Michael Benitez Jr. is a national social justice educator and activist-scholar with over a decade of experience in education. Often fusing scholarly inquiry, hip hop pedagogy and personal experience, Benitez provides critical, multi-context, and multi-issue frameworks for empowerment and transformation in education.
Benitez has served higher education in different capacities with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion over the last decade in both student affairs and academic affairs. Currently he is the Chief Diversity Officer and Dean of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Puget Sound.
He often collaborates with leading scholars and activists in the field of anti-oppression and social justice education and visits with different communities and higher education institutions across the country addressing issues around diversity and multiculturalism, knowledge representation, equity, youth and leadership development, and transformative pedagogy. Benitez considers college campuses to be the safety nets for transformation and change, and challenges the complacency students grow used to and how institutions cultivate apathy among its students.
Benitez is co-editor of the anthology, Crash Course: Reflections on the Film “Crash” for Critical Dialogues About Race, Power and Privilege, a collection of essays by some of the country’s most prominent anti-racism writers, scholars and activists. He has also contributed to Being Latino On-Line Magazine (2009), the American Mosaic Online Database (2012), Culture Centers in Higher Education: Perspectives on Identity, Theory, and Practice (2010), and most recently, Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity (2012), a new documentary film that features powerful stories by educators and racial justice advocates that examine causes and consequences of systemic inequity and reveal how racial inequity in the U.S. is embedded in our history, culture and identity.
Benitez completed both his Bachelor of Science and Masters of Education at the Pennsylvania State University (PSU), and following, served under PSU’s College Assistance Migrant Program, where he helped revive the program’s migrant education efforts.
Later at Dickinson College, as Director of Diversity Initiatives and Social Justice, Benitez established the “Diversity Monologues,” an ongoing annual program aimed at highlighting the creative talents of students while addressing diversity and social justice issues. Previously, he has also served as Director of Intercultural Development and the Portlock Black Cultural Center at Lafayette College, and adjunct faculty in the Graduate School of Leadership and Professional Advancement at Duquesne University
Currently, Benitez is a Doctoral candidate (Ph.D.) at Iowa State University focusing on Educational Leadership and Policy Studies.
Speech Topics Include:
• Diversity and Social Justice: Making the Connection, Building Community
• A Framework for Inter- and Cross- Cultural Collaboration
• Leadership and Diversity: How Leaders can help Eliminate Organizational Bias
• Repoliticizing Multiculturalism: Cultivating Conditions for Sustained Intercultural Relations and Authentic Dialogue
• Revisiting/ Redefining Activism in the Age of Conformity
• The Institutionalization of Activism and Manifest Apathy: Empowering the Disempowered
• Waking up to Privilege Systems: Best Practices in Multicultural Social Justice Education
• Black and Brown Relations in Higher Education and America
• Hip Hop Pedagogy as Praxis for Transforming Consciousness and Engagement in Education
• More than Beats and Rhymes: Hip Hop as Agency for Transforming Consciousness and Activism in Education
• Identity Politics and Whiteness in Latino/a- culture: Deconstructing Conditions of Race in 'pero somos Latino/as'
• Latinos, Activism and the Politics of Racialized Identities
Benitez speaking at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.