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BRIEF: WWU appoints first-ever chief diversity officer

New appointee hopes to involve students directly in efforts to increase access, diversity, equity, inclusion

Portrait of Jacqueline Hughes, Western Washington University's first ever Chief Diversity officer. Western President Sabah Randhawa said Hughes “brings a wealth of experience in leading ADEI (access, diversity, equity and inclusion) efforts at educational institutions; in building the critical structures needed to sustain progress on ADEI activities.” // Photo courtesy of Western Today

This fall, Jacqueline Hughes became Western Washington University’s first-ever chief diversity officer. The position works directly with the office of Western President Sabah Randhawa.

Randhawa said in an email that Hughes’ position will provide broad-based coordination to access, diversity, equity and inclusion (ADEI) efforts across Western and “advance education and learning opportunities to deepen understanding of diversity and equity issues at Western.” 

According to Randhawa, creating and hiring the chief diversity officer position was a 12-month process that took most of the 2021-22 academic year and will act as a link between other ADEI offices across campus, such as the offices of LGBTQ+ Western, the Multicultural Center and the Tribal Liaison.

Randhawa said he believes the position to be another important step in Western’s ADEI goals. 

“What has been missing is an entity that enables us to create and advance a framework for coordinating and creating greater synergy across a large, decentralized academic institution,” he said. “The Office of Equity, headed by a chief diversity officer, is intended to provide institutional-wide synergy and collaboration.”

A month into the position, Hughes said she is still in the process of making her assessment of the school’s ADEI work and processes. 

“I’m still learning about all the details of the things we do,” she said. “It is a long process, and I’m going to be intentional about it because I don’t want it to be rushed, and I want to make sure I understand.”

Hughes has set an early priority of hearing directly from the student body and has been meeting with student and affinity groups across campus, going to residence halls and having on-campus listening sessions focused on students. 

“My goal is to have as much direct interaction with students and creating space for them to interact with me so I can understand who they are and how they are experiencing this space here at Western,” she said. “It’s about connecting with students at all points that they are involved in on campus.”

Hughes said that her job is to facilitate a more equitable, diverse and accessible campus, but she cannot do that work without direct contribution from the student body. 

“The students are an important and critical member of our campus community and therefore I want them to be front and center to how we do this work here and to be actively involved in this space,” she said.

Hughes said that this contribution could be as simple as participating in an event and lending your perspective to an issue or even going as far as working with other students and being a student advocate.

“The student's role is to show up and participate and help us achieve something that will not only benefit you during your time here but sustain benefits for the students who are going to come behind you. At the end of the day, we all benefit from it,” she said. “It is indeed bigger than me, it’s bigger than us, but it still is for all of us as members of this community.” 

To learn more about the Office of Equity or to submit a question, more information can be found here.

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