Q&A with Rame Hanna

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My family emigrated to the States when I was six years old, seeking asylum during the Gulf War. Being the first in my family to go to college was especially challenging, not only as a first-generation Arab-American, but also being both gay and Muslim. My life has always been at the crossroads of intersecting identities.

The struggles of navigating the experiential realities of academics and social life on- and off-campus led me to pursue a BA in Law and Society and an MS in Student Affairs in Higher Education.  Professionally, I have always worked in higher ed in spaces of diversity and social justice education.

What do you do in your role?

As director of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence I am responsible for guiding and leading university-wide efforts to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. This involves actualizing a strategic vision that embraces intersectional identities, promotes diverse critical knowledge, and centers the lived experiences of marginalized communities to ensure that all belong and can thrive. In essence, I strive to champion organizational change and blend a culture of inclusion and belonging into the full fabric of WPI.

What is your vision for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at WPI?

To create a community of inclusion and belonging, it is important that we design spaces for ongoing education around self-awareness, identity development, and cultural proficiency. In my time at WPI I hope to accomplish two goals: create a welcoming environment where anyone can come to WPI and feel that they truly belong, and promote cultural proficiency and critical consciousness in our community so that every facet of WPI can incorporate a framework of diversity in its work.

How have the recent events in our nation affected your approach for the coming year?

I’ve always believed that it is not about resolving the challenge, but rather living amid the challenge. To create transformative change, we need to address systemic and structural oppression in all its forms. There is no quick fix solution. By centering the voices of our communities most impacted, we can work as authentic partners to create transformative change toward sustainable inclusive excellence. Through universal design principles and a socially just approach to our work, we can transform our campus community and foster a culture where all can feel a greater sense of belonging and can thrive.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with the WPI community?

I have often shared with colleagues and students that diversity is not a final state, but rather an ongoing process. It takes a village and requires that we work as a collective to elevate the voices of those who are marginalized and underrepresented. This includes leading with a social justice lens to better address the social determinants of inclusion and belonging.

By creating equitable policies and educational opportunities, we can transform social interaction to positively impact all areas of the WPI community. So many collaborations and partnerships to look forward to!

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