Meet Jacqueline Hughes, Western's new chief diversity officer

by John Thompson
Office of University Communications

Jacqueline Hughes started at Western this fall as its Chief Diversity Officer, a new position at WWU that reports directly to the president. Western Today recently chatted with Hughes about her goals and plans for her time at the university and how she would like to maximize the role and impact of the CDO here at WWU.

WT: Welcome to Western! What brought you here to take the job as Chief Diversity Officer, and where were you before coming to Bellingham?

I was excited to find such a perfect opportunity to lead cultural change and to use my teaching and research about diversity in a practical and transformative way.

I came to Western from California State University at San Bernardino in Southern California, where I was a professor of Teacher Education and the director of Faculty Support and Development. Prior to that I was the associate provost of Academic Personnel, co-chief Diversity Officer, and deputy director of Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation at CSU-San Bernardino.

What about your prior experience prepared you to take on this new role at WWU?

I understand that as individuals we share a common space but we do not experience that space in the same way. So in my career, it became important for me to focus on building my capacity to share the space well with others while being true to myself -- embracing my identity while recognizing how I contribute to the collective identity in the communities where I live and work. Here at Western, community is important in how our collective and individual identities make up that community, and how we move in and share that space together.

My experience as a chief diversity officer, my research and teaching, and my lived experience as an international woman of color have prepared me well for this new role. Also, as an international woman of color I learned quickly that finding emotional and professional space in the communities where I lived was key to my growth.

You have come into a new position, so you will be starting from scratch - which I'm sure can feel both exciting and daunting at the same time. What are your immediate goals for your first year on the job?

My initial set of goals revolve around the need to learn and understand the lived experiences of all members of the Western community so that I can serve them well in my role. I intend to accomplish this through a series of listening sessions with as many campus stakeholders as I can talk with to find out their needs, worries and concerns. We will use that information to priorities immediate and long-term goals for the community. Next, I hope to facilitate building an institutional framework and operational definition of ADEI.

Yes, tell us how these listening sessions are going, and what kind of conversations you are hoping to have.

The listening sessions have been great! With each session I learn more about Western, and at times I am inspired by what I learn. In all the sessions conducted so far, everyone has asked for more opportunities to dialogue as a community; the participants really appreciate the opportunity to share, and listen, and to be heard. Although we start with three broad questions, the conversation often moves into a wide array of topics and issues. I don’t stop individuals from sharing, because I realize that they want to be heard.

Four or five years from now, when you reflect back on your time at Western, what needs to have happened for you to feel these first four or five years of your tenure were a success?

I'll feel these first few years were a success if we can look back and point to the progress we made, the growth we achieved, and the challenges we overcame. I hope that we will have become more of a learning community able to have difficult conversations about challenging issues thoughtfully, and that we all see the need to find innovative ways to solve our problems. The university should have a better understanding of who we are individually and collectively, and a developed capacity to share our work and learning space with each other in a thoughtful and inclusive way. I also want to make sure that we’ve developed a clear framework and definition for all our ADEI work.

Have a question about Jacqueline Hughes’ new role as Chief Diversity Officer at Western, or her ongoing slate of campus listening sessions? Contact her at OfficeOfEquity@wwu.edu.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022 - 10:40am