Chair of the Board
Hilda Pena-Alfaro has been working in Education for over 25 years as a teacher, administrator, and entrepreneur. She owned and ran a language school in San Antonio, TX for 16 years, where she partnered with school districts to implement programs for students and teachers, improving the overall well-being of students.
With a bachelor’s degree in International Relations, a master’s degree in Business and Economics and most recently, a Ph.D. in Cultural Literacy and Language from the University of Texas, Hilda’s diverse educational background provides a distinct and empathetic perspective to the work she engages in.
Hilda is a multicultural and multilingual educator. She has vast experience managing educational institutions and student groups leading to desired outcomes and a solid knowledge of strategic management, equity issues and second language acquisition. Hilda has a visionary leadership style and is passionate about advancing diverse learning communities through empathy, compassion, and cultural understanding.
Mark Auslander is a sociocultural anthropologist and museum professional. He has served as director of the Museum of Culture and Environment, Central Washington University (CWU) as and the Director of the MSU Museum, the museum of science and culture at Michigan State University. He has curated and organized a range of exhibitions and community-based programs in culture, natural history, and expressive arts --on topics including eco-connectivity; slavery, liberation, and memory in university settings; the largest crisis of sexual violence in the history of American higher education; contemporary African and Diaspora art; heroin and homelessness; migration and community art; the material culture of human rights struggles. He has developed a STE(A)M museum classroom in an inner city public school; and overeen innovative community partnerships with at risk youth and survivors of sexual violence. His museum recognitions include the American Alliance of Museum’s 2020 Special Achievement award for Excellence in Community Empowerment and the Michigan Museum Association’s Peninsular Award for exhibition development.
Dr. Auslander’s book, “The Accidental Slaveowner: Revisiting a Myth of Race and Finding an American Family” (University of Georgia Press, 2011) re-reads American racial politics under slavery and post-slavery through structuralist approaches to mythology and kinship. The book was awarded the 2012 Delmos Jones and Jagna Sharff Memorial Book Prize for the Critical Study of North America (Society for the Anthropology of North America), awarded for the leading critical anthropological study of North America published in 2010 and 2011, and the 2012. Victor Turner Ethnographic Writing Prize (Second book award). He is the founding editor of Art Beyond Quarantine: https://artbeyondquarantine.blogspot.com/ which documents artistic responses to Covid-19 the world over.
Dr. Auslander has recently served as a visiting faculty member at Univeristy of Massachusetts-Amherst, Boston University, Mount Holyoke College, and Emerson College.
I was officially introduced to art during my early college days at YVCC, which entailed many trips to Ellensburg to attend plays, musical recitals and other presentations. In 1992, I made this town a temporary home by becoming CWU student and a permanent residency after graduation. Art, as we know, is a powerful universal language that transcends culture, language and breaks down barriers. It can be the glue to social harmony in any community, requiring little effort on our parts, just a willingness to accept it into our lives. I am proud and happy to be part of NEAR as I anticipate it will be a transformative, vital, multifaceted tool in our community.
I am excited to be a NEAR board member because Ellensburg has always been my home. I was raised here and graduated from Ellensburg High School in 2015. I now attend Yakima Valley College as I am pursuing a degree in Nursing. I am also a wife, and mother of two children that attend school here in the Ellensburg School District. Growing up here has taught me to appreciate the love that our community has for the arts. We are truly lucky to live in a place that is so rich in art and history. I am a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. Having the opportunity to share pieces of my culture with our community is an honor and I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge of indigenous art and teachings with others.
Hi! My name is Chloeanne Erickson, I am currently a Senior at Central Washington University. I am excited to be interning for NEAR where I help create and facilitate workshops in response to community needs. My primary focus is juvenile incarceration and youth homelessness in the Valley. I'm hoping to utilize my passion for creative writing and art to address these issues, provide resources and sources of funding, as well as contribute to helping confront and heal these matters through different modes of art. Youth homelessness and the toll it takes on those affected by it is increasingly prevalent in districts state-wide, and as someone who's experienced this in my own life, I am incredibly excited to be taking part in this, and to see how working with and learning from community members who are experiencing these issues will reflect in my own personal journey.