Rachel Pereira, Ed.D., Esq., the newly arrived Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, uses this word often to describe her St. John’s University experience thus far.
“There is nothing like being a New Yorker,” she said. “There is a certain energy in New York, especially in Queens—and the energy around the important work of equity and inclusion here at St. John’s is tangible.”
She added, “One of the many things that attracted me to the new position at St. John’s was the bold commitment and passion that our President, Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., brings to these issues.”
In her new role, Dr. Pereira serves as a member of the senior leadership team, has a range of leadership responsibilities, and oversees new initiatives and executive projects that advance, coordinate, and enhance institutional efforts to promote strategic priorities and advance policies and practices that promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and antiracism.
Her first impression of the Queens, NY, campus is the friendliness of people and how willing people are to give directions and to share their St. John’s experiences. Queens is familiar territory for the child of Haitian immigrants, a teacher turned lawyer who grew up in “The World’s Borough” attending Incarnation Catholic Academy and St. Francis Preparatory School.
“Queens is a microcosm of the world, and it was my early experience here that has served me well throughout my career,” Dr. Pereira explained.
Even though her career arc is a multidisciplinary one that combines diversity and inclusion work, legal skills, and higher education administration experience, when asked to describe herself, Dr. Pereira declares, “I am a teacher who continues to learn.”
To attest for both her love of teaching and learning, she is a Vacation Bible School teacher at her local church and also recently learned how to swim.
Dr. Pereira earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from City University of New York, Hunter College. She later earned an Ed.D. and master’s degree in Educational Theory, Policy, and Administration from Rutgers University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School.
She comes to St. John’s from the law firm of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP. In her role as Senior Education Legal and Policy Advisor, she led projects designed to advance work on complex higher education policy and legal issues. Dr. Pereira provided counsel and served as a strategic policy and legal advisor to a wide array of decision makers, institutions of higher education, national organizations, foundation leaders, academic and professional disciplinary societies, and nonprofit executives on critical higher education topics.
“I am fortunate to be able to blend my love of teaching and my passion for issues of equity and inclusion,” she said.
She was raised by hard-working parents who instilled in her the belief that “we are blessed in order to be a blessing to others.” Family life is held dear, as is a commitment to the greater community.
Part of that community commitment includes her membership in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., one of the historic “Divine Nine” and the first Greek letter organization in the US established by Black college women. “Alpha Kappa Alpha is a sisterhood composed of women who have consciously chosen this affiliation as a means of self-fulfillment through volunteer service,” she explained.
“How may I be of service to my community? What is my purpose? What am I doing for others? These are questions that I was always challenged to answer in my family—and they are questions that apply to the work of equity and inclusion as well,” she described.
Describing her outlook for the mission to affirm the full dignity and humanity of all persons, Dr. Pereira states: “This work can be scary and emotional and is unique to each person. But we must all work together to make everyone feel important and welcome—and to let people know that St. John’s values them. I welcome the challenge and am hopeful that the University family will give the office space and grace for the work that still needs to be done.”
She added, “There is much work to be done. We need long arms—and we need to link those arms together.”