PORT ANGELES — One of the first things Hanan Zawideh learned about Port Angeles was that if you have an opportunity to purchase a home, don’t play the waiting game.
“I thought I was smart, I found a house I liked here and I was like, oh, it’s too expensive, so I wanted to wait and then I’ll put an offer which I think is more appropriate,” said Peninsula College’s first vice president of human resources and diversity, equity and inclusion.
“I lost the house because somebody else bought it really fast.” she said.
So, for the time being, Zawideh is balancing working remotely from her home in Portland, Ore., with week-long stays in Port Angeles.
“I think it’s very, very important for me to be physically on campus with my team, especially in September when the students come,” Zawideh said. “I want to build relationships. That’s really the work, you know, the fun part of the work.”
As vice president of human resources and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), Zawideh will provide leadership and direction for implementing policies and programs that support and advance the college’s DEI goals and initiatives, as outlined at https://pencol.edu/about-pc/diversity-equity-inclusion.
Peninsula College is Zawideh’s first job in higher education. She will receive a salary of $151,000.
Zawideh’s roots are in Jordan, but she grew up in Bahrain and lived in Dubai and Qatar before moving to England to study hotel management at Bournemouth University.
“I wanted to study fashion design, that was the original plan, but my dad said no,” Zawideh said.
She said she draws on what she learned in her studies all the time.
“It connects with HR because it is all about service and HR is service, but your population is internal and your priority is the customer,” Zawideh said.
As a career counselor in the affluent West Bloomfield School District in Michigan, Zawideh said she saw the barriers to success students from less affluent families faced.
Even though they received the same excellent education as their wealthy peers, the bright, ambitious and talented students who wanted to go to college did not have the resources for extracurricular activities and test tutors that might improve their chances of being admitted to the school of their choice. They often did not have parents who could help them write a college essay or help them navigate the path to higher education.
“I saw it first hand how the system is not built for everyone in an equitable way,” she said.
After working as a counselor for 10 years, Zawideh moved to the corporate sector, where she built a human resources department from the ground up at the Pacific Bath Company as it grew from a 30-person startup to over 300 employees by the time she left.
She loved the fast pace of corporate work, but it wasn’t her passion.
“It was wonderful, but it was not touching my heart,” she said.
She had the opportunity to become the chief equity human resource officer at the policy and advocacy nonprofit Children’s Institute in Portland, Ore., where she worked for just over a year before being hired by Peninsula College in June.
There is still a lot to be done in implementing and establishing sustainable diversity, equity and inclusion infrastructure in higher education, particularly at the community college level, Zawideh said, which is why the position at Peninsula College appealed to her.
Even though the DEI position is new, the college already had in place policies, practices and a structure in place for its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. An equity standing committee composed of faculty and staff already had completed the college’s 2022-2023 DEI plan.
“I’m not building from scratch. I am building on a foundation that’s really strong,” she said. “We will start going through our year two initiatives and what our goals [are] for making sure that we’re creating an inclusive campus.”
The committee will be looking at all elements of the curriculum that might negatively impact students’ ability to succeed, such as access to technology. They also will review human resources policies in areas such as recruiting faculty and staff to ensure the college is reaching as wide a range of applicants as possible.
“Looking at our job descriptions, looking at our postings and who are we excluding when we’re asking for certain qualifications that are not really necessary,” Zawideh said. “Making sure that we are inclusive in our language.”
Zawideh said that she did not see the her job as fixing problems, but supporting the work of the equity standing committee and other initiatives at the college that supported its DEI priorities.
“You go in with no judgment, you go in with a positive outlook and this is exactly what I see here,” she said. “I see a lot of work that’s done. I see my role as going in and just helping in all that work. Having a voice in the executive level will help all those committees because they need their voice heard, their ideas presented.”
In the meantime, she will continue her hunt for a home in Port Angeles with a lesson learned.
“I do have a couple of houses that I’m looking at,” she said. “I will make a faster move when I find something that I like.”
Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@soundpublishing.com