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Photo by Clayton Cotterell

Mia Bonilla ’19


Hometown: Miami, Florida

How Reed changed me: I really think the best part about Reed was how it gave me a chance to rest long enough to think. Being at Reed wasn’t all great all the time, but the time and space it gave me helped spark something in me and forced me to create new frameworks of understanding. 

Financial aid: Reed gave me a financial aid package for which I am grateful, and I fully recognize how fortunate I am to have been given the opportunity to go to school. Still, I want to push back against the idea that underprivileged people should be thankful for receiving whatever they’ve been given. When it comes to equity, it is important to not just think of a marginalized person’s present financial situation but also their future finances. Paying off this debt is not as easy when you are already starting out with a disadvantage and are entering a job market plagued with discrimination and gendered/racialized wage gaps. 

Thesis adviser: Prof. Gerri Ondrizek [art 1994–]

Thesis: Conocimiento

What it’s about: Conocimiento constructs a subaltern religious experience that makes visible the way race, gender, sexuality, and theology are psychically and corporeally embodied.

What it’s really about: Worship and kinship.

Influential professors: Radhika Natarajan [history] and Joanna Fiduccia [art history] have changed my life through their incomparable brilliance. They are both such fiercely intelligent people and have constantly guided me towards expansive forms of thinking. I am so grateful for their kindness and compassion, and they have impressed on me the value and beauty of scholarship and learning. 

Influential book: Discourse on Colonialism by Aimé Césaire. 

Concept that blew my mind: Édouard Glissant’s essay “For Opacity” helped me imagine a new way of aesthetically and spiritually interacting with the world. 

Cool stuff: Under Claudia Ramirez Islas, Jamila Dozier, and Ruby White, I was one of the coordinators in charge of creating programming for students of color and the larger Reed community through the Gray Fund and the Multicultural Resource Center. This work has been one of my greatest sources of joy. The workshops, events, and talks we put on were so thoroughly thought out and planned with love and care, it was truly an honor to work with such a great staff of black and brown people.

Challenges I faced: Reed—that’s the challenge. This institution was never meant for people like me: the culture of racism and privilege is so overwhelming that it takes a physical and mental toll on the wellbeing of people of color.  I had to take three years off to learn how to accept that it’s not that I wasn’t ready for Reed, or that I don’t belong at Reed, but rather that Reed wasn’t ready for me, and still isn’t ready for people like me. Reed needs to invest in its students of color: it has to put forth resources to not just admit us but support us so that we can truly achieve our potential and reach our goals. 

What’s next: Decorating my new room! After four years of dorm living I am so ready to have a space that is entirely mine.