Since joining the Colleges over two decades ago, Director of Intercultural Affairs Alejandra Molina has consistently worked to build a more global community as she’s forged relationships between and across students and community members of all cultures and nationalities. To honor her work, Molina has been named the 2015-16 recipient of John Readie & Florence B. Kinghorn Global Fellowship.
Established in 1970 and generously endowed by Dr. and Mrs. William Reckmeyer in honor of John Readie and Florence B. Kinghorn, the fellowship honors outstanding faculty at HWS who have exemplified global citizenship on a continued basis.
During her appointment period, Molina will give the Kinghorn Global Fellow Lecture, a capstone to the work she completes under her fellowship. The topic of the lecture will center on immigration issues and global citizenship and will be reflective of the work with farmworker women she has done to qualify for the award. In recognition of her appointment, Molina will also receive a $3,000 stipend to be used in the spirit and nature of the award.
“It’s a wonderful recognition and I’m very honored because it came from my colleagues,” says Molina. “I feel incredibly fortunate to work in such a wonderful institution that has allowed me to continue to pursue the work I love both in my professorship and in my current position. Although I’m not working with students in the classroom, I still have the gratification of being able to help students be able to collaborate with the community in meaningful ways.”
Although still developing the exact focus of her project, Molina intends to build on a project she began in recent years, based on the work she carried out as a member of the Farmworker Women’s Institute. Molina’s interest in theater and her partnership with the institute inspired the writing of the play “Maria Gonzalez,” which received a dramatic reading in Geneva and in Ithaca, in collaboration with Cornell University’s theater troupe Teatrotaller. The women who inspired the play and whose lives will be the focus of her work as the Kinghorn Global Fellow, are “examples of global citizenship,” says Molina.
“We’re okay with moving goods across borders, but we’re not okay moving people,” she says. “The idea of ‘borders’ will have to be transformed, and I believe that if we look closely at the stories of local women, there is a sense of global citizenship represented when you’re willing to leave your country and cross the border.”
Throughout her appointment, Molina hopes to collaborate with Marisela Palafox ‘18, who is planning on spending the coming year as a social media intern with the Rural and Migrant Ministry, an organization that works for the creation of a just rural New York State. Palafox would promote the organization’s events on campus to bring exposure to issues like farmworker rights and the causes of rural poverty. Through her collaboration with Palafox, Molina says she hopes the Fellowship will leave a lasting legacy and greater impact on the campus community.
In addition to the Kinghorn Lecture, in which Molina plans to feature both her own work and her collaborative efforts with Palafox, Molina is also exploring the idea of transforming her interviews into a more creative fictional story told in the form of a play. She’s already grappled with this idea in the past, having written a play that was performed by a local theatre group in the Geneva community. Using a more creative format, she believes, helps her audience feel a greater connection to their own story.
“I think that as a campus there’s a great interest in immigration issues, and my hope is that my presentation will continue to contribute to a conversation that’s already happening on campus,” Molina says. “I want to follow in the steps of what this campus is known for, which is community based research and our interest in community issues. Sometimes we don’t have to go beyond our own community to make a global impact.”
Molina, who was born in Argentina and grew up in Guatemala, joined the HWS faculty in 1995 as a member of the Spanish and Hispanic Studies Department. She received her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and her Ph.D. in Spanish American Colonial Literature at Cornell University. She was named Director of Intercultural Affairs in 2006.
As Director of Intercultural Affairs, Molina has been dedicated to strengthening programs that bring together HWS faculty, staff and students. Intercultural Affairs, in collaboration with HWS department offices and with Geneva community groups, has sponsored campus-wide conferences open to both the campus and the larger Geneva community, bringing together persons with common concerns and interests.
Her efforts to establish a connection between the Colleges and the Geneva community include a number of programs. She coordinated an African-American oral history project that resulted in the publication, “Writing to Remember,” and developed HWS internships at the Geneva Historical Society for students to engage in research and documentation of Latinos and other community members in the area. Molina has coordinated annual community/campus conferences on immigration, poverty and homelessness. In collaboration with the Smith Opera House, she helped to organize Geneva’s first Latino Film Festival in October 2010.
Molina currently serves on the boards of the Geneva 2020 and Just Neighbors Initiatives. In the recent past she served on the boards of the Finger Lakes Health Foundation and the Liturgia Workers Center of Rural and Migrant Ministry. She is a member of the Colleges Culture of Respect Committee and the Geneva Public Library’s Personnel Committee.
In recognition of her service to her community, Molina was nominated for the Athena Award in 2007, received an NAACP Award of Excellence in Education in 2008 and the NAACP Mary Ann Mallard Community Service Award in 2010. At HWS, she was awarded the Student Life and Leadership for Advisor of the Year Award in 2001, the Latin American Student Association Award for Faculty Support, in 2003 and the Hai Timiai Honor Society Faculty Recognition Award in 2011.