“When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” - Audre Lorde
Here at UNH is where Michael Vidal found his passion of fighting for social justice issues. The Audre Lorde quote captures Michael’s dedication to empowering others to act and bringing out the best in those who surround him. Michael is a kind, humble, and compassionate person who sees the positives our world presents on a daily basis.
He entered UNH as a Psychology major and the intentions of having a typical college career. He lived on a Residential Learning Community floor in SERC C. Many of Michael’s floor mates had participated in UNH’s CONNECT program, providing an avenue to explore multicultural experiences. After his first Spanish seminar class, he met his now good friend, Karoline Goulart, president of the Latino student organization, MOSAICO. Karoline invited Michael to attend a MOSAICO meeting with her, and he willingly accepted, setting in motion his eagerness to participate in on campus student organizations.
Ignited by the MOSAICO meeting, Michael became a general member of the Diversity Support Coalition (DSC), the overarching organization sponsoring MOSAICO. By the end of the fall semester freshman year, he was thrilled to be elected as the DSC representative for MOSAICO. Michael was also invited to be an attendee of the MLK Summit, where he first met the staff of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (OMSA). He would continue to attend the MLK Summit his sophomore and junior years as a student coordinator. In his first semester at UNH, Michael says he was able to “discover a network of people who fostered my desire to create change, thus was born my passion for social justice.”
As an energetic individual, with a genuine and caring demeanor, Michael was bound to continue his path toward leadership on campus. During freshman year, he was elected as the MOSAICO president and was asked to be a mentor for the CONNECT program, despite never having participated in the program himself. By the time his sophomore year was over, Michael was also elected as the Director of the DSC, a position he would hold his junior and senior years at UNH. His leadership style has been described as creative and fun, with the support to allow for risk taking. Most importantly, Michael leads his group with joy and laughter; he sees those as essential elements to creating a strong and cohesive DSC community.
The summer between his sophomore and junior year, Michael went to London and Cambridge, England for five weeks to research access to higher education through the McNair Scholars Program. Michael’s second study abroad opportunity, again through the McNair program, was during his junior year. Michael went on a research trip to the University of Ghana for eight weeks in the summer. Michael focused his research on challenges in development, particularly higher education access for underrepresented groups. He credits this experience as the “most amazing experience I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
Michael began his senior year with a lot on his plate. He was continuing his role of DSC Director and was accepted to be a Resident Assistant in SERC C, placed on the same floor where he began his UNH career. He also was the host for the MLK Commemorative Address and was a core facilitator. Through his work in diversity and equality, Michael has become a respected member of the community. His energy and enthusiasm surrounding his passion for social justice education is easy to see and compels others to take action.
Michael will graduate with a dual degree in Psychology and International Affairs and two minors in Women Studies and Race, Culture, and Power. In addition to all of his experiences, Michael was a teacher’s assistant for the Women Studies Department, served on the President’s Commission on the Status of People of Color, served on the UNH Bias Response Team, and was a member of the Discovery Fellows program a group of students and staff facilitating and conducting intentional conversations around difficult topics. When asked what comes next, he responded with a smile on his face. He hopes to go on to graduate school to be a Social Justice Educator and then pursue a doctorate in education or become a volunteer for City Year. After all these goals are achieved, Michael wishes to one day own or work for a non-profit organization dedicated to marginalized groups. He also dreams about being a professor, educating others about social justice and creating institutional changes.
Looking back at his UNH academic career, Michael most appreciates the relationships he has been able to form in the last four years. His advice to other UNH students is to create those fantastic bonds. He explains, “You can do so much, but it’s not worth anything if you don’t have people to share it with.”