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Climbing Capitol Hill

Alaysia

 

In the middle of bustling Washington and just a few hundred feet to the right of the Capitol Building, is the office of the chief diversity and equity officer for the U.S. Department of Labor and Western Carolina University alumna, Alaysia Black Hackett ’01, MPA ’02.  

Black Hackett is from Florence, South Carolina. She is a two-time alumna of WCU with a degree in sociology and a minor in race, ethnicity and gender and a master’s degree in public affairs. She also has an executive juris doctor from Concord Law School.  

Black Hackett experienced culture shock in her first semester at WCU until she found community with Project CARE.

“There was not a lot of diversity at the time. The diversity at WCU was probably quite different than it is now, but we created this family there with the students of color,” she said.  

“They had a program called Project CARE, Committed to African American Retention and Education. I was part of that program, and then I became a mentor. It really was just that embracing of the students to ensure that we felt like we were part of the community and had that sense of belonging.”  

She credits Jane Adams-Dunford, associate vice chancellor for student affairs, with creating a home for students of color.

While at WCU, Black Hackett was a part of the Ebony Organization of Students, directed the Inspiration Gospel Choir for three and a half years and she became a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.  
Black Hackett says her sociology degree has helped in her many roles in diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

“Sociology for me is just the study of how society has evolved,” she said. “Even the way I look at life and just the way I carry myself in my position really, is looking at the societal norms, the abnormalities, things that are skewed in our society.”  

She began her career with an internship at the University of North Carolina at Asheville in multicultural affairs. Black Hackett served in several collegiate DEIA positions including Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, Virginia Union University and Mars Hill University as chief diversity and equity officer.  
“I noticed some discrepancies with how students of color were treated,” Black Hackett said. “I began to take on the responsibility of helping to push DEIA in those spaces. It was really important for me to advance that work.”  

Black Hackett moved into the government level of DEIA as the diversity, equity and inclusion consultant in the department of human resources management for the Commonwealth of Virginia. She went on to serve as the deputy chief diversity officer for the Office of Ralph Northam, the former governor of Virginia.  

She founded ABH Solutions, LLC, a consulting firm for DEIA, before becoming the inaugural chief diversity and equity officer for the U.S. Department of Labor under President Joe Biden’s administration.  

Black Hackett’s home state of South Carolina is currently in debate on DEIA program spending. With experience at virtually every level of DEIA, Black Hackett knows the importance of this programming.  

“We've evolved as a country,” she said. “These positions for diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are an evolution. It is really assisting in strategies on how to ensure that we are bringing inclusivity into our workspaces, our educational institutions, to consider those who were not considered before.”  

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