Catching up with…Amarilis Francis

Publication Date

As an AOP student, Amarilis Francis ’07 appreciated the support she received from her professors, including Lorraine Cox, Deidre Hill Butler and John Cramsie. Since returning to Union in 2015, the associate director of AOP/HEOP gets to pay it forward.

She works with AOP students from admission through graduation. She directs the annual AOP Summer Program for incoming first years, provides academic advising to current students, and works behind the scenes to help students navigate and maximize their Union experience as primarily first-generation college students.

Amarilis Francis ’07, associate director of AOP/HEOP

Amarilis Francis ’07, associate director of AOP/HEOP, in her favorite spot on campus: Her office in the Olin building, where she gets to "hang out with great staff and amazing students every day."

“I get a lot of personal fulfillment from working with first-gen students because I share that identity too,” said Francis. “My status as an alumna helps me relate to students better. Every once in a while, I get to share the advice I heard from my Union professors and AOP advisers.”

Amarilis was raised in Washington Heights, N.Y. Her parents are from the Dominican Republic, “and I identify as a Black Latina.”

She received a bachelor’s degree in history, a master’s in history from Binghamton University and a doctorate in education from Northeastern University.

She lives in Schenectady.

“Returning to Union felt like coming home,” she said.


Apple podcasts! They keep my brain active while I get ready for work.


One favorite that I have reread since middle school is “Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel. The family dynamics and elements of magical realism in her story resonated with me. It was also my first time reading a novel with a Latinx protagonist. The story still brings me to tears.


Quality matters in all things. Never put your name or sign off on anything you do not feel 100 percent confident about…it fits in many different personal and professional contexts.


My office in the Olin building. I get to hang out with great staff and amazing students every day.

Catching up with...

Each week a faculty or staff member is profiled. Answering a series of short questions, the profiles are intended to be light, informative and conversational.

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Crispy bacon, egg and cheese on a roll, especially from my favorite bodega in New York City.


I find "Sooo Many White Guys" with Phoebe Robinson funny, and she brings on interesting celebrity guests. Listeners with different identities can learn about underrepresented voices in predominantly white and male-dominated spaces. Take a chance and try an episode!


I wish I knew how to swim, but I am terrified of deep water. My mother had a traumatic experience and passed on her fears of deep water with scary stories about what could happen to me in the pool or the beach. It also did not help that my family's old school way of teaching kids to swim was tossing them in the pool without any warning, which was scary. I instantly panic as soon as water levels reach my neck.


I was diagnosed with single-sided hearing as a two-year-old. The nerves that help carry sound to my inner ear/brain are defective. My hearing capacity is about 90 percent in my left ear and 0 percent in my right (no surround sound). As a result, my echolocation is terrible, I always need closed captions, I struggle socializing/eating in loud places, and I startle very easily. It is helpful when folks stand on my left side (if you are wearing a mask) or face me directly when speaking. One cool thing is that I consciously and unconsciously read lips in every conversation so I have gotten pretty good at it.

THREE DINNER PARTY GUESTS (living or deceased):

I would use this dinner to get to know some of the Latinx artists who influenced me when I was younger. My guests would be 1) Juan Luis Guerra. He is a prolific Dominican music composer and songwriter. His body of work includes some of the most beautiful love songs produced in Latin America. Plus, his music was the soundtrack to most of my childhood. 2) Frida Kahlo. I was 13 the first time I saw one of her self-portraits. I am sure she could have taught a masterclass on turning pain into beauty. Her life was incredible and her art even more so. I am positive that I would leave that dinner a better person for her company. 3) Guillermo Del Toro. As a film writer and director, he has written some frightening characters and otherworldly beings that still haunt me. Two of my favorite movies are “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone,” but he has so many other good ones. I have to check out his new Netflix project when I get a chance.


It was in the Dominican Republic in the mid-1990s. I went with my family to see the Bachata greats of the time: Anthony Santos, Raulín Rodriguez and Joe Veras. If you know, you know!