Vanessa serves Holyoke Community College as Professor of Anthropology, Honors Program Coordinator, Program Coordinator for Sociology/Anthropology and Phi Theta Kappa. Originally from San Sebastian, Puerto Rico, Vanessa is a trained cultural and medical anthropologist whose research specializes in how social inequities impact access to medical care and educational opportunities. Her dissertation, Conversations with the Community: An Ethnography of Two Cases Studies Highlighting Researcher-Community Partnerships in Springfield, MA, analyzed the efficacy of using community-based participatory research as a methodology for the creation and implementation of sustainable and culturally relevant community health interventions.
Vanessa is an experienced diversity consultant and college administrator with leadership and training experiences including Leadership Institute for Political and Public Impact, a 2013 Social Justice (Conflict) Mediation training, and a January 2014 New Organizing Institute (NOI) training on student leadership and community organizing. As a local follow-up to the NOI training, Vanessa created the Organizing for Community Change Leadership Institute (OCCLI), a student leadership institute that provides students with strategies for fostering social change through a project in collaboration with a community partner. The program also trains students as co-facilitators and mentors for the next summer’s program, thereby creating a sustainable peer mentoring leadership program. Vanessa is co-facilitating and collaborating on Mama’s VOICE, on a multi-year CBPR partnership academy project to investigate how Hampden County’s moms of color assess their maternal well-being.