Vice President Jade Aguilar accepts position with ECONorthwest

by University Relations,

University Chaplain Karen Wood to lead EDI initiatives this academic year.

Headshot of Jade Aguilar

Jade Aguilar, Willamette’s inaugural Vice President for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, recently announced she has accepted a position with ECONorthwest in Portland. Her last day will be September 17.

Aguilar was an associate professor of sociology when she was hired as VP for EDI in 2017. Aguilar's exemplary accomplishments include the opening of the Gender Resource & Advocacy Center that supports our LGBTQ community and victims of sexual misconduct, increased support for trans/nonbinary students, new policies for inclusion in housing and athletics, and many new all-user bathrooms across campus. She helped Willamette increase support and understanding of "access" for individuals with disabilities and led changes to campus infrastructure, websites, and events to better accommodate all people.

During Aguilar's tenure, a remodeled portion of York Hall became the Renjen Center, serving as a central campus location housing the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the Student Center for Equity and Empowerment. Aguilar helped to launch the Search Advocacy Program aimed to recruit and hire diverse staff and faculty, led a campus climate survey and efforts related to its results, increased support for DACA/undocumented students, helped to create a Land Acknowledgement statement, and supported Willamette's first formal acknowledgment and celebration of Indigenous People's Day.

"I'm thrilled with the work that we've been able to accomplish in the past few years. We've moved deliberately from a commitment focused on diversity and access to one that centers on inclusion and belonging," said Aguilar, "Many of the initiatives we've established were done in recognition that our increasingly diverse community had needs that weren't being met with our established policies and procedures. There is ongoing work to do in this regard, but there is renewed energy and excitement about this work as our nation also grapples with understanding and dismantling components of systemic racism."

Karen Wood, Willamette’s Chaplain, has agreed to lead Willamette’s EDI work for this academic year. In this interim role, Wood will provide continuity for the work and projects Aguilar initiated, and will provide leadership for strategic thinking regarding EDI issues across Willamette's colleges. "In addition to being a trusted and respected voice, Karen brings a passion for advancing equity and inclusion on campus, drawing on her teaching, scholarly, and leadership experience," said Carol Long, provost and senior vice president.

A best-practice external review of the Office of EDI was completed over the summer with results pending. Willamette will use the findings from that review, as well as feedback from key stakeholders, to make recommendations for the future shape and structure of the office. Wood will remain the University Chaplain, with the assistance of a part-time assistant chaplain.

In this interim period, the Office of EDI, which includes Multicultural Affairs, Native American Programs, and the Gender Resource and Advocacy Center will report to Lisa Landreman, Vice President for Student Affairs. Interim plans for a Title IX Coordinator will be announced soon, as well as the initiation of a search for a permanent Title IX Coordinator.

"President Thorsett and I recognize that this work is of paramount importance to our campus community and know we can count on all in our community to support Chaplain Wood as she continues the work of helping Willamette become a more inclusive and welcoming place to learn, work, and grow," said Long.

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