved to America from Guyana, a region in northeast South America, right above Brazil.  For many years, I have called the area around Hartford, CT, my home.

Has there been a pivotal moment that has helped guide you towards the work you’re doing today?

When I was an undergraduate, it was difficult for me.  I was an immigrant and a first-gen student who was trying to assimilate.  Then I met an amazing person who affected my life and countless other students:  Dr. Willena Price.  (Dr. Price recently retired as director of the H. Fred Simons African American Cultural Center at the University of Connecticut.) I relied on her, and others like her, during my time as a student.

Originally, I wanted to be a lawyer, but I realized that I was a people person.  I needed to make connections.  When I was going back and forth in my mind about my future, I kept asking myself the same questions.  What brings me joy?  What makes me fulfilled?  What can I do to impact the next generation of students?  The answer always came back to Dr. Price.  I wanted to be like her—to be the person who brings the dreams, wonder, and endless possibilities in the world to others.  I want to bring that mindset to students.

What inspires you in your DEIB work?

I have been working in a DEIB capacity for 8 ½ years.  In my roles, I have come to realize that for an organization to move into the 21st century, DEIB must be at the very heart and soul of any institution.  Bay Path has made that commitment, and I am looking forward to being part of that journey.

I believe that DEIB is about people being treated fairly and equally.  It is also about what strategies can be implemented that can help students who are not being seen or heard.  It is in that work that I receive satisfaction.  I want to improve the experiences of students so when they go out in the world, they are ready for it.  They will know the strategies and have the confidence to interact with others. 

You speak of influencing students.  Who has been an influence in your life? 

I have been very fortunate to have had many people who have played a role in my life.  One of them is Veronica (Ronnie) Venture at the Department of Homeland Security. (Veronica Venture is the Deputy Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and the Director of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity at the Department of Homeland Security.)

I first met Ronnie at Connecticut College. She has been one of my closest mentors and has pushed me to the best version of myself.  And she continues to motivate and elevate me in my work.

Earlier you spoke of confidence.  What is your personal philosophy on this strength?

Early on, I wanted to be the person that my siblings and others could look up to.  In addition to the people who have mentored me, my parents always pushed education.  Education is the place where one’s confidence can be built, and I used the opportunity of learning to work on my confidence. 

If I am going to influence and mentor others, I must be confident in my actions and my message.  When I step into a room, I want to own the room.  What does that mean?  I walk into a room with my head held high and my shoulders back with the belief that every person deserves to know who I am and why I am important. And I want our students to rise to that standard. 

Do you have a motto or words that guide you in your work?

Yes.  In fact, it is so important to me that I have it as a tattoo:  Breathe, this too shall pass.  And I have one more, “Stand up for what is right, even if you are standing alone.”

Before joining Bay Path, Jacquida Mars served as the assistant director of Alumni & Parent Engagement for Affinity & Identity Programs at Connecticut College, where she successfully developed a mentoring program for BIPOC students and alumni. Prior to her time at Connecticut College, Jacquida contributed to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts as the Career Programming Manager/GA DEI at Trinity College. Jacquida earned her BA in Psychology and Crime, Law & Justice from the University of Connecticut, and a master’s degree in Public Policy from Trinity College.  She is currently enrolled in a doctorate program in Educational Leadership for Social Justice at the University of Hartford.