Meet the Team: The College of Social Science Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Affairs

February 15, 2024 - Emily Jodway


The Michigan State University College of Social Science Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Affairs (ODEIA) welcomes two new staff members to its team, Veda Hawkins and Victoria Pierce. Dr. Nwando Achebe returns to her role of Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Faculty Development, and Strategic Implementation as well as Director of the Office of Diversity after spending time in New Jersey as an ACE Fellow at Rutgers University. Hawkins will serve as Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Diversity and Student Affairs, and Assistant Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Affairs, while Pierce enters the role of DEI Office Manager.

AchebeAchebe is also the Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor of History and a multi-award-winning historian, author, administrator and teacher at MSU. She is the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of West African History and an American Council on Education (ACE) 2023-24 Fellow. She also teaches courses in Integrative Studies in Social Science and the History department, and is part of the African History PhD program, which has been ranked a top-three program nationally for the past ten years. 

“As an administrator in the College of Social Science, my passion has been to help support others in achieving their own success—whether these be students, faculty, or staff,” she said. “The people that I serve in the college are very special. It is the people that make me want to come to work every single day.”

She has received a number of prestigious grants including awards from Rockefeller Foundation, Woodrow Wilson, Fulbright-Hays, Ford Foundation, the World Health Organization, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her books have received accolades such as the Aidoo-Snyder Book Award, The Barbara “Penny” Kanner Book Award, and the Gita Chaudhuri Book Award, to name a few. 

Achebe describes herself as a ‘scholar-administrator’ as she strives to balance the duties of her DEI position with exploring her research passions. Her sixth book, Female Monarchs and Merchant Queens in Africa was published while she was also serving in an administrator role. This book, in addition to several articles and co-publishing credits, are among Achebe’s recent contributions to the field of African History and DEI studies. 

“It is wonderful working at an institution that values what I do as a scholar,” she added. “In most higher education institutions in the US, the study of Africa is at the periphery. Not so at MSU. MSU as an institution made a commitment to Africa and the study of Africa, early in the life of the university. Today, MSU is home to over 250 Africanists in a multiplicity of disciplines engaged in research, teaching, and service collaborations and partnerships across the African continent. These faculty produce more PhDs on Africa, offer more study abroad programs in Africa, and teach more courses in African languages than any other university in the US. This is why I love working at MSU. It values who I am as a researcher, and the continent that I have dedicated my career to studying.”

HawkinsHawkins is currently a doctoral candidate in the department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Science and has worked at the College for over 15 years. She is a first-generation college student and has dedicated hundreds of hours toward advancing diversity and inclusion and student success through her work with the College’s Office of Academic and Student Affairs. She previously served as Assistant Director and Interim Assistant Dean in 2022 for the office. Prior to these roles, she spent time as an Academic Specialist in the Center for Integrative Studies in Social Science.  She was awarded the MSU Outstanding Advising Administrator Award in 2021 and the Dean’s DEI excellence staff award in 2022. 

Her current research, and eventual final dissertation, focuses on the intersection of race, space, place and undergraduate degree completion for Black students, which she hopes will help to educate and eliminate spatial education opportunity gaps for minoritized individuals. She emphasizes the importance of faculty of color at a predominately white institution, as it adds additional layers of support for students of color and can lead to greater persistence toward degree completion, especially among Black individuals.

“To work at MSU and to engage with amazing students, supporting them through their academic career is really full-circle and gives me a great sense of pride and joy,” Hawkins said. “ I believe that having a diverse team that is inclusive of people with various intersecting identities makes for a very interesting group of people. The contribution of such a team provides a perspective that is reflective of a wider audience. The notion of this kind of team is exciting to me.”

Pierce is a College of Social Science alumna and enters her first year as DEI Office Manager. She earned her degree in economics and is currently pursuing an MBA from Cleary University. Prior to returning to MSU, she spent time in the financial services and healthcare sectors before discovering her true passion for working in higher education. 

PierceHaving grown up in a small town before moving to the bustling city of Houston, Pierce’s eyes were opened to a world of diversity she hadn’t known existed. Meeting new people from all different races, religions, ethnicities and socio-economic standings helped spur her passion for advancing diversity and inclusion. 

“My time in Houston taught me that not everyone experiences the world as I do,” she explained. “There are barriers both seen and unseen. I hope to create a place where those barriers are reduced.”

She added, “Michigan State means so much to me. Being able to be a part of working towards making it a better place means the world to me.”

Read more about the College’s efforts in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion here.