“Just go on the journey, follow the path,” says Shantel Palacio ’06, MPA, Ph.D. candidate, when asked her best advice for current students. “You never know what opportunities look like or what life has planned for you,” the consultant, advisor, and correspondent continued.
As a young girl growing up in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, a low-income area where 40 percent of residents live below the poverty level, Palacio was 100 percent certain she wanted to be a journalist. “Bryant had this emerging Bachelor of Arts in Communication program, and it seemed like it would be a good fit with a lot of opportunity. Rhode Island was far enough away from my parents for me to experience some freedom, but my sister was in Providence after having attended Johnson & Wales, so I could have support close by.”
What she hadn’t anticipated was the shrinking newspaper and journalism industry, and so she pivoted – and it wouldn’t be the first time she did so.
Her mother (Ruth Palacio, a NYC Board of Education school psychologist) wanted her to be a lawyer or teacher says Palacio, which she resisted, but the field of education is both wide and deep, and it wasn’t long until she was drawn into it.
“I became an admission counselor, and it opened my eyes to the disparity of resources available to high school kids, which, of course, could affect their college admissions and ultimately their careers and livelihoods.”
At Bryant, Palacio had been a resident assistant, admission ambassador, and orientation leader. She was a member of the Multicultural Student Union and helped out at the Intercultural Center. As a professional consultant on an array of issues including diversity, equity, and inclusion, Palacio appreciates that the University provides programs and resources attempting to educate and support the community.
“My Bryant education gave me the tools to effect change. Having great ideas is one thing, having the skills to bring them to life is what sets you apart.”
Throughout her master’s and doctorate education pursuits, which have focused on education policy and public policy, Palacio has studied the implementation of such programs. “For my Ph.D. program, a fellow candidate and I created a critical dialogue series, which helped me realize that people all want the same things: good economy, good quality of life – it’s the ‘how’ that we differ,” she says. “If you want to get the message across, you have to shift focus to the ‘what’ the goal is.”
Empathizing is a big part of shifting the focus. That’s why, after speaking to an initially indifferent group of kids and seeing them pay attention after she told them she was from Brownsville, she got the idea to interview real people from her neighborhood.
“It’s human nature to stereotype, which can hold us back. Some of the kids I spoke to had internalized low stereotypes cast by outsiders,” she explained. “But Brownsville kids want to go far and are searching for the resources to do so. So I, along with a couple of friends, went on the street to humanize the so-called ‘villains’ of my neighborhood. We called the project ‘Brownsvillain,’ and we continue to challenge the narrative. Showing people who live in Brownsville and their hopes and dreams. We are everyday people doing everyday things.”
She posted it online, and it took off, garnering attention from the likes of GQ Japan and NPR.
For Palacio, each piece of the puzzle forms the larger picture – education reform and policy. “One thing I know for a fact: My Bryant education gave me the tools to effect change. Being able to plan and execute a business strategy is key. Having great ideas is one thing, having the skills to bring them to life is what sets you apart.”