The First-Person Project

Maria Itati Moguilner ’02

Framingham, MA

Information Technology Program Manager, Massachusetts Port Authority

Major: Communications and Journalism

I was born in Argentina, and my family moved to Ecuador when I was 12. It was a hard transition for me, because Ecuador and Argentina are culturally very different. But it gave me the tools I needed to adjust to college in New Hampshire. It was very common in Ecuador to go to United States to study. I didn’t know English, and I’d heard about Keene State from a friend. The College really wanted to bring in students from Latin America to embrace diversity and my parents had the foresight to strongly encourage me to learn a new language, so I decided to go to Keene for one year to study English.

I loved Keene State. I loved the freedom to be me. In Ecuador at the time, it was not safe to take a bus or walk a couple blocks. So the fact that I could wake up and walk to the gym or to the dining commons or to classes – it made a whole difference. It’s so safe and beautiful that I fell in love with Keene. That’s one reason I stayed to earn my degree.

Keene State, everyone wanted to help you out, so it was fun, but, yes, it was a cultural change – both the living experience and going to school and being serious about what you were studying. The choices, they were all mine starting from day one. I couldn’t call my mom and dad every day. Even things like doing laundry I figured out by watching people.

Back then, we couldn’t FaceTime or Skype anybody across the world, but technology did make it possible to keep in touch with my friends and my family back home. That’s why I was so into working at the computer lab. I could stay late to send an email or an instant message.

In Ecuador, you have to choose a specialization in high school. I was really good at physics and math, so I focused on those – but at Keene State I signed up for communication and journalism. It was the perfect combination of learning how to communicate in every sense, not just through language but nonverbally, and with people who maybe didn’t want to get my message. The professors were so welcoming and the classes were challenging. In my senior year, newspapers were making the shift from analog to digital, and the Journalism Department brought in a lot of new equipment for the media lab and the computer lab. I asked if I could help set it up. For my senior year project I put together the first virtual tour of Keene State. I love technology.

The biggest classroom for me was becoming a resident assistant in the dorms the second semester of freshman year. That was my ticket to open doors. I worked to promote diversity a lot, and was on a panel with Cornel West. It was about helping other people understand that there was a world out there. In Argentina, like in the US, people travel; they go to other states. But most people I met in New Hampshire hadn’t. So I embrace the fact the college wanted to bring the outside world to Keene State so students could see there was more out there.

Being an RA gave me the foundations for leadership, for responsibility, for caring for others, for just being able to have some sort of fraternity that you could always go back to. Kim Schmidl-Gagne, who worked in Residential Life, was a bit of a savior. She mentored me and everybody who went through her door. People like Kim made the school what it was for me.

I finished the two majors in three years, and then create an internship so I could stay another semester under my student visa. After that, Kim helped me get a job in Residential Life, working with international students, at Dean College in Massachusetts. My bosses there liked my energy, so they hired me to work as a student activities coordinator and sponsored my work visa. I shifted my professional life to computers at Dean, becoming the Help Desk manager and doing set-up for just about every single event that needed computers and projectors. At the same time I continued my education and earned my MBA through Suffolk University.

In 2008 I hit a hard stop. I needed sponsorship for my green card, and my sponsor at the time had moved away from hiring international people. I’d been doing whatever legal work I needed to do to stay in the US. I liked the US. I liked that there are ways to advance yourself if you follow the rules. I am here because I’ve had angels that have walked me through my life. In 2008 I was volunteering with Global Smile, an organization that provides cleft palate surgeries back at home in Ecuador. A group of doctors from Boston would fly to Ecuador for a week; I organized the missions. That’s when all the organizational skills I learned as an RA came into play. Through volunteering, I met a woman who connected me with a job doing web and social media work, which I had learned through working at the Help Desk. I did that for two or three years, and after I got my green card I looked for new opportunities, and landed the job here at Logan Airport working for Massport six years ago.

I work as a program manager for the Information Technology Department, running different projects. I was hired as administrator for a digital signage project. This was a new thing for Logan – digital signs to help customers. I saw it as customer service on a screen, and to me that was a big, giant website. My responsibility was to figure it out: where in the terminals a passenger needs help, what type of help the passenger needs, and how to give them that information in a digital sign. It’s a mix of what we call FIDs, Flight Display Information; GIDs, Gate Display Information; BIDs, Baggage Claim Information; and way finding. Way finding is anything that would say You are here and your gate is over there.

As technology advanced we went from having a single screen with flight information to touch screens where you can scan your boarding pass and find out where you are and how to get to your gate and all the restaurants and shops around that area. We went from one screen in 2012 to 500 screens now. Throughout the entire airport we have digital signage to tell people what’s in the airport. The whole purpose is to ease the anxiety of the passenger.

I get to work with the airlines, I get to work with the passengers, I get to work with a great team that love that they do. The airport is a small city. It’s a lot of fun. There’s never a dull moment. I like that I am doing something that is part of something greater than myself.

I have a few hobbies such as swimming and working out. I love to volunteer with a few different organizations. One is Kids for Peace, which brings together 12 kids from Jerusalem – four Muslims, four Jews, and four Christians – and 12 US kids, also four Muslims, four Jews, and four Christians, to spend two weeks in Boston and at a New Hampshire camp. I also help out with an organization that raises funds for Syrian refugees in the Boston area. I believe in serving. I believe in helping each other.

I’m not married, but I have a new boyfriend, which is a happy thing. I go to South America to visit my parents every year, or they come to visit me. I miss them. My three brothers all went abroad to study English – one to London, one to Miami, and one to Utah. But they all went back home. Home is here for me now. I became a US citizen two years ago, in 2016. The process is challenging because you have to have sponsors, and it’s expensive because you have to hire a lawyer to do the paperwork.

Because I’m from Latin America, and because I like to travel, I’ve been told I’m a bridge of cultures. In the IT profession, I’m able to understand what the customer needs and how the technology works, so I can talk to the programmer and I can talk to the customer and make that connection. So, yes, that’s sort of what I've been doing my whole life – bridging cultures.