Meet the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative team part 2

Joey Wagner, Noah Pasley, and Isaiah Dennings

With the sleepy start to the spring semester, many students may have forgotten about President Joyce McConnell’s plans for the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative. 

Announced last fall after a series of bias-related incidents at Colorado State University, the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative is a team of faculty members led by Blanche Hughes, vice president for Student Affairs.

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The team is charged with reviewing and implementing proposals from the community to prevent bias-related incidents and create a more inclusive environment at CSU for marginalized communities.

Blanche Hughes

Blanche Hughes, vice president of Student Affairs, has been with CSU for 35 years. In an email to The Collegian, Hughes said she came to CSU initially as a graduate student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program, after receiving a B.A. from Earlham College as a first-generation student.

Since graduating, Hughes has worn many hats in her career at CSU. Originally working for Housing, she then spent 11 years directing the Black/African American Cultural Center, previously known as Black Student Services. 

Hughes said in the email that after earning her doctorate degree at CSU in sociology, she worked in multiple administration positions until arriving at vice president of Student Affairs, which she has been for 13 years. She also teaches in the Key Academic Community and in the SAHE graduate program. Since being appointed by President McConnell last October, Hughes has led the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative. 

“Personally, I know the pain and frustration of being the target of bias and discrimination,” Hughes said, speaking on being born into legal segregation in Kentucky and growing up in a low-income government housing project.

Hughes added that she has also seen how education, engagement and the willingness to learn about other people, as well as the ability to “share your own story,” can lead to better understanding and collaborations. 

“It is hard work and can take so long, but this continues to be a life-long journey and worth the hard work, disappointments and slow change,” Hughes said. “I am dedicated to trying to make a more equitable, just and caring society and to honor all those that sacrificed so that I can be here today and for future generations.” 

Hughes wrote in the email that she has worked on diversity and inclusion issues at CSU for a long time.

“It is exciting that many members of our campus, members of the Fort Collins community, are committed to social change and equity as well,” Hughes said. “It is my pleasure to help make CSU a better and more inclusive place for everyone.”

Pam Jackson

Pam Jackson is Colorado State University’s interim vice president for External Relations.

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Jackson worked for the Bohemian Foundation, a Fort Collins based organization that supports community betterment, as their director of communications, according to her bio listed on the Race, Bias and Equity Initiative team website.

Jackson has a master’s in technical communication and a Ph.D. in economics from Colorado State University. Jackson’s academic research was centered around media democracy in a market economy, as well as electronic media regulation and policy. Jackson’s influence and expertise go beyond CSU, as she has worked in Denver; San Francisco; St. Louis; and Champaign, Illinois, as a TV news producer, according to her site. Jackson also has worked in public broadcast television at WTTW-TV in Chicago.

Jackson’s fellowships from the Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, Indiana University Freedom Forum and Colorado Colloquium on Media Ethics and Economics are other qualifications that make her a crucial part of the RBEI team, according to her site.

Jackson could not be reached for a quote.

https://cdi.colostate.edu/members/pam-jackson/

Leslie Taylor

Leslie Taylor is Colorado State University’s vice president for Enrollment and Access.

Taylor has been at CSU since 1997 and has developed skills in strategic communications roles focused on student recruitment, diversity and inclusion and enhancing CSU’s institutional image and profile, according to her site.

Taylor is equipped to serve in the RBEI due to her being a member of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion since its inception. Taylor, in addition to Diversity and Inclusion, serves the Task Force for Native American Initiatives, according to her site.

Taylor’s extensive knowledge comes from the B.S. she earned in human development at the University of Oklahoma and a master’s in family and consumer science at the University of Idaho, according to her site.

Taylor could not be reached for a quote.

https://cdi.colostate.edu/members/leslie-taylor/

Ann Claycomb

Ann Claycomb is the chief of staff and director of presidential and administrative communications in the Office of the President.

Before beginning her career at CSU, Claycomb worked at West Virginia University in the provost office, first as an executive assistant until moving into an administration role as a communication director and special projects manager for the provost.

Having earned a B.A. in English literature and psychology, an M.A. in English literature and M.F.A. in fiction writing, the administrative role was much more catered to her expertise, Claycomb said.

She said her job now includes helping CSU President McConnell “realize her vision and goals” and working to remove obstacles from what McConnell wants to accomplish. As a communication director, she and her team aim to communicate authentically what McConnell and the University want to communicate.

“I want to bring the efficacy of the President’s office having the agency to make things happen quickly to demonstrate that the President’s office is on board with something, and that is gonna hopefully empower people as we move forward,” Claycomb said. “So, I just want to be that person who can help make things happen.”

Claycomb sees her role on the core team as being an “ally” and “advocate” where she can effectively communicate the team’s plans and facilitate the ideas of other core team members.

“I think this initiative is important to me very much because of what is seen here on our campus and in our country and how powerful traumatic and painful experiences can be when equity is not at play and how powerful the solutions can be … when they are in play,” Claycomb said.

Kathy Sisneros

Kathy Sisneros has spent her first decade at CSU advocating for many of the marginalized student populations and communities that reside here, according to her biography on the RBEI team website.

She grew up in New Mexico as a first-generation college student and identifies as a Mexican American cisgender lesbian, according to the team website.

Sisneros studied at a small in-state college, Eastern New Mexico University, before graduating with a master’s degree in counseling at Northern Arizona University and a doctorate in educational policy, research and administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In an email to The Collegian, Sisneros said that she began in 2010 by serving the University as the director for the Women and Gender Advocacy Center until the fall of 2015. She then shifted into the role of assistant vice president for Student Affairs, which she has held since, according to the email.

In the position, Sisneros oversees the Student Diversity Programs and Services. She also oversees institutional support for student populations, including undocumented students, transgender students and non-binary students, and she works closely with the President’s Multicultural Student Advisory Committee, according to her bio on the website.

The website also lists her efforts in educating students about free speech and the First Amendment and her “long-standing commitment to working with and advocating for historically minoritized student groups at the college level.”

“I believe that it is my obligation to have an active role with the RBEI process, personally and professionally,” Sisneros said. “Any initiative that has the remote hope of being transformational for what our minoritized student populations experience on this campus, I’m open to being involved and trying to make a difference.”

Jessica Salazar

Jessica Salazar joined the office of General Counsel at CSU in April 2019, but her career with the University first began during her undergraduate studies in psychology, she said. 

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, she went on to receive her master’s in higher education from CSU in 2008, as well as a J.D. from the University of Colorado Law School.

Before serving as associate legal counsel for CSU, she served as an assistant attorney general in the Education Unit and Research Counsel for the University of Colorado Boulder. Salazar also served as first assistant attorney general leading the Higher Education Unit at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, according to her bio.

“I have always been appreciative of what I have gained from CSU,” Salazar said. “We have some great people on the committee looking forward to making a positive impact here at CSU.”

Joey Wagner, Noah Pasley and Isaiah Denning can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @CSUCollegian.