New MSA director begins tenure, voices plans to support marginalized students


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Daviree Velázquez Phillip. Phillip, who assumed her position as the new director for Multicultural Student Affairs Monday, plans to support marginalized students at NU.

Adrian Wan, Reporter

As a self-identified student activist in college, Daviree Velázquez Phillip said she often criticized her undergraduate school for the lack of mentorship and services provided to first-generation students and students of color like her.

However, Phillip said she eventually realized critiquing without providing concrete solutions was not enough, leading her to pursue a career in higher education.

“I thought to myself, if I’m going to critique higher (education) or … identify injustice in the world, then I certainly need to see myself as part of the answer,” Phillip said.

Phillip began her tenure Monday as the new director for Multicultural Student Affairs, filling the position which had been vacant for four months since former director Charles Kellom left for Ohio Wesleyan University in October.

Prior to coming to Northwestern, Phillip worked as an assistant director of diversity education in Georgetown University’s Center for Multicultural Equity and Access and as a diversity and inclusion specialist at its Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship.

A search committee comprised of students, faculty and staff reviewed application materials and interviewed potential candidates, said Social Justice Education director Robert Brown. Brown, who headed the committee, added that three applicants were invited for an on-campus interview in December before Phillip’s appointment was finalized.

Brown said Phillip stood out in “a very competitive pool of applicants” because of her strong commitment to social justice and inclusion in education and beyond.

“She had experience working directly advocating for minoritized groups of students and she has direct roles working with black and Latinx communities,” Brown said. “We’re really excited to have a new person of the position who can speak to a broad and diverse array of needs that show up in our community.”

Pointing to her college experience at DePaul University — which she said lacked an “integral” place that offered counseling and support for groups of different identities — Phillip said educators within modern universities failed to address the needs of the full breadth of the student body. Consequently, she said, institutions continue to perpetuate marginalization by holding “onto the dominant narrative.”

Alejandro Magaña, an assistant director of MSA, said MSA is currently working with Phillip to flesh out plans for community events that help students explore their social identities and navigate their college lives.

Phillip will hold an open lunch Wednesday in the first floor conference room in the Multicultural Center for students to communicate their concerns.

“(MSA) is really here for the students and to help students … to translate the experiences that they are having at Northwestern into the workplace, community and broader,” Magaña said.

To tackle the problems marginalized groups are facing, Phillip said she strives to foster students’ understanding of the intersections between race, gender and religion. She said she plans to attend student gatherings and learn more about how historical incidents, such as the Sand Creek Massacre and Bursar’s Office Takeover, continue to shape the NU community.

“I don’t think it’s fair for educators to show up in student’s spaces and say … ‘How do I improve my practice,’ without having a relationship with them first,” Phillip said. “It really requires me to figure out how to build … (students’) efficacy and capacity to feel comfortable sharing the good and not-so-good.”

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