Javier Bustamante, the Director of the Center for Cultural Engagement (CCE) at the Catholic University of America (CUA), exudes positive energy and optimism. Since joining the campus in 2018, Javier has created new programming for first-generation college students and has cultivated a safe, welcoming environment for all students on campus.
Prior to joining CUA, Javier served as Executive Director of the Office of Cultural Diversity & Outreach at the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, where he oversaw the planning and coordination of outreach programs to multicultural communities of the Archdiocese. While in that role, Javier recognized that he wanted to develop and “refine his leadership skills.” With encouragement from Crimsonbridge staff and support through the Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund, Javier participated in the Nonprofit Management Executive Certificate Program at Georgetown University’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership (CPNL) in 2018. Javier shared, “CPNL allowed me to focus on strengths and what is possible at the moment.” Instead of being consumed by urgent issues, he learned to be more strategic in his leadership. “I think more long-term now in both planning and use of resources.”
Armed with these new skills and with the inspiration of programs such as the Georgetown Scholars Program and AL1GN, Javier designed a support program for first-generation students at Catholic University called Take Flight. The inaugural cohort of 30 students, who are the first in their families to attend college in the United States, started the fall of 2019 and the majority of those students are returning in 2020. Working with internal and external partners, the goal is to prepare to serve 150+ first-generation students on campus in the coming years. Javier’s early recruitment efforts and his access to the Crimsonbridge Leadership Fund network gave the program a strong start.
At Catholic University, Javier has created a space where students come to share victories, to vent, to host club meetings, and to attend workshops that introduce first-gen students to campus resources. Students love the connection to campus that Javier provides at the CCE, where they can share common first-year challenges – like having trouble paying rent, buying books, and finding their place on campus.
Now more than ever, Javier recognizes that his personal and professional experiences have equipped him to handle new challenges and opportunities. “A main goal of the Take Flight Program is to look at our young people and to see an opportunity in them that’s worth investing in. First-generation students are not asking for anything special, for exceptions, but they need to be accompanied through the college process to reach their goals. It requires our making resources available to them in creative ways.”
Through his own leadership journey, Javier feels even more committed to championing students through college graduation. “As a first-gen student myself, I know education is essential, especially in a lot of immigrant communities. To be able to walk with young people in that journey allows me to relive my own journey and to provide students with some of the things I didn’t have.”