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Meet MMC’s New Intercultural Center Director, Hayden Greene

This month, MMC welcomed Hayden Greene as the College’s new associate dean of students and director of the Intercultural Center. A veteran administrator, Greene was most recently the director of multicultural affairs at Manhattan College. However, his interests are as varied as his background. In addition to his work in higher education, Greene is a professional photographer, voice-over artist, and poet. Born in London, he spent his formative years in Brooklyn but did part of his schooling in his parents’ native Trinidad. We spoke with him about his story—and what he wants to learn about yours—as he started his new role.

What brought you to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work?
I don’t know if anything brought me to DEI work as much as DEI work is part of everything I do regarding leadership and student development. If you’re not looking at student development through a DEI lens, then you’re not really developing the whole student. I’ve worked in Greek life, leadership development, as director of student activities, and most recently as a multicultural director. All of those roles have an aspect of DEI, so in essence, I’ve been working through it the entire time I’ve been working in higher education. My philosophy is that if you put 10 people in a room and they see the exact same thing, they’ll walk away with 10 different versions of what they just saw. And that, in essence, is what diversity is all about because hearing about those 10 different points of view because of their 10 different experiences is where the real learning happens. That’s where I start when we have conversations about DEI.

What’s most rewarding and most challenging about it?
We’re in a time in this country where DEI is under physical, legislative, and judicial attack—where you have lawmakers making laws to prevent you from teaching history and people bringing lawsuits against organizations for funding individuals based on their disenfranchisement. You also have violence being perpetrated on people of color and differentiated groups across the country. So part of my work is to help people understand what we’re talking about when we say diversity, when we say everybody has a place and everybody is welcome and that we all have a story to tell. And that we all have some role to play in broadening what diversity means and creating opportunities for people to have conversations about their stories and how they add to the fabric of our nation. It’s really the most exciting thing when somebody who believes themselves not to have a particular identity suddenly understands that their story differentiates them.

How are you hoping to make an impact at the Intercultural Center as it marks its second anniversary?
One of the things I encourage is creating a brave space as opposed to a safe space. We’re trying to see how we can learn from each other, and we can’t do that if we’re unwilling to have deeper conversations. We can’t do that unless we’re willing to push the envelope just a little bit with a level of respect and dignity but also a spirit of exploration. The commonality of learning is that it happens at the edge of your comfort level. So, I want students to come to all the work we intend on doing with an open mind and a willingness to learn. We hope to engage students and make their collegiate experience one they want to remember. But I also want them to leave as fuller people than when they first walked through the doors.

What will your first order of business be?
I want to take some time to see what the students really want and how they need the space to function for them. I’m walking into a space that is two years old as opposed to creating a center from the ground up. I am a proponent of observing and taking notes and listening and even sometimes surveying our students to find out what exactly it is that they think they need and then amalgamating that with what I know from being an administrator and somebody who has done this work in the past. So, it will be a combination of what the students need and what I think will give them the best opportunities to grow.

What would you like the MMC community to know about you?
I’m a polymath—the tagline I use is Brooklyn’s favorite polymath. What that means is that I have a broad appreciation for a number of different things. Because I’m all over the place when it comes to interests, that leaves the door open for you to come and talk to me about anything and everything, from comic book culture to Alvin Ailey dance to nerding out about the periodic table. The bottom line is that I want to talk to you—I want to get to know everybody at MMC. I want to know what brings you to the College, what brings you to my office, and what brings you to our programs. And I want to know who our student body is because I intend on being incorporated into it, not hovering above it.

You’re a prize-winning photographer and poet. Does that make being part of a creative community like MMC even more appealing?
Absolutely. In my interview, one of the questions was, why MMC? And I said, ‘These are my people.’ These are people I commiserate with, who I won’t have to explain what it means when I say my mind is like a browser with 500 tabs open, and one of them is playing music, but I can’t figure out which one it is. Because that’s common for MMC students, and I think that that connection and that commiseration is something that’ll help me to be successful here.

Can you share a fun fact about yourself?
My family has a cat named Puppy. My two daughters, who are 10 and 14, wanted a dog, but I’m not a fan of having dogs in the city. And if you know anything about children, you know that they want something until they get it and get bored with it, and then it becomes your thing, right? So, if they were to get a dog, the dog would become mine. But during the pandemic, my kids were really exemplary when it came to dealing with everything that was happening, so my wife and I decided that we would reward them by letting them have a pet. But as a trade-off, we decided we would get a cat, which would be a lot easier to care for. At least I won’t be walking a dog in the middle of the night. And the deal was, we’re going to name the cat Puppy. So, the kids got their Puppy, but their Puppy is a cat.

The Intercultural Center is located in Carson Hall 412. Stop by to meet Greene and learn more about helpful programs, and be sure to follow the center on Instagram.

Published: October 16, 2023