We're excited to introduce WBUR's inaugural Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion—Lisa Smith-McQueenie!
Lisa was the driving force behind Simmons University’s strategic plan for DEI. During her 20-year tenure at the university, she worked with students, faculty and the administration to create a more equitable and inclusive culture. In this Q&A, she expands on her vision and plans for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in all facets of WBUR’s work and experience.
What excited you about this position at WBUR?
I was excited by the fact that this is an inaugural role with the opportunity to create, build and strengthen an inclusive work culture. I am a truth seeker and a truth-teller; I believe the journalism coming from WBUR reflects the same.
While my professional background is not in public media or journalism, the mission of WBUR, “to serve the public, report the truth, and enrich lives”, is aligned with who I am both personally and professionally. I was taught that to whom much is given, much is required. Truth, honesty, and authenticity are core values that guide my attitude, thoughts, and actions.
Any initial learnings from your first few months on the job?
At the risk of stating the obvious, my early observations include that WBUR is full of talented, committed and diligent staff at all levels. As someone who is very relational, I enjoy people, all types of people. My listening and learning tour has included meeting with both teams and with individuals and will continue to be a part of what I do. It is important for me that people feel seen, heard and valued.
I have certainly appreciated the incredibly warm welcome that I have received with both a sense of eagerness — and of relief. There is curiosity and earnest desire to move the organization along on its DEI journey. Our learning and growing exist along a broad continuum but intentionality and a growth mindset will help us to move the dial in meaningful ways.
What is your approach to this work in the context of being a leader in this position but also collaborating with others?
This work cannot effectively be done alone with any sustainable impact. It requires collaboration, cooperation and consistent engagement.
My DEI career's motto/mantra is: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African Proverb)
I will provide a shared vision and leadership that promotes a culture that values diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. As a strategic, empathic and collaborative colleague, I will partner with others throughout the organization and build bridges (to better understand needs and strengths), identify objectives, increase engagement, and establish/continue/share organizational best practices.
I want WBUR to be an environment that creates and cultivates a sense of belonging for not only the members of the organization but for all who are impacted by our work, our journalism. I look forward to leading, facilitating and working collaboratively with colleagues to build a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive WBUR.
How will your previous experience working in DEI inform how you will approach the work here at WBUR?
My career thus far has been dedicated to enriching the lives of young adults in numerous ways including working with colleagues around a shared vision of diversity, equity, and inclusion as the ultimate excellence.
Both patience and persistence are critical to effective DEI work.
As both a generalist and a specialist, I integrate evidence-based research, theory and practice to develop an eclectic approach to DEI endeavors. This supports meeting people “where they are” and exploring various ways to grow and learn as individuals and collectively.
WBUR as an organization has the appetite, capacity and willingness to do the work required to become a more diverse, inclusive and equitable organization. We want to craft strategies and tactics that both support the complexity and individuality of our staff in their roles while cultivating enduring organizational values.
What’s your favorite Boston memory?
My 40th birthday celebration! Following a serious surgery the prior year, I decided to do it big. My four decades of life would be marked with a four-day party! The theme was “My Favorite Things” and this included things to do in Boston.
With lots of family in town we took over several Duck Boats, walked the Freedom Trail, visited the Museum of Fine Arts, walked the Blue Hills, shopped and ate lots of seafood.
How do you spend your free time?
The notion of “free time’’ always makes me chuckle because there is always something I could be doing. I balance my career with giving back to the community, spending time with loved ones and doing other things I enjoy. Community service is important to me and I enact this through my sorority where I have been active for over 35 years. Hint: it is the same one as the Vice President of the United States. I enjoy traveling, shopping, and food (cooking and dining out, so don’t forget to send me your recs and recipes!).