California State University, Long Beach
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Hamada Excited With Opportunity As Director Of Equity, Diversity

Published: October 17, 2011

Larisa Hamada likes students so much that she visited the CSULB campus and mingled with them even before she got the job as the campus’ new director of equity and diversity, which she began on Aug. 29.

“I am very passionate about students so when I was in the midst of phone interviews, I came here and walked around campus and talked to a handful of students,” she said. “The ones that I met were working a lot and trying to go to school at the same time and I have a lot of respect for that. It’s not easy. I came from an environment where students were full-time students and worked a little bit on the side. It’s different here, so it was really delightful to see them very positive. I love speaking with students because they’ll tell you what’s really going on, what’s important to them and what they are proud of. For the most part they have a pretty good pulse of what’s going on. So I really was impressed with that.”

Hamada comes to CSULB from Pepperdine University, where she held a similar position since 2006.

“Larisa possesses a broad set of skills and talents that will serve our campus community well as she assumes the role of director of equity and diversity,” President F. King Alexander wrote in an e-mail to the campus community announcing her appointment. “We are very pleased that she will be joining our Beach family.”

As the director of equity and diversity, Hamada will report directly to Alexander and her office will oversee compliance with vast areas of federal, state and CSU-wide civil rights and nondiscrimination policy and law. It will also investigate allegations of sexual harassment involving university employees, monitor campus policy related to the Americans with Disabilities Act and serve as policy counsel on numerous committees.

“I was looking at President Alexander’s work and a lot of his initiatives related to diversity are embedded in our research,” said Hamada, “and some of the information from the research is showing student success actually happening at schools, live, not just kind of a plan per se. So that was really exciting for me.”

Hamada received her bachelor’s degrees in communication studies and religious studies from Westmont College in Santa Barbara and then received dual master’s degrees in education and divinity at the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) in New Jersey.

Hamada Excited With Opportunity As Director Of Equity And Diversity
PHOTO COURTESY OF LARISA HAMADA
Larisa Hamada

“My original plan was to become a religion and philosophy professor,” she said, “but I realized that a lot of the people in the doctoral programs were spending most of their time in the library and the whole reason why I wanted to do faculty work is because I love working with students and being part of the community and helping.”

It was at PTS where she began working in the Office of Religious Life, developing student life programs and partnerships with the community to build educational and diversity initiatives.

“I was doing a lot of work at the university with students,” she said, “so they said ‘why don’t you work in student affairs or administration?’ so that’s kind of the direction I took after that.”

Hamada says to be successful her work must be of the collaborative nature as she works with the many entities at the university.

“My spirit of leadership is collaborative work,” she said, noting her door is always open. “Diversity work in general can’t happen in a vacuum; you have to have really strong partnerships with your faculty, with your staff, with your students and with organizations. My style is that I try to be more proactive. I like to be more on the frontlines as far as hopefully having strong relationships with individuals so they feel they can come to me if they have an issue or problem before it goes to a formal complaint or before they’re really frustrated. I hope they will feel comfortable speaking with me so we can build partnerships.

“Also, in my mind, being proactive can sometimes reduce liabilities to the institution if you are doing educational training for faculty,” she continued. “At least that way they’ll know how they are supposed to affectively handle a situation, whereas if they don’t receive prior training or at least have awareness on an issue they may not.”

–Shayne Schroeder