Dr. Clyde Wilson Pickett wants to close the opportunity gap and regrow his Afro

Dr. Clyde Wilson Pickett (Photo Credit: Dana Hernandez, Minnesota State)

Dr. Clyde Wilson Pickett is the chief diversity officer for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System, or simply Minnesota State. He has nearly two decades of experience in higher education leadership at both public and private universities.

Dr. Pickett completed his B.S. degree in agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky and his M. Ed in adult and higher education leadership at Morehead State University. He completed his doctoral study in language, literacy and culture at the University of Pittsburgh.

Here, he shares his story.

What is your company’s mission?
Our mission is to provide access to quality education to all. Minnesota State is the flagship higher education system for the state of Minnesota, thanks to our size and our scope. We provide access to educational opportunities for the most diverse group of learners in the state. Our population of people of color is larger than all other educational institutions in the state of Minnesota combined. We are essential in growing Minnesota’s economy and opening the doors of educational opportunity for all.

What is your day-to-day like at work?
I really don’t have a typical day. As my work is dynamic, I spend time in our office, visiting campuses, and meeting with community organizations and partners to advance a broad equity agenda. Simply put, we do what we can to support our students and the community.

What inspires you to show up at work every day?
I’m inspired to know that my work helps to make a difference. My role is responsible for advancing a broad equity agenda. We know that we have much work to do in impacting the opportunity gap [between] education completion and obtainment. I know that my work is instrumental in advancing that agenda forward. I know that by asking difficult questions of leaders and serving as an advocate for many who have been traditionally marginalized, I am helping to promote change for the better.

How did you determine your career path?
This work is a calling. I started my career in corporate America but found myself back in education time and time again. I embraced the work as an opportunity to help change environments and promote opportunities for many. My path was determined by the next step in progression and new opportunities to impact change.

Describe the voice of success that you hear in your head.
Each day, I find myself asking if we have made a difference. Did I do all I could to impact others and did I do the right thing? The voice in my head is always concerned that I serve and speak for those who do not have a voice.

Community success based on what you do in the community means what to you?
Community success is predicated [on] trust. Does the community feel they have open access to us? Do they feel we have their best interests in mind? Do they feel that we can help them meet and reach their broader life goals? Our mission is to allow our 37 institutions to be the conduit for changing lives and opportunities.

What role does technology play in your daily life?
Technology is significant in most of our lives today. I am no different. Whether it is accessing information/news online or staying in contact with family, friends, and colleagues, technology is a daily presence in our lives. For those of us in education, technology is fueling innovation. It is helping shape how we reach learners and impact the world.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
I’d work to impact our barriers in communication. In my work as a diversity practitioner, I facilitate many workshops and training that help explore communication and bias. If given the opportunity, I like for more of us to understand we have far more similarities than differences in this experience called life.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I’d like to be able to grow my Afro back. There are few things about myself I’d like to change. I’m comfortable in my own skin, but having my hair back would actually be something I wouldn’t complain about. Not that the bald look is bad; it just would be nice to help with the winters. Simply put, you can’t take everything so seriously. Life offers enough challenge. At times, we have to allow ourselves more opportunities to relax and enjoy the ride. Me included.

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