Matthew Grimes '12 headshot

Matthew Grimes '12

Educator & Consultant, DEI Strategist, Racial Justice Advocate

Hometown: Troy, NY

Major: Spanish, Multicultural Studies Minor

Current Involvement: Equity & Inclusion Fellow at Harvard, Leadership for Educational Equity: People of Color Emerging Policy & Advocacy Leader, Cultural Proficiency Trainer

Involvement while at Siena: Study Abroad (Spain & Ecuador), Alternative Spring Break Team Leader (Dominican Republic)

How do you involve yourself in your community? My goal is to support communities and organizations on their journeys toward becoming anti-racist. I currently involve myself in various communities by advocating for change and justice, particularly in the education field. I also coach and mentor new educators of color.

Describe a typical day in your life. 

I wish I could say one day was as typical as another, but there are many moving pieces in my life, especially with the onslaught of COVID-19. On average, my days usually consist of working and then collecting and curating resources to support organizations during the evening. I read a lot of articles and literature on the daily. I am also pursuing a degree in Education Policy, so classes consume a lot of my time. When I do have free time, I try to unwind my spending time with my son, dog, or catching up on episodes of “Money Heist” on Netflix. 

Gibson, Grimes and Coles stand for a photo
On August 5, and as a next step to the community town halls on strengthening the bonds of racial justice, Matthew Grimes '12  and Jessica Coles (pictured below with President Gibson) co-hosted a workshop for First-Year Seminar faculty and staff.

How did your Siena education prepare you for the work you’re doing today?

Siena opened my mind to the broad field of Social Justice and equipped me with the knowledge and skills needed to work in the field of education. All of my courses incorporated some aspect of the values of inclusion and compassion and challenged me to think globally while impacting locally. It was at Siena where I learned to challenge practices and policies that were not built for historically marginalized communities and where I developed an unwavering commitment to educational equity. 

Describe your professional progression since leaving Siena. 

Upon leaving Siena, I was awarded a Fulbright grant to teach English in Argentina and study race relations on the Bolivian/Argentine border. From there, I joined Teach for America and moved to Cleveland, Ohio where I taught high school and middle school Spanish for several years before returning to the Capital Region. For the past few years, I have been working with education and social justice organizations, advocating for more inclusive work environments and an increase in the number of Black and Latinx leaders inside of the classroom. I have also participated in a number of fellowships, presented at several local and national conferences, and continue to push my own learning as well. 


Siena Professors: Dr. Jury & Dr. Nevarez

Class: Latin American Cinema with Dr. Garces

Location: Standish Library

Study-break food: Quesadillas

Residence Hall: I was a commuter, so I preferred common spaces. 

Class Year: Senior Year. I was able to travel to both the Dominican Republic (alternative Spring Break) and Bolivia (travel course) and took many interesting courses that year. 

Food: Big fan of the salad bar. 

Favorite memory: I actually worked in the Center for International Programs for two summers during my time at Siena on a few student exchange programs. We welcomed students and adult learners from Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. My job was to help build cross-cultural understanding through day trips around the Capital District. It was a really great opportunity to develop my leadership skills and build long-lasting relationships with friends in Latin America. 

Advice for current Saints: 

Be proud of who you are, especially if it defies the status quo. Take advantage of leadership opportunities and focus on your development as a social-change agent. Call out injustices; you can leave a better legacy than those who came before you. Study abroad! The world really does need more Saints.

Career advice for current students:

Don’t be afraid to forego career plans to seize amazing opportunities. Focus on your mental health. Be authentic. Choose work that allows you to have a real impact on others. If you’re coming into work from a point of privilege, step back and give space to others. Co-conspire. Disrupt systems that create power imbalances. And if you start to feel too comfortable, move on.