Waleska Lugo-DeJesus: 35
Director of Multicultural Affairs and Executive Assistant to the President, Westfield State University
That colorful tree in the painting Waleska Lugo-DeJesus took with her to her photo shoot is called a flamboyan in Puerto Rico, and she joked that it’s “colorful and bold, just like me!”
Many roles have defined her professional career, she said, in both the public and private sector. But it was her grandmother who inspired her on the path she now treads. As the matriarch of her extended family, who moved them from Puerto Rico to Springfield, her grandmother instilled in her children and grandchildren a sense of personal responsibility.
“In my family, some are teachers, some are civil service, some are police officers,” Lugo-DeJesus said. “Every one of us in some type of role is giving back to our community because of what she taught us.” Such inspiration gave her the goals of becoming active in education, civic engagement, and diversity. Fortunately for many, her role at WSU gives her a chance to shine in all three.
“As the director of Multicultural Affairs, I am now lucky enough to use the skills and knowledge that my education provided me to help others have the same opportunities,” she said. “And a community is only as good as the relationships we develop. For me, community is enriched when people move beyond their differences to contribute, help make positive change, and inspire others. In my life and in my career, I have come to understand how a community is enriched when the similarities and differences of others are acknowledged and celebrated.”
The number of boards, committees, and charities to which Lugo-DeJesus devotes her time is so lengthy that she laughed and said, “I need to write things down on a chart, so I can know how to invest my time!”
Responding to her 40 Under Forty award, she called it a mark of great pride. “I’ve been recognized by Latino groups,” she explained, “but this recognition is special to me because it helps in making me more of a role model to other aspiring leaders.”
— Dan Chase