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Hispanic Heritage Month: A Director's Impact in Racial Equity at UMD and Beyond

Hispanic Heritage Month: A Director's Impact in Racial Equity at UMD and Beyond

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: October 11, 2019 06:24 PM

WDIO continue recognizing the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the United States as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Susana Pelayo-Woodward is known for her tremendous role at UMD and the community. She's an advocate for racial equity and has made sure to spread that message in Duluth.

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Susana has inspired changes at UMD for over 30 years. She started off as a student there and worked her way up to the current position she has now, as director of UMD's Office of Diversity and Inclusion. She also an assistant to the Chancellor for Inclusive Excellence.

"When I started my position there were very few students that self identified as students of color. Throughout the years we've made a lot of changes in our curriculum and students enrolled at UMD," said Pelayo-Woodward. "I always say I have the best job in the world, I love my students."

Susana is usually in the multicultural center interacting with colleagues and classmates, who she is very close with. She works on providing leadership services and programs to students of different backgrounds. She mentors students and makes them feel at home.

"It's so amazing to see how passionate she is about us as students, making sure we have everything we need and is willing to help us all. She is an amazing woman who is an inspiration to everyone," said Kristina Nghe, a senior at UMD. 

"I remember her from being a student here, because she was involved in everything, always doing stuff to educate the campus about different issues and engaging students," said Emily Drevlov, a program coordinator for UMD's International Student Services.

Susana calls herself a Duluthian, but never forgets her Mexican heritage that she's very proud of and it shows in the work she does.

"Duluth is my home, so I got very involved in the community too because I think community partners are extremely important in the work we do at UMD," said Pelayo-Woodward.

Susana is involved as a treasurer in the Board of Directors for the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. She is part of their 2020 Week of Remembrance. Susana also serves on the board of directors for the Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault(PAVSA), and was recently was appointed to the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs.

"I'm part of the Campus Climate Leadership Team. We've been working the last 10 years with Chancellor Black on improving the institution to be more inclusive and more equitable across all areas of work on campus," said Pelayo-Woodward.

Susana has been a voice for the underrepresented. She's actively involved in protests, panels, conferences and nonprofits relating to immigration and women's rights.

"She's worked so hard to get to where she is. She works hard to make sure everyone has good opportunities," said Nghe.

"The way she talks about issues, sometimes topics sensitive and harder to talk about, she invites people in rather than push people out," said Drevlov. "UMD is lucky to have her. She's been here for a long time and is a great resource for campus."

Susana is passionate about her role at UMD, and to her, it isn't work, it's doing what she loves. She's made a lasting impact as an immigrant in this country and hopes to continue doing that for many years to come.

"I have two children and a nephew and I want to make sure that what I want for my children, I want for every child here. My contribution has always been to speak up for inequalities," said Pelayo-Woodward.

Credits

Alejandra Palacios

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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