Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Karina Beras and the Class of 2018 have at least one thing in common; it’s their first year at Swarthmore. Though, unlike the freshmen, Beras is beginning her first year as the Residential Communities Coordinator.
“My official job description includes supervising about half the Residential Assistants […] and seeing what we can and need to change about residential life”, said Beras. She also finds herself heavily involved in programs not found on her job description. Beras said, “I am on the advising leadership team for Paces Café, ML Breakfast, and Kappa Alpha Theta because of my connections to hospitality and being Greek during undergrad.”
Beras hails from Bronx, New York and her heritage goes back to the Dominican Republic. She finished her undergraduate work at Cornell University in 2010, where she received her Bachelor of Science on Hotel and Restaurant Administration. “When I was about half way through my junior year at Cornell, I realized there were a lot of things that happened not necessarily personal to me, but to my really good friends.” This led to Beras wondering what type of support system she had.
As a first-generation student, she was grateful to those who helped her. “I want to be that person for those who come after me,” said Beras. For her, the right job was here at Swarthmore. Beras tells me that she chose to come to Swarthmore because she wanted a liberal arts college environment. She explains that Swarthmore is closer to Cornell than Louisville. Additionally, she “wanted to be where people reminded her of herself.” According to Beras, the defining characteristic of Swatties is their ambition and that is what makes people here interesting.
After Cornell, she worked in catering before working in University of Louisville’s admissions office. She went on to University of Michigan to receive her Master’s in Higher Education Administration in 2013. Now, she works to become the voice for the students at Swarthmore.
Beras said, “In terms of my role working with the Resident Assistants […] it’s more about being someone who’s listening to them, advocating for them […] helping them navigate through whatever they are experiencing, and helping them put [their words] into what makes sense to others.” For her, the role of the Residential Communities Coordinator is a balancing game. “I’m finding myself in this sort of area where I’m balancing being a staff-member […] but also being an advocate for students,” said Beras.
She is particularly concerned with how the staff could gain the trust of the students while adhering to certain policies. Beras wishes for Swarthmore to support “open lines of communication between faculty, staff, and student[s] to the point where no one is walking around with the fear that something is going wrong or where they can’t trust each other.”
When asked about her favorite places on campus, Beras mentioned the McCabe library, Paces Café, and the Black Cultural Center. “I’ve been able to feel a sense of calmness and positivity and community more than any other place on campus. It was something that hit me the minute I walked into those places,” said Beras. She enjoys reading immensely and pointed to In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez, a historical novel about the Mirabal sisters during the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.
Beras is striving to keep her balance between being an administrator and an advocate for the students. She said, “I’m finding myself in this sort of area where I’m balancing being a staff-member—particularly in the dean’s division—but also being an advocate for students.”
Featured image courtesy of Swarthmore Communications.