Grechel Rosado ’20 didn’t cross the stage and receive her diploma at an ordinary Commencement ceremony. Rather, she completed her undergraduate degree in the comfort of her home surrounded by her family, doors locked and windows sealed to keep the pandemic at bay.
When Commencement 2020 was postponed due to the ongoing health crisis, Rosado’s family didn’t let her achievements go uncelebrated. With her mother as the party coordinator, they honored her with an impromptu graduation ceremony, featuring a homemade diploma in lieu of her real one and a rickety stage for her to cross as a graduate. It wasn’t the grand ceremony that Rosado dreamed of, but it was certainly something special.
“My mother didn’t graduate from high school, so me graduating college was a big deal for her,” Rosado commented on the motive behind her mother’s kindhearted actions. As a first-generation college student, Rosado’s academic accomplishments were remarkable feats, and her mother wasn’t going to let the pandemic steal her moment to shine.
After immigrating here from Puerto Rico as a single mother, Rosado’s mother worked hard to build a community within our family to be able to support one another through that transition. Rosado said, “When I was a child, she went through so much adversity in her life being a non-English speaker, but she still paved pathways for me to succeed. Her strength always resonated with me.”
As she reminisced about her younger days, she recalls being fearful that she wouldn’t find a university that nurtured her academic and personal goals in the ways her family did. As art became more of a lifelong passion than a passing hobby, her family’s endless support formed a safety net for her to chase her dreams of being a professional artist. Throughout her entire life, Rosado’s family assembled a community that was innately hers.
But where would she belong if she left the nest?
With her undergraduate career on the horizon, an 18-year-old Rosado couldn’t bury her anxiety about leaving her familial community to craft a life of her own. However, Rosado found herself right at home when she arrived at UMass Dartmouth as a nervous freshman student.
Once a Corsair, always a Corsair
As she prepared to begin her adult life, Rosado was on the hunt for the same warmth and acceptance that her family fostered within their intimate community. When she arrived at UMass Dartmouth as a prospective student, she was greeted by a diverse student body with varying stories of life, some similar to her own. She couldn’t resist the overwhelming sensation that could only be described as home and decided to attend UMass Dartmouth as an illustration major and printmaking minor.
“I remember being at UMass Dartmouth for the first time, holding my black portfolio for a review,” Rosado reminisced three years after departing from UMass Dartmouth. She was a resident assistant at Chestnut Hall and an admissions ambassador for all four years of college, fully submerged in the social scene on campus. “I remember walking through the Woodland Commons and confidently saying, ‘I can see myself here. I feel like this is where I am meant to be.’ You just know when you’ve found your home away from home.”
Rosado credits her growth as an artist to the community at UMass Dartmouth. Mingling with students from other fields of study presented her with the opportunity to discuss her art at large, teaching them about the cultural inclusivity that her work explores. UMassD’s diverse, open-minded community accepted her artwork for what it was, and that was her authentic story of being born Puerto Rican and living as an American.
“Throughout my entire life, I’ve had to navigate the diaspora of living simultaneously in different cultures,” Rosado explained, her adversity resembling a game of tug-of-war. By illustrating through a social justice lens, she expertly crafts her artwork to strike a conversation with someone new and empower them to act or think differently. “My Puerto Rican culture clashed with my American upbringing and made it challenging to find where I belonged, but the UMassD community is comprised of people from different walks of life. For the first time, I felt like I found the place I was destined to be at.”
When Rosado finally graduated into the uncertainty of the pandemic, she struggled with leaving her tightknit community she built during her time as a student. However, she didn’t feel as lost as she thought she would; she found herself to still be part of the Corsair community’s beating heart.
With the pandemic eliminating opportunities for new graduates, Rosado didn’t let a bleak job market scare her from becoming a successful artist. As soon as she graduated from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, she wasted no time starting her own printmaking business, GMR Prints. By adding a shop feature, her small business was the perfect chance for her to make cash and build her portfolio for future job openings.
“I didn’t think anything of it when I started my website,” Rosado explained. She emphasizes that close connections she made at UMass Dartmouth were actively supporting her aspirations by purchasing her art and spreading the word about her many talents. “Within two or three days after I launched it, all of the inventory that I had sold out. Thanks to the UMassD community, GMR Prints was the catalyst that sparked the beginning of my career.”
When she departed from UMass Dartmouth, Rosado expected to be left in solitude to search for a job in the midst of a serious health outbreak. She was stunned to see UMassD faculty and administration dishing out their hard-earned dollars to support her career ambitions, reminded of her family’s unwavering support throughout her life. While Rosado may no longer be a student at UMass Dartmouth, she is still an integral part of the Corsair family.
A new beginning at Waterfire Arts Center
“UMass Dartmouth taught me that if we really want to create impactful and profound change in society, we need to empower our communities, support our communities, and believe in our communities,” she proudly proclaimed. “I experienced all of that support and love from the UMassD community.”
For Rosado, the consistent support from UMass Dartmouth certainly solidified what she wanted out of her art career: community. Dedicated to helping local communities thrive, she began the next chapter of her life at Waterfire Arts Center in Providence, RI.
An independent, 501©3 nonprofit arts organization, Waterfire Arts Center is a dream employer for budding artist Rosado. The center is dedicated to everything she’s passionate about, like creative community-building and fostering a sense of unity in the city of Providence. In January 2023, she was offered the position of being the organization’s first program coordinator.
“As program coordinator, I’ll be managing two new programs that target young professionals looking for their safe haven in the working world,” Rosado elaborated on one of the programs, ArtLab@Waterfire, a paid internship/mentorship program for five BIPOC high school students in the Providence school district. She is focused on developing their professional and artistic skills, transforming them into creative individuals with leadership qualities. Utilizing Waterfire’s many departments, she organizes immersive workshops that enhance their financial literacy and college-readiness in hopes of preparing them for their future endeavors.
The other program, WaterFire Accelerate, is a professional development program for artists under 30 years-old. This program gives rising artists access to Waterfire’s resources and community partnerships to advance their own career paths. Spending countless hours with these professionals in both programs has labeled Rosado as a mentor for them to seek out when in need of advice or a comforting hug. Rosado said about the programs, “Our goal is to shape or mold people using their passions, but we’re also trying to get them to understand their passions can exist right here in the Providence community.
“I want to see artists believe in their potential and thrive in their potential,” Rosado continued, remembering the Corsairs that transformed her into the proud artist she is today by believing in her to the fullest. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for the community who believed in me and my dreams at UMass Dartmouth. Members of these programs deserve the same treatment I got as a learning artist, and I’m committed to giving them that and more.”
The community-building work that Rosado does now is fueled by a stellar student experience at UMass Dartmouth. She never forgot the outpouring of community support and acceptance that empowered her to reach for the stars and become a successful artist. Still, her heart bleeds blue and gold, and will do so for as long as she is a Corsair.