The newest member of the Boston Foundation’s Board of Directors, Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, has led Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) for 15 years. A 50-year-old nonprofit community development corporation, IBA grew out of a grassroots effort by the Puerto Rican community in Boston’s South End to fight the displacement of low-income families through “urban development.” The Boston Foundation was “there at the beginning” with early funding for IBA. Today IBA aims to empower individuals to improve their lives through housing, education and arts programs. It also controls a portfolio of 521 affordable housing units in its South End Villa Victoria development, as well as in Roxbury and Mattapan.
IBA is the largest Latino-led nonprofit in Greater Boston, but things weren’t always so rosy. Early on, Calderón-Rosado was the interim executive director, having inherited an organization that was more than struggling. “IBA was in a very distressed financial and programmatic position,” she recalls, thinking back to her first interaction with the Boston Foundation. “The Foundation asked the right—and very tough—questions of us, but supported us through our challenges and transition. So my first interaction was both difficult and great!”
Calderón-Rosado was born in Puerto Rico, where she spent her early years, graduating from University High School in San Juan. She received a B.A. from the University of Puerto Rico, and came to Massachusetts in 1992. She earned two master’s degrees and then a Ph.D. in public policy from UMass Boston in 2000, and has been granted an honorary doctorate from Cambridge College.
In addition to her work at IBA, in 2010, Calderón-Rosado became the first Latina ever appointed to the Massachusetts State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. In November 2013, Mayor-elect Martin Walsh appointed her to co-lead his housing transition team and in 2014 appointed her as a member of his newly formed Housing Task Force. She also is a founding board member of the Margarita Muñiz Academy, the first dual-language innovation high school in Massachusetts, is on the Advisory Board of the Latino Legacy Fund at the Boston Foundation and is a co-chair of the Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico Fund.
“Vanessa Calderón-Rosado has demonstrated her dedication to solving problems, supporting those in need and fighting for justice and equal opportunity for everyone,” says Sandra M. Edgerley, the current Chair of the Board. “She has worked across multiple disciplines to strengthen not only her organization but the entire Latino community.”
The admiration is mutual, Calderón-Rosado makes clear as she says, “The Boston Foundation is a solid and important institution for the city and region in so many ways, not only grant making but as a civic leader and think tank. It’s such an honor to be part of that enterprise and after admiring it for so long to be on the other side and understand the Foundation’s work with a different lens.”