Meet Amy Westmoreland, WWU's new director of Multicultural Student Services
Western Today reached out to Amy Westmoreland, Western's new director of Multicultural Student Services, as she slowly but surely made her way across the country from Pennsylvania for her first day on campus on Nov. 1. We tracked Amy down somewhere outside of Fargo, North Dakota as she drove west towards that night's stop in Billings, Montana, and she filled us in on why she is so excited to get to campus, what she sees as the main challenges ahead, and the messages she has for the students she will be working with.
Western Today: First, why don't you tell campus a little about yourself?
"My name is Amy Salinas Westmoreland (she/her/hers). I am biracial, Black and Mexican. I was born and raised in Wisconsin. I have lived all over the United States, but this is by far my furthest move. Like many students I will serve, I am far from family and friends. I am traveling to Bellingham with Samuel Salinas Westmoreland, my 10-year old tuxedo cat. I value laughter as a great connector and healer. On the weekends you will find me in used bookstores, baking new recipes, or watching reality tv."
WT: Tell us about your new role.
"The director of Multicultural Student Services position is new not only to me, but to Western Washington University. My goal is to create informative and inclusive programming that centers many different salient identities. I am excited about the opportunity to build the structure for this position and support the university's equity, inclusion, and retention goals. It's an honor to bring energy and action to a position that was created through the student advocacy and the action of the Black Student Organization. The key to the success of this position is collaboration with many different stakeholders from students, staff, faculty, administration, and the community. I look forward to building a student-centered space where we celebrate different identities, learn how to address conflict, and build coalition."
WT: Why were you interested in this position?
"This position excites me because the goals of Enrollment and Student Services and Western Washington University align with my own goals and values. It is my mission to make higher education accessible, to create inclusive spaces, to center the voices of those with marginalized identities, and support students to meet their own goals. When I researched this position, the first things that caught my attention were the list of demands from the Black Student Organization and the response from the administration. Student advocacy speaks to my heart. I am excited to work with students who are invested and who made such a powerful statement. I was impressed that the university took action, and I could easily see the progress that was being made. I could envision my skills and experiences leading a multicultural center, social justice facilitation, and assessment and strategic planning efforts being a great fit for this position."
WT: What challenges do you see ahead?
"I think the biggest challenge for this position is also the greatest opportunity. While this position is new to Western Washington University, similar positions have existed at many colleges and universities for decades. Because this position has not existed here, there are many people who are already doing great work. I think part of the challenge will be familiarizing myself with all the work that is already being done and finding ways to collaborate and support. With this being a new position, there is also an opportunity to do some benchmarking and applying strategies that other institutions have found successful."
WT: How has the impact of roles like yours on campuses changed in the wake of the more active social justice movements across the country?
"I think the need for my role is crucial for higher education. My position is truly centered on supporting and amplifying the voices of students with marginalized identities. Cultural centers and spaces have historically faced challenges - whether it be limited resources (staff, financial, space), lack of understanding and/or lack of institutional support. Currently, we are seeing that critical race theory is being attacked in higher education, which silences those voices. The goal of my position and similar positions remains the same throughout time: Create inclusive spaces that support students and center students with marginalized identities."
WT: You're driving across the country to get to campus and be at your desk on Nov. 1. What message do you have for the students who are excited about your arrival?
"You all are the backbone of this position and it's important to me to honor that and build what you need. I am ready to meet you! I will be planning times for meet and greets once I am settled, but I encourage you to come by and share your story. This position is all about community and connections, and I'm ready to know the students that I'll be working with and supporting."