Thank you for entrusting me to serve you all as the inaugural associate vice president for institutional equity and belonging.
I am a proud mom of two, wife, and native of California: Richmond and Oakland to be specific.
I have been glad to be part of the Wheaton community since October 2017. I have worked alongside remarkable colleagues to build the Center for Social Justice and Community Impact, and Center for Religious and Spiritual Life; to launch DEAL and the Network for LGBTQ+ Inclusion Support and Advocacy; to expand the work of the First-Gen and Low-Income Task Force; and to develop the Taylor and Lane Scholars program.
My professional experiences prior to Wheaton are as varied as being the Deputy Project Manager for a European Union funded project to support demobilization, disarmament, reintegration among ex-militants in the Niger Delta, to directing the Social Justice Resource Center at Northeastern University, to managing a local program promoting literacy and life-skills among girls ages 11-14.
The span of my professional history centers around one persistent question: how can I transform violence, exploitation, apathy, and oppression into access, restoration, justice, and human flourishing?
I do not have the answer systemically, but at the micro-level there are significant strides we can make together. In this graphic, you will see some of the essential components for how I plan to partner with each of you to entrench equity and belonging here at Wheaton.
I posit these next steps for us as a community informed by my work history, but also my scholarship. I hold three interdisciplinary degrees. They are a master of arts degree in intercultural relations with a concentration in intercultural conflict management from Lesley University, a master of science in security and resilience studies at Northeastern University, and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations from Agnes Scott College. I am also a certified mediator through the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.
This will be a long journey. The work did not begin with me and it will not end with me. As Coretta Scott King said: “Struggle is a never-ending process. Freedom is never really won, you earn it and win it in every generation.” I am, however, hopeful that when my tenure concludes that we can point to key areas where we have anchored justice and empowerment in a way that feels palpable.
Shaya Gregory Poku (she/her/hers)