Hilary Almanza: Ain’t No Rest for the Activist

From the cushy back room perfect for studying or hanging out, to its initiatives devoted to creating a more diverse and inclusive community on campus, the Africana, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) cultural center brings an environment full of comfort to the Colgate campus. The various events hosted at ALANA, including multicultural holiday celebrations, dinners and group conversations, are put together through the hard work of staff and students. Hilary Laura Almanza, a bi-racial Brazilian and Bolivian American with indigenous ancestry, who identifies as a white Latina, is from Queens and has been a dedicated and important part of the ALANA cultural center.

Almanza is a double concentrator in political science and critical identity studies, a self-created social science major. In her thesis this semester, Almanza is working to create a syllabus for a politicized identities course, one that she wishes she had been able to participate in as an introduction to political science.

During her time at Colgate, Almanza has balanced an impressive extracurricular schedule including involvement with the Senior Honors Society (SHS), Career Services and FIRST/OUS scholars. She holds the position of alumni committee chair with SHS, through which she has planned and proposed the inauguration of the Alumni Diversity Board and planned upcoming brunches and social events, and has co-led an event on Latinidad and celebrating Blackness during the 13 days/weeks of education of 2020-2022. In Career Services, she was selected to be a Golden Fellow and lead the FIRST pre-orientation in fall of 2019. Almanza has also held a position as the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) president and is now the senior advisor to LASO core. In her sophomore year, Almanza became a part of the Inter-Group Dialogue (IGD) council as an IGD intern, and began training. 

“I am now the Inter-Group Dialogue lead peer facilitator and in this position, I work to incentivize dialogue amongst different social, club, academic or identity groups on campus according to the Inter-Group Dialogue Framework. The framework is heavily social justice based and works through four stages that involve building community and working across power and social structures on campus. In this position, I have co-led two [physical education] courses, facilitated multiple general dialogue sessions and facilitated individual sessions for different social groups.”

In her role as an IGD facilitator, Almanza aims to facilitate conversations by fostering comfort with discomfort in a space open to differences and disagreements. These conversations are important for preparing students for real world dialogue and learning to act with compassion. Almanza sees IGD as a source of hope and inspiration on the journey to creating a safe environment for all on campus.

“Our inability to dialogue across our racial, ethnic, gender, religious, socio-economic backgrounds as a society prevents us from truly being able to learn and acknowledge ourselves and others within systems of power and oppression. IGD gives us the tools to dismantle that façade and truly identify ourselves within systems of oppression in order to understand where we stand and use those understandings to bring about meaningful change,” Almanza explained.

In the Colgate community, which is a predominantly white institution, Almanza has noticed an overwhelming amount of microaggressions. She has found support and reassurance in communities on campus including LASO, ALANA and La Casa Pan Latin Americana, where she lives and serves as co-house manager. 

“After the pandemic, I feel that I felt a responsibility to gather what little community we had left and make something that would outlast my time at Colgate, and hopefully stand strong against the next pandemic. Therefore, I focused most of my efforts reviving the multicultural community through LASO and La Casa,” she said.

It has been a goal for her to build a supportive space for community members of color and other Colgate students to feel safe and have fun as a family.

“Watching these spaces become filled with who I call chosen family and friends has been one of my most important work here on campus. I truly love and appreciate the community that has come together to rally behind La Casa and LASO and I will never forget these spaces once I graduate.”

Almanza is extremely appreciative of the people that have made ALANA a home for her here at Colgate. She attributes the support of the ALANA cultural center and surrounding community to her successes and accomplishments on campus.

Outside of her many responsibilities, Almanza enjoys styling through exploring her unique fashion sense, acrylic/dip powder nails, experimenting with makeup and digital planning. Almanza plans to work as a paralegal with Cleary Gottlieb LLP in New York City and pursue a career in law.