Hannah Mesouani, former Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI), announced her departure from Illinois Wesleyan and her acceptance of a new position at The Immigration Project where she will help develop their Welcome Center.
Mesouani said she has learned several skills from her time at IWU that will help her in the transition to her new role.
“I have definitely learned patience and how to communicate with people who might have different values than I do. Social justice work and identity-work are tough on the soul, not because it isn’t beautiful, but because it feels like screaming in the void to make change happen. BIPOC, queer and immigration populations share our stories loud and proud, sometimes calling for help, sometimes recognition; what’s hard is when other ‘normative’ groups have already made up their minds not to listen,” Meousani said.
Meousani said she is very hopeful about her new position with the Immigration Project because it is a great team with great energy around supporting immigrants and their families in calling McLean County home.
Mesouani initially joined ODI in 2017 and was promoted to Director in February of last year. Since her arrival she has advocated and supported students as well as demonstrated leadership on campus. She has been involved in creating several events and activities such as the Unity Gala tradition-building, peer mentoring program development, dynamic Summer Enrichment Program leadership and continued advocacy for LGBTQ+ students.
“I am definitely a nomad by nature and though I will miss seeing my first class (shoutout to the class of 2021) through the end of the IWU experience, the time was right to try something new. I felt that I had filled up all the space allowed for me to advocate for my people and it was time for me to stretch and grow in new directions,” Mesouani said.
Mesouani also believes that she has made significant improvements to ODI in her time as Director and through other ways she’s been involved around campus, but she strongly believes there is still work to be done.
“I think I’ve worked super hard to help ODI and IWU feel more like home to our minoritized friends and family. I’m proud of the work I supported around education on BLM and resources for TNGC (transgender and non-confirming students) students and for creating meaningful connections with faculty so we can foster inclusion everywhere. Greta, Kwame, Brandon, Elyse, Veronica and I did a whole lot, and even though it will never be enough, I’m proud of us and the Unity Gala. You guys better invite me in the future,” Mesouani said.
Mesouani said that there are so many fantastic people at ODI, but she will 100 percent miss her students most of all and Outreach Coordinator Veronica Torres Luna.
“Hannah definitely shaped my experience at IWU, and I’m so grateful. She truly is a mentor and I admire her. I think being a student here forced me to ignore my mental health in order to excel academically. Hannah allowed me to be vulnerable without judgement. She helped me through difficult periods in my life, challenged and empowered me,” senior Lilia Garcia said.
Garcia said she will miss seeing Hannah at ODI, but she is happy to see her move on and provide support for a new community.
“I’ve had so many silly moments and soul-bearing conversations through ODI. Nothing will come close to the feeling of family ODI provided and will no doubt continue to provide under Sharla and Veronica’s caring attention,” Mesouani said.
Sharla Brown-Ajayi, Provost’s Office, will serve as the Interim Director of ODI. She has eight years of IWU service experience, she advocates for faculty and staff as a founding member of the Alliance, mentors students as the advisor to the Black Student Union, plans events such as the Unity Gala and was honored as the first recipient of the University Inclusive Excellence Leadership award in 2018. Though Brown-Ahayi has already begun this new role, she will continue to work with the Provost’s Office on ongoing projects including addressing issues within Academic Affairs.
In an email sent out to the IWU community, the communications office said they are “extremely grateful for Hannah’s service and wish her well in her opportunity to service immigrants and families across the region, through the admirable work of the Immigration Project. Our community will greatly benefit from her continued work for social justice.” They also said they are thrilled to have Brown-Ajayi fill in for Hannah.
“To my phenomenal ODI, much love always. And remember the only rule of ODI- you can’t skip class and stay at ODI,” Meousani said.