Esther Rosbrook: Directing ALANA with Structure and Empathy

Esther Rosbrook has served as the director of the Africana, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center since 2012. With masterful organization skills courtesy of her doctorate degree in organizational leadership from Northeastern University, Rosbrook currently plans a number of new and recurring programs with sensitivity considering the COVID-19 pandemic. In her role, she emphasizes a holistic approach to creating a safer campus, affirming that a student who utilizes ALANA’s resources should feel comfort across all university environments. 

Among other distinct experiential qualities, Rosbrook offers 20 years of experience working with international corporations. In her extensive work with individuals spanning many countries, Rosbrook contends that she has developed a love for humanity, and those of differing backgrounds. 

“Before I came here, I worked with people from 89 countries, I learned so much from them and from their culture and identities, so I just love people,” Rosbrook said. “When I came to Colgate, I was excited to continue doing so.”

Rosbrook applies her educational experience from the State University of New York in Buffalo’s adult learning and curriculum design, and Northeastern University’s organizational leadership towards building ALANA’s annual programming. When considering others’ comments regarding the countless programs housed by ALANA, Rosbrook offers that this organization, seen as strenuous to others, is a hobby to her. 

“When people comment and say ‘Oh my, you have over 100 programs every year,’” Rosbrook said, “‘I’m like, ‘I’m having fun!’”

When asked about a day in her life, Rosbrook showcased a virtual calendar: Her key to organization. Her days at ALANA tend to consist of meetings, advising and events that range in time from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with sporadic days starting earlier and ending later. Her schedule is planned down to the minute; reflective of ALANA’s tight event planning. 

Rosbrook explained that certain events and themes recur at ALANA, alongside newer initiatives. Once a month, alumni visit ALANA to facilitate constructive dialogue and hold question and answer periods for students interested in STEM fields, including, but not limited to, medical fields, engineering and computer science. Personal advice as to which classes to take, ways to be resilient within your major and studying tactics are also offered by alumni at these events. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one-on-one alumni mentorship programs including STEM mentorship were available at ALANA; a program which Rosbrook is actively aiming to safely reinstate at the center.

“We are going to bring back our mentorship program, so students can meet with alumni at least once a semester via Zoom or Google Meet,” Rosbrook said. “Students can connect with these alum without having to wait until their senior year — we connect freshmen with our alum.”

Rosbrook also plans celebrations of heritage including but not limited to Latinx and Hispanic history month, Native American history month and Black history month to structure ALANA’s programming year. She remarked on the importance of creating safe space for these students and others who may feel marginalized at Colgate, and in their greater communities. To foster safety at Colgate, ALANA collaborates with a great variety of campus partners to substantiate holistically safe experiences across spaces, and beyond the cultural center. Rosbrook remarked as to how a safe space is not only fostered by the physical arrangement of the room one is in; it requires a consideration of what an individual mentally carries into that setting. 

“Situations inside and outside of the classroom and situations at home are connected,” Rosbrook said. “If there are [students] not focusing in the classroom, there’s also the possibility that they won’t be able to take care of themself in a social setting. Everything will be impacted. So, we have to work with different campus partners to support our students’ experiences.”

Rosbrook’s care for students who visit ALANA is reflected not only in her careful planning that maximizes opportunity, but in her considerations of student health. When asked about ALANA’s plans for the near future, Rosbrook spoke about the food pantry that is currently being installed in ALANA. This pantry will be the second of its kind on campus, with the first housed in the Shaw Wellness Center. Rosbrook remarked that ALANA is also a center of hospitality; no student should be hungry on campus, so ALANA’s kitchen services and newly installed pantry are particularly well-kept for student use. 

“We maintain and clean our kitchen regularly to make sure that people can use it whenever they want,” Rosbrook said. “We have extra food — people should not be hungry. We have couches where people can nap between classes. We also have different rooms where students can study and socialize.”

At ALANA, Rosbrook’s role as director is integral to the cultural center’s success. Her tireless organization and personable nature characterize a leader who is both determined and amiable.