Meet Natalia Fernández

Natalia Fernández is the Oregon Multicultural Librarian for the Oregon Multicultural Archives (OMA). The OMA is a part of Oregon State University's Special Collections & Archives Research Center. Its mission is to assist in preserving the histories and sharing the stories that document Oregon's African American, Asian American, Latino/a, and Native American communities. Prior to joining OSU in November of 2010, she interned at the Arizona Historical Society and worked as a graduate assistant at the University of Arizona Library Special Collections. Fernández holds an M.A. in Information Resources and Library Science from the University of Arizona (U of A). She also earned her B.A. in Art History and Spanish Literature from the U of A.   

My Professional Journey     

I grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and attended the University of Arizona for both my undergraduate and graduate studies. As an undergraduate, I majored in Art History and Spanish Literature, and I met several professors who acted as wonderful mentors. My plans for the future were uncertain so I made sure to ask them about their own career paths in higher education as professors and in some cases as administrators. I was fortunate by how open and honest they were, especially regarding their challenges as women within academia. While I did not fully comprehend their advice at the time, now that I work in a university environment, I am able to reflect upon the conversations we had and better apply their lessons learned. During my undergraduate years I began thinking about graduate school when I was introduced to the possibility of the university’s master degree program in information resources and library science. I became a part of the Knowledge River program which focuses on community based librarianship and archival work to serve traditionally underserved populations. In addition to the program, I interned with as many archival repositories as I could and, again, sought out advice from others within the profession. I was inspired by my supervisors’ commitment to using history as a means to empower communities, educate the public, and celebrate heritage. 

In 2010 I moved to Oregon to begin my job as the curator of OSU’s Oregon Multicultural Archives (OMA). Through the OMA I work with communities of color to document, preserve, and share their stories. The majority of my job is to collect materials, from both individuals and organizations, to add to the archives. I also curate exhibits and collaborate with other organizations on special projects as well as with professors for their classes. As a part of my position, I have the opportunity to attend a variety of conferences and participate in a number of professional development activities. It is sometimes incredible to comprehend how much there is to learn; however, that is what makes the profession challenging and exciting. One of my favorite conference ‘to dos’ is planning out the sessions I will attend. I always make sure to include at least one presentation that has seemingly no connection to my work – sometimes it means I simply learn something interesting, but other times I have been pleasantly surprised by the relevance and applicability of the information shared. I also make sure to keep up with the professional literature. If I am working on a project, chances are that someone else has worked on something similar and has a set of lessons learned to offer. Of course that is not always that case. When I first began in the field, I assumed that if I had an idea, it was likely unoriginal, but there have been times that I have found the literature to be lacking the information that I need. I use those times as an opportunity to fill those gaps through publications of my own that feature my new idea or new perspective on an old idea.    

Although my professional journey began with me seeking out assistance from others, I soon learned the importance, and the wonderful rewards, of giving back to the professional community through service and mentorship. During my time at OSU, I have had the opportunity to serve as part of the university’s President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCOSW). In the archives, we house the PCOSW records and it was so wonderful to be able to become a part of the history of a group that has had and continues to have such a positive impact for the university community. While I sought out service opportunities, my role as a mentor came unexpectedly at first. I work with a number of student workers each year, and when I first began my job, having just recently been a student worker myself, it was especially important to me to ensure that they had a great archival work experience. I asked them what their interests were, assessed their strengths to make sure that had opportunities to showcase them, and listened when they shared their professional aspirations with me. They then came to me with questions and advice, and I soon found myself acting as a reference and writing letters of recommendation. One of the first students I worked with continued on to attend library school. I recently saw her at a conference, and I could not have been prouder to see her there as a colleague! 

I have only just begun my professional journey and while I am not sure of my next steps, I am sure that I am going to continue to challenge myself professionally. Many of my mentors have advised me to define success for myself and encourage me to be ambitious. Not only do I intend to follow their advice, I hope to pass it on as well. 

 

A few things I’ve learned along the way…

Practice the Art of Saying “No” (so you can say “yes” to the things that really matter!): While I realize it is much easier said than done, it is essential to protect your time, one of your greatest resources. There are many wonderful service opportunities, but you do not need to say “yes” to all of them. Be selective! 

Build a Yourself a Network of Mentors: One person can never have all the answers and having a variety of perspectives to draw from when you have questions and need advice is incredibly helpful. An exercise I found useful was to create a diagram with my professional needs and goals. Then, next to each of them, I wrote down the names of professionals from whom I could seek advice. I quickly saw where my gaps were and actively sought to fill them. 

Become a Mentor: Taking the time to encourage and support up-and-coming professionals can not only be of great benefit to them, it can be wonderful for you too. Sometimes during the challenging times in your career, seeing your profession through someone else’s eyes can reinvigorate your love for what you do, and inspire you to continue on in your professional journey.  

 

My Contact Information

My email is natalia.fernandez@oregonstate.edu Feel free to get in touch with me! 

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Lead Change in Higher Education

Higher education in the state of Oregon provides a dynamic environment where women, non-binary, and trans people can impact change. Whether in the community college, 4-year institution, public, or private, we want you to be a part of shaping the future of higher education by empowering and affirming your leadership abilities.