Distinguished Staff Award
Photograph of Magdalena Fonseca

Magdalena Fonseca

Associate Director, Office of Minority Affairs & Diversity

Nominated by Rosa Ramirez, Program Manager, OMAD

Awarded 2016

It is with great pleasure that I write this letter in support for Magdalena Fonseca’s nomination for the University of Washington Distinguished Staff Award. I have known Magdalena for about 15 years since I first came to the UW. In this time I have witnessed Magdalena’s personal and professional experiences, passions, exceptional work ethic, and her triumphs, which have led her to where she stands now as a strong advocate for educational access for all students, especially undocumented students.

Magdalena has mentored me for several years now and I owe much of my own professional growth to her continued encouragement and support. As a former undocumented student, she knows first hand the importance of her work.

Magdalena has been working with undocumented students on this campus for over 14 years. At first it was quietly and discretely as to protect the students she worked with but as time has passed and laws changed she has raised her voice and become the beacon for undocumented students in need as well as allies wanting to learn more. When she first told me about the Purple Group I was honestly stunned because I have to admit that I was unaware of the situation undocumented students were facing. When I learned that she was a part of and involved in that support group is when I started to admire her. Her work towards ensuring that students knew they were not alone and that they felt like they belonged and could make it at such a large and expensive institution is to be admired.

Magdalena has served as advisor for the Beyond HB 1079 conference initiated by one of her students in 2012. She served as a member of the Washington State Coalition for HB1079 where she worked on a research project that focused on gathering information that would help establish policies and best practices for serving undocumented students at the university level.

Her dedication to making sure that the Leadership Without Borders Center within the Kelly ECC is as cozy as possible for students shows just how much she cares for the students to feel like this is a safe place where they belong. She has made sure to include students in most of the decisions involved in getting the Center ready to be used from decorating to what types of resources are needed and available. The Center provides students with many resources from scholarship listings and scantrons to peer advising. Before the Center was opened she had started the Lending Library where she asked the campus and non-campus communities to donate either funds or books for undocumented students to borrow for the quarter.

Magdalena has been raising awareness about undocumented students and the issues they face for years. She has helped many people understand that this is not something that they should choose not to deal with but instead educate themselves so that they too can help undocumented [all] students. She has developed best practices and offers trainings to UW staff, faculty, and departments, as well as other universities and colleges that want to learn more about how to serve undocumented students.

Her work with undocumented youth goes beyond the university setting. In 2011 while serving as board members on the University of Washington Latino Faculty Staff Association (LFSA) we partnered with an organization called YouthCare where we volunteered at a transitional home center where undocumented unattended youth were held until they could be united with family. We held a Christmas Holiday fund drive to raise funds so that we could buy each of the girls (about 18) at the transitional home one full new outfit. We sometimes cooked meals, and even helped get them ready, hair and make-up, for a prom that was held for them so that they could experience it.

Magdalena is humble and allows others to take credit for her work so long as the initial desired outcome is achieved which has been to secure a place and forward movement for undocumented students at this university. For the reasons mentioned above and many more I strongly believe Magdalena deserves the distinguished staff award.

You can learn more about the impact she has had in the following articles:

Provosts Report: http://www.washington.edu/provost/files/2015/05/Focusing-on-Race-and-Advancing-Equity-at-UW.pdf

Fall 2015 Viewpoints Magazine: http://issuu.com/uwalumni/docs/viewpoint_2015fall/11?e=1

The UW Daily: http://www.dailyuw.com/news/article_eaadff7e-876b-11e5-9f4b-7f19ace05057.html

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