From hosting the first R&B radio show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to establishing her own consulting business, Shaashawn S. Dial has undergone several career changes. However, higher education was an area that she always returned to.
Upon graduating with her master’s degree from Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, her first experience working in higher education was as an adult basic education coordinator at Harrisburg Area Community College. She taught subjects for the GED test as well as supervised other teachers.
“That’s where I realized that so much of education is being a cheerleader for folks, it is identifying how they were failed or what they need a second chance at,” says Dial, director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Stephens College. “And teaching to that and then the actual academic material is really second. It’s about people and connecting.”
After feeling burned out, Dial shifted to radio. She became the program director of Harrisburg’s WTCY1400 AM “THE TOUCH” as well as created and hosted “The Shaashawn Dial Show: A Dial Movement,” which was broadcast during the week.
“[My physical voice] was something people have complimented me on my whole life,” says Dial. “They’ve either said you should sing or do radio and you don’t want to hear me sing.”
After five years, the radio station downsized and Dial returned to higher education full time as an adjunct professor at Central Pennsylvania College. Over an almost five-year span, the job turned into a peer mentoring position and she eventually became director of advising.
“That’s definitely where I knew I loved higher [education] and would always love for it to be part of my portfolio,” she says.
As someone who is Black and queer, Dial says it is “imperative” that she always has multiple strings of income and that her career should always be thought of as a portfolio. In 2015, after leaving the institution, she launched her own consulting business named Voycetress Media, LLC. The name was inspired by women who speak their mind in any situation.
“I still have that to this day and love it but it was just difficult for that to be my only revenue at that time,” says Dial.
While working at her consulting business, she was approached to serve as director of equity and affirmative action for the city of Harrisburg. However, as an alumna of Stephens College, an all-female institution, Dial always found herself searching for similar women empowerment environments in her career.
“I’ve wanted little ecosystems where women could explore themselves mentally, physically, spiritually, academically, economically, sexually,” she says.
In September, she received the opportunity to go back to her alma mater to serve as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).
“The opportunity to actually go back and immerse myself in [Stephens] 20 years later, knowing the positive impact it had [on] me as an 18 to 22-year-old undergrad, is just too good to be true,” says Dial.
She has enjoyed being back in an environment that holds the goal of “unapologetically educating women.”
“I think that mission has always been needed and I think it will always be needed but we also [are] up against the reality that we are only one of 32 women colleges left in the country,” Dial says.
With this only being her second DEI position, Dial “believes” that she brings a different set of skills to the job.
“I think it’s the fact that I can identify the seams and thread through broadcast radio, through human social services, through higher education, through entrepreneurship with running your own small business,” she says. “That informs a lot of my work.”
Among her first actions when she assumed the position of DEI director at Stephens College last fall was attending around 40 different events on campus. She will continue to document every fall and spring event moving forward.
“Stephens is trying to be everything for everybody like most institutions and so events was a very central way for me to begin to make change around diversity, equity and inclusion,” she says. “We can’t make change if we don’t know what we already do.”
Additionally, she is working to put a more formal facilitation training program in place as well as working to increase faculty and staff diversity, continuing discussions about women and non-binary folks on campus and building more aspects of community.
“So much of my work is in building core [community] and building trust,” Dial adds.
Alongside her current position, Dial is working towards a doctoral degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. This fall, she will defend her dissertation proposal which is focused on documenting queer and transgender people of color’s experience in the workforce.
This article originally appeared in the June 11, 2020 edition of Diverse. You can find it here.