1. I understand you’re a former journalist. Please tell us a little more about your background and how you became interested in this particular field of endeavor.
I loved being a journalist. It allowed me and my teams of reporters to tell untold stories. I always thought some of the most interesting stories involved people we don’t often hear from or know about. That’s why I made it a practice to include as many perspectives as possible. When I became a senior manager responsible for recruiting and professional development, I used a similar approach – bring different perspectives to the newsroom. That means bring Southerners and Hawaiians to the Rocky Mountains, people with Spanish language skills, journalists who were visual and those who liked to crunch numbers, talented young journalists to a newsroom that traditionally hired more experienced folks. You might imagine how that brought fresh story ideas, expanded the sources we interviewed, and gave us new approaches to doing and presenting the work. This all translates to giving readers more information that reflects their lives or offers new perspectives. That’s diversity at its best, and it’s very valuable to communities served by newspapers and news organizations. After leaving The Denver Post, I taught journalism to university students and then joined the National Civic League, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year and is probably most famous for the All-America City award. But, I missed looking for talent and watching how each hire can transform an organization. I’m excited to be here.
2. Can you shed some light on what you will be doing in your new role? What are some of your primary objectives?
Initially, I will have a strong focus on building processes that will help VCCS expand its applicant pools, from community college presidents to hard-to-fill positions. For example, there are women who can do many of the jobs, but we may not know about them or they may not know about us. My job will be to go out and find them so they can compete for jobs and, if hired, can help elevate each college in the system. As time goes on, I want to help increase VCCS’ ability to maximize the benefits of a diverse workforce and illustrate how diversity and inclusion aren’t just the right thing to do, but they are business imperatives. There are many ways to build an inclusive environment. Where inclusion already exists, I want to help examine and duplicate those characteristics elsewhere and keep making it better. We want people to bring their full selves to work and feel empowered to share their ideas, perspectives, backgrounds to help improve the outcomes. In community colleges that means – increase the number of students who enroll and graduate, develop coursework that includes multiple perspectives, hire faculty and staff of all races and backgrounds, give employers culturally competent employees, find new solutions that save money, cut expenses, etc. Ultimately, I believe if we fail to expose students to diversity – in faculty, coursework and fellow students – we are not giving them their money’s worth, and we are failing employers by not preparing students to work alongside all sorts of people. It’s a business imperative.
3. What sort of challenges do you expect to encounter? What does “problem-resolution” involve in your area of expertise?
One challenge that diversity and inclusion professionals face is that people don’t share a common understanding of what diversity and inclusion mean. I define diversity broadly; it’s more than race and gender alone. Diversity involves the complicated picture of what makes us unique. We’re more than a race or a gender. We are parents or not, veterans, religious/non-religious, political and not, younger and older, etc. So, problem – we can’t find qualified candidates of diverse background. Resolution: we expand the pool that includes applicants with diverse backgrounds. Problem: We’ve never done it that way before. Resolution: Let’s consider new ideas that might improve how we work. This goes to the idea of inclusion, creating an atmosphere that welcomes multiple perspectives and works to identify the best solutions, regardless of what the person looks like. No one race has cornered the market on creativity.
4. What can/should we as System Office employees be doing, if anything, to help you accomplish your goals?
I’m all ears. I’m listening and learning. I’d like to hear employees’ thoughts about diversity – what it means to you – and about inclusion – how it is to work here. Most importantly, I’d like to hear how we can make the work environment better for all. I’d like your honest thoughts because they reveal both barriers and opportunities. As someone who has really thought about these issues, I can offer some best practices. That said, I can’t walk in and wave a magic wand, and make everything OK. With your input, we can begin to develop structures that, again, maximize the benefits of diversity and create environments where all employees – regardless of what they look like or where they come from – can flourish.
5. Briefly tell us about any interests or hobbies you may have outside of work.
I love movies. I prefer going to the movie theater and enjoying the adventure with others. Of course, there’s popcorn too. Although I’m a bit behind on the movies right now, you’ll find me watching the Oscars faithfully to see whether the Academy was right with the winners. I’d love to find out about the music scene here and meet fellow musicians at VCCS. I don’t play a thing, but I do sing. Other than that, I’m an Air Force brat, so I’ve never lost my thirst for seeing different parts of the country and world. So, my family travels when we can, and we look forward to discovering more of Virginia.