A Culture of Belonging

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Ysanel Luciano ’22 shares how inclusion builds community

Ysanel Luciano, was a first-generation student majoring in Management with a concentration in Human Resources (HR) Management. She was a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) advocate and a member of cultural organizations such as La Cultura Latina and Coming Full Circle, a program for women faculty, staff and students of color.  

Luciano was a mentor in the Multicultural Center Peer2Peer Program and served as co-president of Dresses to Dreams, an organization that provides free prom apparel to qualifying high school students. She was panel moderator for Bentley’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, a Bentley STEP (Summer Transition in Education Program) student and was inducted into Bentley’s Falcon Society, which honors students who excel in their field of study and make a significant contribution to the Bentley community. After graduation, she joined ALKU as a full-time sales representative recruiter. 

Why did you join La Cultura Latina and Coming Full Circle?

I joined La Cultura Latina because I wanted to be a part of a group that reflects who I am and my cultural background. As the daughter of Dominican immigrants, I am very close to my culture, food, music and language, and being able to share that with people was very important to me. I wanted a space where we could all dance and laugh but also speak about our upbringings and issues within our community.  

I joined Coming Full Circle to connect with a community of women who not only look like me but understand me and my upbringing and values. I wanted a place where I could share my experiences and be celebrated for my accomplishments; where I could meet with a group of people who care; and where members were encouraged to have meaningful conversations and experience the sisterhood of women of color at Bentley.

You were co-president of Dresses to Dreams. What inspired that work? 

As someone who comes from a low-income community, I understand the financial burden that comes with buying apparel for events, especially events that you don’t want to miss like senior prom. It’s special to see high school students’ faces light up when they find the right dress and exciting for us, as we feel like we’ve accomplished our mission. There’s a lot of cheering and ‘hyping up’ that goes on in the dress and hair and makeup rooms. I grew up in Lawrence [Massachusetts], and we have a strong community of immigrants who have worked hard to build our city. I learned firsthand what it means to give back. 

What did you learn about DEI in the workplace during your internship at Publicis Sapient?  

I worked at Publicis Sapient as a people operations and strategy intern as part of the HR department and led two engineering teams. I learned about the consulting industry and digital transformation and had the opportunity to co-lead workshops on DEI in the workplace. One of my favorite aspects of the internship was conducting a company project on recruitment and first-generation retention for early careers, where I learned about the best way to recruit and maintain underserved employees in a corporate setting.  

You shared that you learned the value of hard work from the immigrant community where you grew up. What was that like?  

I always say that the city of Lawrence was built by dreamers and maintained by thinkers. It was made to last because the people who built it did so that their families could sustain themselves for years to come. A lot of the infrastructure and community programming present in Lawrence were started by people seeing the inequalities and income disparity in our town and deciding to do something about it.  

I understand and value hard work because I grew up in a family where people worked long and unfavorable jobs to put food on the table. My mother is a Dominican immigrant and has been working the same job for over a decade now and has been able to provide me with every luxury that she possibly could. My mother taught me to work toward my goals because she didn’t have that opportunity herself.  

You’re a DEI champion. Why is this work important to you, and how will it tie into your career?  

DEI is important to me because, as a young woman of color, a lot of these issues impact me and my community. DEI is about creating a safe environment for individuals of all backgrounds, and I don’t believe it’s spoken about enough on campus and in the workplace. I want a career in HR where I can create and develop programs and training that will encourage people to think about the way they view race, gender, sexuality, disability and more. 

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