March 21, 2024

Sebastián Ramírez Hernández, a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology, has been named the next director of Service Focus. 

Ramírez has been a faculty mentor for the Service Focus Health and Care cohort since 2020. “Sebastián is able to establish rapport with individual students, and also challenge them to think more deeply and critically,” recalls Yi-Ching Ong, the founding Director of Service Focus, who is now the executive director of the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford. “He excels at conceptualizing and guiding students through community-engaged projects in a way that really expands their horizons.”

A man with a beard outside with water in the background and a bridge overhead
The Pace Center welcomes Sebastián Ramírez as the Director of Service Focus in May 2024.

Sebastián Ramírez received a BA from Queens College CUNY in Anthropology and Psychology and a PhD in Anthropology from Princeton University. His research among internally displaced persons in his native Colombia explores the role of healthcare services in efforts to remake ideas of home and citizenship in the aftermath of violence. 

“I believe that sustaining our curiosity about the role of community engagement in learning trajectories, the place of the University in our local communities, and in developing best practices for the encounter of the two, provides a fertile ground to excite students, mentors and partners, to find the best avenues for ongoing, sustainable collaborations,” says Ramírez.

The Service Focus program welcomed its first cohort of undergraduate students in 2018, encouraging and supporting undergraduate students in connecting what they learn at Princeton – both inside and outside of the classroom – to a lens of service.  To address the unique needs and opportunities of the sophomore year as a time of student identity formation, the program is structured as primarily a sophomore year experience.  Students enter the program in the spring of their first year and participate in a summer internship, a community-engaged course, and faculty and staff-mentored discussion in small-group cohorts.  

More than 450 undergraduate students have been a part of the program, and faculty have mentored cohorts in topics ranging from food justice to public interest technology to health and education. During its first five years, the program responded to student interests with additional peer mentorship, project grants during the winter break and place-based trips.


“I am thrilled that Sebastián is joining the Pace Center,” said Kimberly de los Santos, executive director of the center. “His experience and pedagogical lens means that Service Focus will continue to deepen students’ learning through service.”

Ramírez is teaching Medical Anthropology and The Ethnographer’s Craft this spring. He will join the Pace Center on May 28, 2024.