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Jade Agua

Associate Director for Learning & Organizational Development of the University of Southern California's Race and Equity Center; Former Director of the Cross-Cultural Center, University of California, Irvine

Focus Area: Affordability

Irvine, California
Office Representing: Student Affairs

Before accepting her position as associate director for learning & organizational development of the University of Southern California's Race and Equity Center, Jade Agua served as the director of the Cross-Cultural Center at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) where she provided a space for students to imagine and inspire an equitable, socially just campus; affirm and develop intersectional, cultural identities; and build a more inclusive community. Prior to working at UCI, Jade served as the program director of the Office for Multicultural Learning at Santa Clara University (SCU), where she oversaw the Multicultural Center and Rainbow Resource Center. At SCU, Jade was able to implement learning outcomes based on multicultural competencies, revive the "Difficult Dialogue" series, and develop new diversity trainings for the campus community. Before SCU, Jade worked at the University of Southern California (USC) as a program coordinator and graduate advisor in the School of Cinematic Arts and as assistant director for Asian Pacific American student services. Jade earned her bachelor's in sociology and master's in public administration from USC.

How did you first get interested in or involved in higher education issues?

"I fell into higher education by way of my commitment to racial and social justice work," Agua said. "I pursued the position at Asian Pacific American Student Services at the University of Southern California with the explicit intent to pursue my master's degree and expecting to return to the nonprofit sector. But during that time, I realized that higher education was, and is, a uniquely positioned place to create change and have a meaningful impact across fields as we prepare our students to be ethical leaders and conscientious contributors to society. I joined NASPA, which is the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education organization, and have been committed ever since to reshaping our institutions for a more diverse and inclusive future."

Why did you apply to be a part of the Forward50? What drew you to this opportunity?

"I believe that working with historically marginalized student populations and with student activists has given me an exceptional collection of real-lived experiences to draw from and bear in mind when innovating policy solutions for the very real barriers and issues of access, affordability, accountability, and transparency in higher education," Agua said. "I also have my bachelor's in sociology and master's in public administration, which has enabled me to develop an ability to humanize policy and to understand and care for the individual while not losing sight of the big picture. I have worked in a large private institution, a small, private, religious institution, and now a large public institution, and I have been exposed to a variety of bottom-up, campus-specific strategies. I am eager for the opportunity to take the knowledge I have to this group and work on real, radical solutions to these issues from a ‘top-down' policy approach."

Membership(s) held with other professional associations:

  • Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA)
  • California Council of Cultural Centers in Higher Education (CaCCCHE)