Staff Biographies

MMUF Director Armando Bengochea

Armando Bengochea became program officer and director of the MMUF program in July 2012, and has served as senior program officer of HIgher Learning since 2019.  He has played a role in the campus MMUF programs at Brown University and Connecticut College since 1994. 

After completing his undergraduate education with an independent major in social and political philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Bengochea earned a PhD in Politics at Princeton University, where he wrote a political philosophy dissertation on Tocqueville.  He served for 20 years as an undergraduate academic dean at Brown University, where he was also responsible for monitoring the academic progress of Latino students across all four classes. When he left Brown in 2006, Dr. Bengochea was dean of freshman studies and associate dean of the college.

In 2006 Dr. Bengochea was appointed dean of the college and senior diversity officer at Connecticut College. In that role he was the chief academic support, student affairs, and diversity officer of the college. His many accomplishments at Connecticut College included collaborating with the chief academic officer of the institution to effect a rapid diversification of the faculty.  

Beyond directing all aspects of the MMUF program, including the many graduate initiatives administered by the Social Science Research Council and the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, Dr. Bengochea oversees dissertation writing and completion grants, postdoctoral grants, and early-career faculty support grants at various Research I institutions.  He also oversees the Foundation’s grantmaking to historically black colleges and universities and to tribal colleges and universities.

Prior to joining the Foundation in December 2020 as senior program associate and associate director of MMUF, Renee Johnson-Thornton was an administrator at Wesleyan University for over two decades. At Wesleyan, she served as dean for diversity and engagement, dean for equity and inclusion, deans for the classes of 2018 and 2022, assistant to the dean of the college, assistant dean for student academic resources, associate director of the McNair Program, and associate coordinator of Wesleyan’s MMUF program.  Renee’s tenure also included service on the inaugural African American studies program advisory board and an appointment as research affiliate in the African American studies department. 

The first member of her family to earn a college degree, Renee holds a BA from Binghamton University, where she was a double major in English and African & African American studies; an MA in liberal studies from Wesleyan University; and a PhD in education from the University of Rhode Island/Rhode Island College. Her dissertation, Studying Science: Students Gaining Access to the Community of Practice of Environmental Studies, demonstrated the beneficial outcomes of mentoring strategies, inclusive pedagogy, and the cultivation of communities of practice on the education, development, and retention of people of marginalized identities in science courses, research laboratories, and the STEM disciplines broadly.  Renee believes in mentoring as a vehicle for teaching content, building confidence, and creating new knowledge, and has sought throughout her career to incorporate elements of mentoring into support for both students and colleagues.