By: Damon Markiewicz
Springfield College Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Deja Ware ’19, is in her second academic year in her current role on campus. Ware is a first-generation college student, and she has returned to Alden Street after more than four years working in the Office of Admissions at American International College.
The city of Springfield is home to Ware, as she is a 2015 graduate of the High School of Commerce, where she was the first to receive the Springfield College William Beckett Teacher Preparation Scholarship during her senior year. During her time as an undergraduate student at Springfield College, Ware found her passion for working in higher education as a result of being involved in leadership programs such as New Student Orientation, June Orientation, and Student Government Association.
“It was the leadership positions I had on campus that opened my eyes to explore a career in higher education,” explained Ware. “I had a conversation with Director of Academic Advising Leigh-Ann Gomes, G’12, during the spring of my junior year, and she walked me through the options to transition from a career in the Springfield Public Schools to a career in higher education.”
Ware went on to describe, “I had the opportunity to do my practicum on campus in the admissions office, and I was mentored by Deleney Magoffin ’05, G’12. She helped me open my eyes to view all of the options that are available in working in higher education, especially within the student enrollment focus.”
Now back on campus as a proud staff member, Ware took time to answer questions about her journey.
What does the Springfield College experience mean to you?
Ware - It’s all about people, community, and support, those are the words that always come into my mind. Both in my time as a student, and now as a staff member, I have always felt a strong sense of community on campus. I appreciate how our community believes in living our mission. As a student, I was always interested in serving my community. Once you start living our mission, it does become a part of your life. The support I received as a student helped prepare me to be successful in my current role, which is to support our current students. I believe the people on our campus have a spirit about them, and that’s something you can feel when you are here. It’s a genuine feeling that people in our community want to help each other.
What is your mission for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion?
Ware – “The mission is to ensure that any student, faculty or staff from a diverse background, who comes to our campus, understands it’s not just our office’s responsibility to advocate and educate in helping serve our underrepresented populations. Overall, it’s the mission of our institution, to look at best practices, and analyze how we are going about supporting each other as a college community.
What are some of your goals for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the spring semester?
Ware – To kick off the Spring semester, we will be celebrating Black History Month, Women’s History Month, and Disability Awareness Month. In addition, we will be continuing to collaborate with multiple offices throughout campus.
We have a lot of special programming planned. We have the second annual “For the Culture Fashion Show,” coming up on March 1. Last year, it was a hit and everyone enjoyed it. We are expecting students, faculty, staff, and alumni to participate in this year’s show. It was so rewarding last year to watch our students represent their culture and showcase who they are true to the core.
Additionally, we will have our annual Women’s Tea event and Stoling Ceremony for the students who are graduating and have been committed to the Office of DEI during their four years on campus. We will host our second Lavender Graduation Ceremony celebrating our students representing the LGBTQIA+ community.
How would you like to see the Office of DEI continue to grow?
Ware - We have done a really good job of creating an environment where students and staff feel welcomed and have a sense of community. We are seeing more students utilizing our office, and it's been cool witnessing students connect differently. They are looking at each other as multidimensional people, and finding those commonalities instead of focusing on how they are different. We want to continue to give students new opportunities to engage as student learners and leaders that will continue their growth and development in a social justice and DEI perspective.
What are some of your favorite aspects of your job?
Ware – Supporting the students, first and foremost. I can support students in so many different ways, it may look like giving them a lift to the store, conversations about real life, or talking about career goals. It's refreshing to know that they may be struggling with something and they come to our office for guidance. It’s unique to have all these different experiences with students wrapped up in one job.
Something else I enjoy is growing relationships with people who were my mentors when I was a student. Someone like Director of Spiritual Life David McMahon, who was my student club advisor all four years as a student, and now our offices are only a couple of doors apart. I never take for granted the time I have to learn from him. Overall, Springfield College is just a great place to be, and I am enjoying building relationships with so many people I admire and respect.