Every Step of the Way

I was recently told by someone that I have gravitas, tenacity, and spirit. I began to wonder why these particular words were bestowed upon me. Were these sentiments deserved? If so, what was it about my evolution as a woman in leadership that led to such a compliment?

Like many people, my journey began years ago when words like diversity, equity, and inclusion felt more foreign than familiar, and gender bias and racism were more common than condemned. I spent my formative years observing the dichotomy that existed in many communities between those who allowed the undercurrent of racism, sexism, and inequality to squash their prospects and those who gained inspiration to turn the tide. This motivated me to pursue a career spent in service to others.

The road that led me to become the first vice president for human resources, diversity and multicultural affairs at the University of Vermont, crisscrossed some rough terrain, especially for a woman of color. Taking the time to study the landscape around me, being tenacious, and clarifying my priorities through my life experiences helped me navigate my professional journey. Creating my own internal mantra—Be brave. Be brilliant. Be bold!—gave me the courage to share my talents and welcome new ones. Over time, my aptitude to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion grew.

I believe my success is deeply rooted in my relationship with my family and the special people, particularly women, who not only mentored, but sponsor me. I believe working hard to master my skills and increase my knowledge helped me gain respect in my field and become a person of influence. My gravitas and spirit have resulted in salient partnerships, the development of practices that unite people instead of dividing them, and innovative opportunities that support greater diversity, equity, and inclusion at my institution and beyond.

Through it all, I have remained true to myself and built long-lasting relationships. I have a loving family and supportive friends, and I work for a remarkable higher education institution, the University of Vermont, where I can focus on what I have been told I do best—lead, innovate, engage, transform, empower, and pay it forward. My advice to other women is to discover what inspires you, create an internal mantra, and repeat it continuously on your own professional journeys every step of the way.