Featured Friar: Catalina Betancur Velez ’23

by awakelin on March 14, 2022



Betancur reflects on her extensive on-campus leadership.

Catalina Betancur Velez ’23, a political science and global studies double major, with a French minor, has already proven to be a transformative presence within the Providence College community. Born in Medellín, Colombia, Betancur moved to the United States with her immediate family to Woodbridge, CT when she was eight years old. 

One of the factors for her decision to attend PC was the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholars, for which she was selected. Being a first-generation student at PC presents a dichotomic experience that provides a more unique academic perspective, while posing significantly more obstacles.  

After attending the “Night in Friartown” program for future MLK Scholars, Betancur describes how “being able to talk to current students, they all expressed how much they had grown in their identity through their involvement. I [thought to myself] that I would come here and tap into different parts of my identity by growing and expanding those parts of my identity. I thought, ‘This is where I want to go.’” 

Being such a major influence on the understanding of her own identity, her academic experiences in high school and college have only driven her further to succeed. The further cultivation of her own identity has been influenced by the various extracurriculars she is involved with at PC. 

Betancur is chair of Student Congress’ Awareness, Education, and Collaboration (AEC) Committee. The AEC Committee was formed as a response to campus-wide concerns regarding equity and diversity at Providence College. The committee addresses the history of student demands and the long-term history of the struggle for diversity on campus. 

“There are issues here on campus that we are all called to mitigate and resolve. That position has given me a voice to address these big problems through small victories,” describes Betancur on the importance the establishment of the committee. 

PC has long struggled to provide more inclusive spaces for those students, faculty, and staff who comprise a community of underrepresented groups on campus, including BIPOC and other marginalized groups. 

Along with advocating for more inclusive spaces through Student Congress, Betancur is also a Peer Minister for PC’s Peer Ministry, where she has fostered authentic community connections through her faith. 

Having been born in Colombia, Betancur has translated much of her own Latina identity through her role as Vice President of the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS). Groups like OLAS present the spaces necessary for underrepresented groups on campus to explore expressions of one’s own visibility and awareness of their identity. 

“OLAS has my heart. It is a beautiful time that just reminds me of home a little bit, “Betancur recounts.

In compounding Betancur’s various extracurricular involvement with her sheer academic drive, she has already made a lasting impact on PC’s campus through her drive to succeed. 

Betancur continues, “I want to feel represented, but I also want other people to feel represented. In these leadership positions, I want to be someone who is approachable and understandable of others’ situations.” 

Being both a first-generation student and a woman of color at PC, she hopes to continue to make major strides toward fundamental institutional change through running for Student Congress President next year. In advocating for more inclusive spaces for all students on campus, with such a large platform to do so, Betancur hopes to continue her legacy at PC through fostering campus-wide initiatives to create better bonds for students.