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Willamette Academy director brings passion for leadership and inclusivity to the job

by Office of Communications,

For Delia Olmos-García BA’14 MBA’23, becoming Willamette Academy’s executive director represents both a professional and personal milestone. 

Delia Olmos-Garcia
Delia Olmos-García BA’14 MBA’23

Olmos-García has been connected to Willamette University since 2005, when she first participated in a Willamette Academy summer camp as a middle schooler. Today, she is the first leader in academy history to attend and graduate from the program, one that grew her skills and reinforced her passion for creating communities of inclusivity and leadership. 

“In school, I was pretty reserved and afraid to show who I was. At the academy, I was exposed to people who celebrated nerdiness, and found mentors and tutors who showed me that what may not be cool in middle or high school was cool in college,” she said. “The program was also a place of community for my parents so I’m really proud to be leading the program that supported me and my family.”  

Willamette University founded the academy in 2001 with the goal of making college accessible for first-generation students from historically underrepresented groups in the Salem-Keizer School District. Olmos-García was appointed executive director in June 2022 after serving as program director since 2017. 

Being a part of the academy helped Olmos-García see success as a student leader at Willamette University, where she co-founded the Center for Equity and Empowerment. Being raised in Salem by undocumented immigrant parents shaped her identity and fueled her passion for serving populations that are overlooked and systematically under-resourced, she said. 

Delia in middle school
Olmos-García at the academy in middle school.

Olmos-García says that the experiences she had as a student at Willamette and the support she received from the sociology faculty gave her confidence and helped her tap into her full potential. She credits Associate Professor of Sociology Emily Drew for the opportunity to participate in the Liberal Arts Research Collaborative, a summer experience for selected undergraduate students.

“That experience really boosted my confidence and allowed me to see myself in a different dimension in terms of my capabilities and potential,” said Olmos-García. “As a high schooler I claimed to want to be a lifelong learner. Willamette provided the tools for me to do that.” 

Midway through her first year as executive director, she is thinking about the academy’s future. The program celebrated its 20th anniversary last May, so now she wants to engage in a strategic planning process for the program and connect to alumni, many of whom are now well-established in their careers. “It’s good for our students to meet with our alumni so they can see what is possible for them,” she said. 

Olmos-García says she’s grateful to the academy’s previous executive director, Emilio Solano, assistant provost for Institutional Equity and Community Engagement, for stabilizing the program so she can focus on thinking about the future and ways to grow the academy’s impact and influence. 

“I know from personal experience how special and unique a program Willamette Academy is,” she said. “And I’m happy to be able to give back and to be a visible example of a different way of being and leading.”  

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