I have known Angela for 20 years. She and I grew up together in the bubble community that is the South Bay of Los Angeles. Angela was a year ahead of me in school, a tiny private school with 30 to 40 students per grade.
When Angela went off to college at UC San Diego, I visited. When my best friend passed away in December 2015, she attended the funeral. We don’t see each other often; but, when we do, we pick up where we left off.
Angela currently serves as the Interim Director for the office of Inclusion and Multicultural Engagement (“IME”) at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. There she does everything in her power to support the recruitment, transition, and retention of historically underrepresented students, i.e., students of color and first-generation college students.[i]
Specifically, “IME strives towards a college community deeply rooted in realized values of introspection, inclusion, and equity that empowers all students to thrive in the pursuit of their aspirations and in support of one another.”
Angela works directly with Lewis & Clark students to create a place of safety, comfort, and growth for members of underrepresented identities within the campus community and in Portland more broadly. By way of example, Angela shared: “This past year a queer student of color said something to the effect of, ‘I often feel out of place at Lewis & Clark, but with IME I belong.’” Reflecting on this event, Angela said that she “wholeheartedly believe[s] that validation, humanity, and visibility are worth everything.”
Angela never imagined she would find herself in such a role. Angela thought she might be a soccer player as a kid. In high school, when her interests shifted, she thought perhaps she would be a newscaster.
When she graduated from UCSD with a BA in Linguistics, Angela lost herself in her search of what to do. She had no plan and became a barista at a coffee cart situated on the UCSD campus. During that time, a former supervisor in Residence Life approached her to fill an interim position at the transfer-housing department at UCSD. There she realized she wanted a career working with students.
Now knowing where she wanted to end up, Angela left her coffee cart and obtained an MA in Educational Administration and Leadership from the University of the Pacific. In those halls Angela transformed. Per Angela, graduate school pushed her to “think bigger”; it motivated her to tackle the systemic issues within higher education. “It was there that I found my purpose: to support students, to work within ‘the system’ to fight for justice, and to hopefully inspire the next generation to find their passions,” she said.
Following graduate school, Angela took time to travel throughout France and Germany. While Angela was abroad, Lewis & Clark called her and insisted that she chat remotely with them so that she could stay on their interview timeline. She made it happen, and telephonically interviewed for a position managing a housing complex of about 250 students, including a hall with a “Multicultural Engagement” theme.
Angela interviewed in person at Lewis & Clark a couple weeks after her telephone interview abroad; the college hired her the next day. Angela packed her bags and moved to Portland just two weeks later—never having visited Portland before her interview. She has now lived there for four years.
Funny enough, Angela found her own transition to Lewis & Clark immensely difficult. Prior to that move, she had never lived or worked in a predominantly white city. She found it hard to feel seen and understood in a way that she could not fully articulate: “That experience further pushed me to do everything I could to genuinely create connections and safety amongst students of color and continue working to educate my peers on the importance of diversity and equity.”
When an Assistant Director of IME position opened at the college, Angela applied. She served in that role for a year, and focused fulltime on diversity education for students, mentorship/advising of student groups, and professional development opportunities around diversity for staff.
Recently, Lewis & Clark offered Angela the Interim Director position, which would elevate Angela to be the head of the IME department. She immediately doubted herself. While some aspire to climb the ladder as fast as possible, that is not Angela. She is methodical and observant.
Growing up with Angela, I know she is incredibly bright and capable. But she is careful. The following story so plainly illustrates her person: Angela and her sister both learned to walk using a coffee table at her parents’ house. Her sister used the table to prop herself up, then charge across the room. When she fell, she would crawl back to the table, prop herself up again, and charge across the room. She repeated this until she successfully walked across the room. By contrast, when Angela was learning to walk, she propped herself up on the table, then proceeded to walk around the table over and over. Once she had practiced enough times, Angela walked across the room perfectly without falling.
Nonetheless, Angela accepted the position. The imposter syndrome took hold, and stress and questions ensued. However, after talking to friends and mentors, Angela began feeling secure in her ability to succeed in the role. She now looks forward to bringing her ideas to life.
Outside of her job, Angela loves all things creative.[ii] Angela truly “ha[s] fun with mundane stuff in life.” She crafts and makes her own planners. She dabbles in fashion subscriptions, and constantly searches for that next stroke of inspiration. Should you be in Portland, you might find Angela wandering the streets, in a museum, or shopping at a thrift shop—looking for ways to reuse old objects. Her work will be on full display at a local craft fair in Oregon this summer.
[ii] Angela is piloting work on her new Instagram account @adellevitastudio, and spends a lot of time with her dog Jameson—who also has his own Instagram account, @jamesonstraightup.