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La Liga de Las Americas

Dr. Dagmar “Dee” Morales: Leaving a legacy of leadership at the University of Toledo

By Alan Abrams
La Prensa Senior Correspondent

Things are just not going to be same at the University of Toledo in the New Year. Why?  Dr. Dagmar “Dee” Morales has retired after providing UT students with 24 years of much-needed and greatly appreciated leadership. 

“I’m very happy to have been the Executive Director of the University of Toledo Office of Latino Initiatives for the last five years,” says Morales, whose actual retirement date is Dec. 30.

There’s no doubt that she’s going to be a tough act to follow. Conventional wisdom is that UT is going to have a difficult time finding another person as exuberant, energetic, creative, and intelligent as Morales. But the good news is that they’re already off to good start as we discuss below.

So how has Dr. Morales been spending her first non-working days in 24 years? “I’ve been responding to students. They all have my cell number and my e-mail address. I was on call 24/7,” she says.

However, the future may hold a promising surprise for Morales. Will she return to government service or take a job in the private sector? “I have numerous options,” is all Morales will say, but she made it clear those options may not be limited to academia.

Previous to joining UT, Morales worked in Washington, D.C. in civil rights and anti-poverty programs at the federal Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture.

“My lifetime goal in terms of my career or my career path has been the advancement of under-represented people,” says Morales.

 She found current UT president Dr. Dan Johnson to be especially responsive to her needs in the Office of Latino Initiatives, which should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Johnson’s shared interest in under represented people. “Much of the foundation of his research is on African-Americans, although generally they have the same issues as Latinos,” says Morales. Will she miss working with Johnson? “There are some good leaders on this level, but it is time to move onto the next level,” says Morales, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

Although the bulk of her work at UT focused upon inclusion and diversity, Morales always put the needs of her students first. “I would bring them in as an undergrad, and make sure they were well prepared with a mastery of skills. I always stressed the need for a firm foundation of the skills they needed to succeed.

“I let them know they will be well taken care of at UT, and that I was an advocate they could turn to for their whole four year experience. But they also knew they had four years to keep their grades up,” says Morales.

“I was very concerned about the rights of students. They don’t know how to work the system to their benefit. But I had the benefit of 24 years as an advocate within the system. I knew how to pick up the phone and say I need help now.

“and my efforts brought results. One-third of the graduating class was making 3.0 and better and we had some 4.0 averages in the mix,” adds Morales.

The high regard her students have for Morales is exemplified in this letter she received from Aron Velásquez, son of Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) president and founder Baldemar Velásquez. Morales was kind enough to share it with readers of La Prensa.

“Dr. Morales, I wanted to wish you congratulations on your retirement, and to wish you much luck and God’s blessing on all of your future endeavors. I know that
you will keep yourself busy! I also wanted to thank you for your advice and guidance over the last four years. I am pleased to tell you that I will be graduating this December, Magna Cum Laude, with my degree in mechanical engineering, and I have earned a position with Marathon Oil Company upon graduation. It is an amazing opportunity, and I am pleased to tell you that I got the interview via ‘pressing flesh,’ as you like to say, with several employees during a career expo. When they hired me, one of the reasons they told me was the great communication skills that they perceived in me. Much of that skill came from those events that you put on that forced us to network with people we did not know (Some of that could have come from my father too, I guess!). Anyway, I wanted you to know that what you did here was much appreciated by many, and that you were instrumental in so many
people’s success. Thank you and God bless. Sincerely, Aron Velásquez

Christiane Fox of Marathon Petroleum Company’s Public Affairs department in Findlay confirmed that Aron Velasquez is “scheduled to report to work as a project engineer for Marathon Petroleum Company LLC in Findlay on Jan. 3.”

 Ironically, that’s the same day Alvarado assumes the interim directorship of the Office of Latino Initiatives at UT.  Somehow, the circle stays unbroken.

Linda Alvarado, currently director of UT’s Graduate Student Association, a member of the Graduate Council, and a doctoral candidate in the College of Education, will become the interim executive director of the university’s Office of Latino Initiatives on Jan. 3.

Although Alvarado will serve as interim director of the one-person office, Morales says her successor will have the opportunity to apply for and compete for the permanent position, something that is usually denied to interim directors as a condition of their employment.

“I encouraged Alvarado to apply for the job,” says Morales, adding that the university plans to conduct a national search for her permanent replacement.

Cindy Arredondo Geronimo con hija Ciara, Dan Saevig, Linda Alvardo, Joan Brown
and Dr. Dagmar Morales at a
UT Alumni Function in 2003

Alvarado has a different vision for the Office of Latino Initiatives. “I’m coming from academia, and I’m looking at the position from that viewpoint. I’ve done my research around Latinos, my dissertation and the literature I hope to soon have published focuses upon the underprivileged lower socio-economic group. I would like to further study and work with the marginalized student population.

“I take a more action research approach. Because the position is an interim appointment, I will continue to take my classes part-time. But I will be able to pump out some literature as well as write grants for the department and make a contribution to the Latino community,” says Alvarado.

“I will approach the position from a different perspective. I want to work with UT and the community. I want to work with gifted children students and underprivileged students, and I hope to set up a satellite office in either the South End or the East Side,” she adds.

But is Alvarado interested in the permanent directorship? “Only if I can teach as well,” she explains. “It is currently a staff job, which is distinct from being in academia.  I think it is important for students to see persons of color who are also teaching.  The way things are structured, you carry more authority if you are teaching, even if you are only over a one-person department.”

Alvarado plans to hold an Office Warming and encourages members of the community to attend and talk with her about any community concerns or issues the department can address.  






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