Special to the Gazette
Mass Humanities will present one of its Governor’s Awards in the Humanities to Vanessa Calderon-Rosado, CEO of Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion, Boston, at an awards ceremony Sept. 28 at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
Calderon Rosado has had a long and multifaceted career demonstrating a commitment to the humanities within education, community development, and philanthropy in Boston and across the state. Calderón-Rosado is being honored for her work that actively promotes Latinx culture and builds community through the arts in Boston’s South End and for her contributions to shaping a more equitable philanthropic ecosystem in Massachusetts.
Humbled by the Honor
Asked about being recognized by Mass Humanities with the prestigious Governor’s Award, Calderon Rosado said, “This is a very unexpected honor, so I am extremely thrilled, happy, delighted, and humbled by this award, especially because it’s centered in the humanities. It may seem a little bit unusual or out of the blue for the kind of work that I do. However, I feel an intersectionality between my work and the humanities, so I’m really excited and thrilled.”
A Puerto Rican-born civic leader who received her doctorate in public policy from UMASS Boston and a Honoris Causa Doctorate from Cambridge College, Calderon-Rosado has been highly acclaimed for her outstanding, exemplary administration of Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA), a community development corporation dedicated to empowering and engaging individuals and families to improve their lives through high-quality affordable housing, education and arts programs. Under her leadership since 2003, IBA has become the largest Latino-led nonprofit organization in Eastern Massachusetts, with over $250 million in assets and a portfolio of 667 affordable housing units in its South End Villa Victoria development in Roxbury and Mattapan.
Empowering Individuals To Improve Their Lives
Calderon-Rosado said that Inquilinos Boricuas En Acion (which translates to Puerto Rican Tenants in Action) was founded in 1968 by a group of Puerto Rican activists that fought for the revitalization of neighborhoods and the development of affordable housing and community programs.
“As we pass forward 55 years later, we continue with that legacy and IBA’s mission is to empower individuals and families to improve their lives and achieve social and economic mobility through our high-quality affordable housing units, our education, financial empowerment, and arts programs.
Inspired by Her Family to Give Back
Calderon-Rosado was born and raised in Puerto Rico and moved to Boston in 1992 to pursue her Ph.D in Public Policy.
“I had every intention of going back to Puerto Rico, but here I am 31 years later,” said Calderon-Rosado. “All my family still lives in Puerto Rico, so I go often.”
Calderon-Rosado said her family instilled in her “the important values of giving back and paying it forward.”
“Both my mother and father were very politically involved, so I grew up in an environment that was extremely physically engaged, and my family had these important values around equity and justice,” said Calderon-Rosado. “That inspired me to dedicate the rest of my life to work in community development and toward a more just society and to provide voices to the community and the people who are not represented at the table. And when it comes to philanthropy, it applies to everything – how all these important societal institutions can lift up that power and support these communities to attain equity as well.”
Calderon-Rosado said her doctoral training in public policy has helped her “have a good understanding of what policy-making looks like.”
“My doctoral training been very helpful in not only understanding the process of building coalitions and alliances that lead to the passage of policy that promotes equity and social and economic justice, but also how to analyze the impact of current public policy and proposed public policies,” said Calderon-Rosado.
As an undergraduate student in college in Puerto Rico, she majored in education and took a position as a third grade teacher at a public school in San Juan.
But she eventually moved on to IBA and “It’s truly been the honor of my life to work for this organization for the past 20 years.”
Building a Winning Team at IBA
Calderson said that IBA faced some challenges when she first joined the organization.
“But I was able to put together a team of people and a board of directors that have worked collaboratively to build an organization that developed programs that were researched and evidence-based and reached the community that needed the services the most. We were also able to build our funding and revenue stream – and we were able to grow and expand. One person cannot do all that without a village, and I’ve been fortunate and blessed to have a great team working alongside me to make IBA what it is today,” said Calderon-Rosado.
Vanessa lives in Milton with her husband, Miguel, and is the proud mom of Carlos and Antonio.
The other Governor’s Award recipients are Margaret Burnham of Boston, distinguished Professor of Law at Northeastern and an internationally recognized expert on civil and human rights, comparative constitutional rights, and international criminal law; Kumble Subbaswamy, of Amherst, the retiring Chancellor of UMass Amherst and a committed public education advocate; and Elizabeth Bacon of Worcester, coordinator of the Clemente Course in Humanities, Worcester.
Said Governor Healey about the award recipients, “Massachusetts is home to a thriving humanities sector that makes our state more enlightened, innovative and inclusive. I’m proud to present the Governor’s Awards to these four leaders in the Humanities in recognition of the exceptional contributions they have made in education, history, community development, philanthropy, civil rights and more. I’m also grateful to the Mass Humanities Board for their partnership and the incredible work they do to expand opportunities across our state.”