New Community-Based Learning director joins Mount Holyoke College
Maria Cartagena has joined the Weissman Center for Leadership at Mount Holyoke College as the new director of Community-Based Learning (CBL).
Cartagena is a familiar face to the community. For the past six years, she worked at Hampshire College in a variety of roles, most recently as the director of community advocacy. She has also served as the partnership coordinator for the Five College Consortium.
In her role as coordinator for Holyoke Bound, she shifted the relationship engagement had with the local community, centering community partners as co-teachers and community knowledge keepers. She has devoted a decade to creating reciprocal relationships with community members.
“I’m beyond excited to join the Weissman Center for Leadership as the director of Community-Based Learning,” she said. “I have a long-standing relationship with Mount Holyoke that began in the early 2000s. This is a dream come true for me and a full circle moment. Mount Holyoke has always been committed to community engagement. The field of community-based learning is broad, and I’m looking forward to supporting our students on their journey.”
Christopher Benfey, the acting director of the Weissman Center for Leadership, agrees.
“We’re thrilled that Maria Cartagena is joining us to direct a central part of the Weissman Center’s mission,” he said. “She has incredible experience in our wider community, and she brings a wonderful combination of fresh energy and in-depth knowledge."
“I could not be happier about Maria Cartagena joining the Mount Holyoke College community as the new director of Community-Based Learning,” said David Hernández, associate professor of Latina/o Studies and faculty director of community engagement. “Maria is a gem and unique voice and actor in the field of community engagement. With years of experience in the area as an activist and community advocate, Five College staff member and the unofficial historian of Holyoke, Maria’s superpower is the ability to expertly blend student learning, college priorities and our local community’s capacity to engage with Mount Holyoke College and our peer institutions.
“There is only one Maria Cartagena. We’re so fortunate to have her on our team.”
CBL pairs Mount Holyoke students, faculty and staff with local leaders in South Hadley and beyond to collaborate on internships, research and community engagement projects that have a direct, positive impact in the local communities. Students learn from on-the-ground practitioners and come to understand how to apply the ideas, theories and models they learn in class.
A CBL experience breaks down the barrier between the classroom and the real world, enhancing students’ understanding of current social issues, both locally and nationally, and helping them grow the leadership, organizing and advocacy skills that are vital to changemaking at all levels.