Office of Multicultural Affairs update

April 15, 2021
Sherry Hernández

Raised in the Philippines, Dean of Multicultural Affairs Sherry Hernández has dedicated her career to inclusion and increasing educational access for high school and college students. She earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of New Hampshire, where she later served in college admissions and advancement. Prior to being named dean of the Office of Multicultural Affairs in 2020, Hernandez was an associate director of college counseling at Exeter, leading financial aid and scholarship initiatives.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) is a critical part of Exeter’s efforts to be an anti-racist school. Through the development of cultural sensitivity programs and anti-racist student leadership training, OMA helps create a more inclusive learning environment inside and outside of the classroom. In this work, Hernández and her close-knit team support a wide array of student experiences: international, BIPOC, LGTBQ, first-generation, low-income, and students with physical disabilities and learning differences. They also serve as primary advisers for 28 culture and affinity groups, including La Alianza Latina, the Afro-Latinx Exonian Society, Asian Advisory Board, and the International Student Alliance. 

It’s an honor to support our students’ journeys and help them find a place here at Exeter."
Sherry Hernández

In this work, Hernández and her close-knit team support a wide array of student experiences: international, BIPOC, LGTBQ, first-generation, low-income, and students with physical disabilities and learning differences. They also serve as primary advisers for 28 culture and affinity groups, including La Alianza Latina, the Afro-Latinx Exonian Society, Asian Advisory Board, and the International Student Alliance.

This summer, the office, in collaboration with Director of Equity and Inclusion Stephanie Bramlett, is launching the “Exeter Equitable Experience” for low-income, BIPOC students who are attending Exeter for the first time. “We want them to feel welcomed to campus and transition smoothly to boarding school,” Hernández says.

Hernández is also shepherding an initiative for first-generation American students attending boarding school and college. “These students are very intimidated by Exeter and living away from home for the first time,” Hernández says. “Their parents have never navigated anything like this, so there’s an emotional cost, too.” She hopes to expand this offering to include translation services to help families complete documents like financial aid forms and college applications.

Hernández considers OMA’s work crucial to student success. While a big focus is on programming and building community, the office supports students in less visible ways, too, providing funds to replace a lost laptop or purchasing a desk for a student who needs a study-friendly space at home during the pandemic. “We’re in an incredible position to support our marginalized students,” Hernández says. “The work is engaging and challenging at the same time, which makes it worthwhile.”

Students gather for MLK Day.


Department quick takes

Students pursue their passions

OMA-sponsored affinity groups, led by students (alongside a faculty adviser), offer unique leadership opportunities as students help to shape safe spaces that celebrate their culture or background. As a member of Black Students of Excellence, the Afro-Latino Exonian Society, and the Young Brothers Society for Black and Latino Males, Osiris Russell-Delano ’21 has found community in these spaces. “My sense of belonging was forged through the affinity groups,” he says. “The best meetings in affinity groups are the ones that have no agenda or we’re not breaking down some huge worldview topics and are more just like, ‘Oh, how are you guys doing?’

New voices on campus

Journalist, filmmaker and author Sandra Guzmán was named a Latinx/Hispanic American Heritage Month honoree by Latinx students this year. In a casual, online conversation, she discussed her work, including her documentary, Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. “The perspective she offered to Latinx students as a feminist was invaluable,” Hernández says. “The conversation was held with our Latinx affinity groups to create a safe space for students to ask questions and build community with each other.”

Student-teacher collaborations

To honor Black History Month on campus, OMA co-sponsored “My Black is Legendary,” a celebration of Black art, fashion, culture and identity. Students and faculty worked together to create art, produce a fashion show, and showcase music and dance in different locations within The David E. and Stacey L. Goel Center for Theater and Dance. Open to all, “It was an opportunity to celebrate our Black students and colleagues,” Hernández says. “The students were so excited.”

On-the-ground experiences

Faculty members accompany affinity club leaders and OMA proctors to conferences each year. At the Student Diversity Leadership Conference, students receive valuable leadership training and meet peers from around the country. For the first time, the Asian American Footsteps Conference was held virtually at Exeter in 2021. Shantelle Subkhanberdina ’22, a former attendee, noted, “Whether you are completely in tune with your Asian identity, are struggling to connect with it, or anything in between, we are all in the same situation: navigating high school as an Asian- or Asian American-identifying student and figuring out what exactly that means.”