The department of Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA) has found a new director. Daviree Velázquez Phillip started work at Northwestern University on February 12. Prior to coming to Northwestern, Phillip worked as an assistant director of diversity education at Georgetown University’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access. Although Phillip is deeply passionate about her work, her life almost took a very different path.
When Phillip began her own college career as an undergrad, she was a vocal performance major, but after a tough conversation with her parents, Phillip, a first generation college student, decided to switch to a major that would help advance her family. She ended up studying psychology and sociology and became very involved in activism on-campus while exploring her personal identity. Looking back on her college experience, she realized that she “had some people along the way who helped guide and nurture [her], but sometimes the mark was missed,” as her university failed to see her holistically. After debating whether to use her degree and passion for social justice to create policy or to work in education, Phillip eventually settled on working in higher education since it allowed her to do both at the same time.
After years of working within a “brilliant and strong” community at Georgetown University, Northwestern’s large campus community and dedicated staff caught Phillip’s interest. Eventually, the involvement and passion of Northwestern students convinced her that Northwestern was the right environment for her. When looking into campus life, she was excited to find an active student body and students with a propensity for acting as “stewards of their own experience.” Now, she looks forward to working with these same students who “know how to articulate their own needs and wants.”
These students are also essential to the success of one of Phillip’s primary goals: making MSA a bridge between the different communities present on-campus. But that desire to build connections is tempered by the recognition that real progress requires collaboration. “A lot of our work here is based on collectivist societies and cultures,” Phillip said. Therefore, any substantial changes to provide more support for students of marginalized identities will require current students to work together.
Currently, Phillip sees herself as being in the “listening and questioning phase” of her transition to Northwestern. Aware that there are always multiple sides to one story, Phillip wants to hear from the many different voices that make up the Northwestern community and to take time to listen to all of their input before making any decisions about next steps.
While transitions are often difficult, the strength of the Northwestern community has left Phillip optimistic about the University's future. “Change can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary,” Phillip asserted. “It’s important to create space for people to share their experiences and feelings about change while also asking them to be a part of the change.”
Students can find Phillip in her office, located in the Multicultural Center at 1936 Sheridan Rd. With Phillip’s leadership abilities and an engaged student body, Northwestern is in a great position to continue improving the campus community for all.