Amy Salinas Westmoreland has joined the Western Washington University community as the new director of Multicultural Student Services, with her office located in the Viking Union’s Multicultural Center.
Becoming part of the Western team during the pandemic has been a huge shift for Westmoreland, who hadn’t visited the campus before being hired.
“I started in person on Nov. 1,” Westmoreland said. “I came to Bellingham and Western without having visited the area due to the pandemic, so everything is very new to me. I have been able to connect with students, staff and faculty, and that has been incredibly helpful in getting to know this place.”
Westmoreland will be directing the new Office of Multicultural Student Services, which has its offices located in the Multicultural Center. It’s located alongside the offices of the Ethnic Student Center, or ESC, several clubs run by the ESC and Associated Students, the Student Advocacy and Identity Resources Center and LGBTQ+ Western.
“The Office of Multicultural Student Services specifically focuses on creating initiatives and programming to support Enrollment and Student Services' and Western’s strategic goals in equity, excellence and inclusion for our students,” Westmoreland said. “It’s our mission to create and insure an inclusive Western Washington University community by centering and amplifying the voice of [Black, Iindigenous and people of color] and others with marginalized identities.”
The Multicultural Center’s role is to be a safe space for students, said Chelsea Joefield, a Western student who is serving as AS and ESC advocacy and programming coordinator.
“Whether it is being at a primarily white institution or being part of a marginalized community, the MCC is a space that wants to offer resources,” Joefield said. “We are constantly questioning the intentions of both our programming and that of other offices while working to fill the space with positive intentions, care and purpose. This is all important because it is what past and current students have asked for.”
Westmoreland’s goals with her position include strengthening cross-campus collaboration, advocacy and developing learning spaces that focus on topics of race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, ability, socioeconomic status and body justice.
She also hopes to increase graduation rates of underrepresented students and to provide more opportunities for educating the community, which will better provide students and faculty with tools to create a welcoming environment.
“I have gotten to meet Amy and have her presence in some of my meetings,” Joefield said. “She is a warm person who is full of positive and pure purpose and intention. [Amy] has so much to bring to every table she has a seat at.”
Amy has worked in higher education for over 10 years, mostly in student affairs. She also served as coordinator of a multicultural center in California and as assistant director of the social justice program there.
Melynda Huskey, the vice president of Enrollment and Student Services at Western, said the position is new to Western.
“Amy’s career path, education and expertise are going to enrich so much of what we do in Enrollment and Student Services,” Huskey said. “I’m really eager for students to get to know her.”
Over the next few months with her transition into Western, Westmoreland hopes to become more informed of what’s currently happening on campus so she can better understand how to serve students.
“My plan over the next few months is simple, but I find it incredibly effective,” Westmoreland said. “I plan to listen. I want to know the story of WWU. I want to know what Accessibility, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs exist, how they are functioning, what the impact is and how to make them better..”
Westmoreland, born and raised in Racine, Wisconsin, double-majored in English and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I have lived all over the country, but I think the most healing environment for me is the Pacific Northwest,” Westmoreland said. “I love being by water, trees and mountains.”
Being able to share pieces of her life is incredibly important to Westmoreland, she said. This helps students become more comfortable sharing their stories with her so she can better understand their needs.
“I use my middle name, Salinas, to honor my mother,” Westmoreland said. “Salinas is my mother’s maiden name, and my siblings and I all have Salinas as our middle name.”
Westmoreland identifies as biracial, Black and Mexican.
“I’m a huge fan of literature — I love getting lost in used bookstores,” she said. “I love to paint and have a collection of collages created by my uncle that highlight Black women sculptures in my office. I have a very loving and handsome 10-year-old tuxedo cat named Samuel Salinas Westmoreland.”
Westmoreland encourages students to meet face-to-face and get to know her and others who work in the Multicultural Center. In order for her to be a resource, she wants to know the experiences of her students.
She hopes that with campus and the Multicultural Center Offices opening back up after COVID-19, they can continue growing projects in an uplifting way that serves students during this transition back to normality.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to engage with the students, learn from them and use that information to create a better environment,” Westmoreland said. “I love being in the Multicultural Center. It is a beautiful space, not just because of the physical space, but because of what it encourages and represents. I can hear students laughing, sharing, telling their stories, welcoming others . . . being in a community. It’s really an honor to be able to share this space.”