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Director of Diversity at Clark Moves Onward and Upward

Melissa Williams is all about the bigger picture. That is, systematically altering the lens through which we see diversity in America.

An enthusiastic advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion, Williams recently stepped down from her position as Clark’s Director of Student Equity and Inclusion as she steps into her new role as policy associate for Washington’s State Board for Community and Technical Colleges.

Melissa Williams transitions from Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to her new position as Policy Associate. (Photo courtesy the Office of ODEI)

Williams’s last day as a director on Clark campus was Nov. 5. The newly created position of associate entails working with and guiding Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges in their diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.  

As director of ODEI, Williams worked with faculty and staff to infuse equity in their work with the goal of impacting the student experience through projects such as B.U.I.L.D., a year-long program for faculty on diversity and inclusion.

“I think the things I’m proudest of are the trainings and education that I’ve been able to do for my colleagues,” said Williams. 

Having her graduate degree in history from Washington State University Vancouver, Williams first fell in love with the subject when she was studying for her associate’s degree at Clark. Today she loves the historical lens that often comes into play in diversity and equity when discussing how we got here.

“Instead of focusing on people that we think are broken, we need to fix those cultural, systemic, structural systems that are broken,” said Williams. 

Williams began working at Clark in 2008 as a part-time office assistant. From there she took on various roles in the campus, including time spent as Clark’s associate director for student success programs. 

“For me, the college has changed the trajectory of my life in so many ways,” Williams said.

In her new position, Williams says she is most excited to learn and advocate for change on a legislative level. 

 “Really I am excited about that legislative piece, because there are lots of different ways to affect systemic change, but you definitely need that legal piece [to do so],” said Williams. 

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