Vice President of DEI Khuram Hussain Leaves Behind a Legacy of Community

By Ani Freedman ’22

Editor-in-Chief

Khuram Hussain has been a steadfast, empathetic, and reliable advocate for the HWS and Geneva communities since his arrival at the Colleges years ago. Following the announcement of his newly accepted position at Middlebury College as leader of their Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and as Associate Professor of Education Studies, The Herald spoke with VP Hussain to discuss his legacy, personal reflections on his time at HWS, and his hopes for the future.

Fourteen years ago, Hussain visited the Colleges as a guest speaker on racial justice—and he couldn’t have anticipated the impact that the student body would leave on him.  “I was so blown away by the student leaders, and the way the event was organized in such a student-centered way,” Hussain told the Herald. After that first visit, Hussain ended up staying at the Colleges, moving through various positions.

Beginning in the Education department, Hussain recalled, “I went from being a visiting professor, to assistant professor, to associate professor, to Dean of Hobart College, to now VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.” In each position, Hussain felt connected to the students and the community, despite the various titles and changes in his work. Whether in the classroom or administration, Hussain has consistently been working towards understanding who is included, who is heard, and why.

“I feel like I’ve been having the same conversation, in different places and spaces,” Hussain explained, “And that is a conversation that centers student experience, in the rethinking and remaking of more inclusive communities with more radical imaginations about what is possible in a school environment and in our own lives.”

The Herald asked VP Hussain to reflect on what he believes his most important achievements and greatest sources of pride have been in his time here. It quickly became clear that the students always remain at the center of his work.

“I’m most proud of our students, who have engaged openly and thoughtfully and allowed themselves to be transformed by conversations and by opportunities to engage in the community in ways that are more collaborative and less patronizing and charity-oriented,” he said. Hussain added that students have embodied, “Less doing for, more doing with,” while collaborating with one another or the Geneva community.

And it is clear that this student-centered philosophy has left a mark on the very individuals to which he devotes his work. Kisean Jones ’25, remarked that VP Hussain is “one of the most thoughtful, patient, enlightened individuals that I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. Jones added, “He represents a force of peace and understanding absent in so many spheres of American life.”

Jahiem Jackson ’25 also felt compelled to weigh in on his relationship with VP Hussain, as he told the Herald, “Khuram has impacted my life greatly in just a short amount of time. His words and wisdom never failed to amaze me, whether it was helping me with a debate or talking to me about everyday problems he always knew what to say.”

Jackson continued, “There was a rough patch a had last semester and I wasn’t sure how I was going to do in school, but after talking to him he told me to keep holding on and to trust in divine timing that everything will works itself out.” After only one year at HWS, Jackson formed a deep trusting bond with Hussain, saying that he is “truly going to miss him as a teacher but even more as a friend.”

One of the many initiatives that has seen Hussain’s dedication beyond these student connections is Tools for Change, which “brought together the wider Geneva community, faculty, staff, students […] in shared dialogue towards social change.” He reflected that, When I’ve recognized how I’m part of a larger whole, it’s drawn out my own sense of power. We do it together with students and faculty.”

After a long tenure at HWS, Hussain acknowledged that he has witnessed his own growth and development alongside that of students, realizing the potential for work beyond the institution.

“When I came here, I thought that a lot of the issues of racial equity were solely academic projects for the classroom.” He continued, “What I’ve come to realize is that these are questions and considerations that are important for our world.”

Hussain believes in tackling issues such as racial justice and diversity in dialogical, collaborative ways in order to see the impacts on the larger Geneva community and beyond. Most notably, he wishes to bring attention to those who are “spoken for and not spoken with” through this communal, collective work. But he wants students to remain aware of their role in community involvement and how they perceive it.

“Let’s just be honest about what this is,” Hussain continued, “Let’s not pretend that we are the good ones and they are the needy ones.”

In his most recent position as Vice President for DEI, Hussain admires how the council’s work is not typically how decision-making is organized with consequential conversations. “That space has been one of the only spaces where I’ve seen students, faculty, staff, alums, and members of the wider Geneva community engage in strategic conversations about inclusion,” he said.

After continual dedication to both the HWS and Geneva populations, the Herald prompted Hussain about how he hopes to carry these philosophies and goals into his new position at Middlebury.

“I think I have to trust my community organizing instincts still and not let that go,” he began. “And just because something does not currently exist, does not mean it is not possible. Our imaginations are tools for making a different kind of future.” Hussain’s actions and rhetoric have always reflected a focus on inclusivity and potential, something that clearly will not leave as he transitions to Middlebury’s Office of Equity and Inclusion.

“Everyone needs to have a seat at the table, and everyone’s ideas need to be represented if it is truly about inclusion,” he added.

Fourteen years is quite a long time for someone to spend at an institution, and Hussain’s time at HWS has not only been an opportunity for growth and self-reflection, but also one in which he has built deep relationships with the community and its members. Those sentiments became clearer as he revealed what he will miss about HWS.

“I did kind of grow up here,” he said nostalgically. “It’s almost like leaving your parents’ shop and trying your hand somewhere else.” And as Hussain departs, he leaves behind a dynamic community that has clearly meant a lot to his work and engagement with students.

“Geneva is extraordinary,” he said. “It represents all the problems, dynamics, hopes, struggles, wounds, and possibilities for healing that are represented on a continental level. And we have the opportunity to engage with that community.” Within Geneva, HWS has also shown Hussain a personable and captivating community that hinges upon the people who define it.

 “More than anything else it’s the relationships with people that are committed to, compelled by, drawn into growth, however they see themselves,” he began. Of the people themselves, Hussain told the Herald how much he has valued “all the ways that they participate in growth––the different kinds of abilities, the different cultures and communities that they represent and honor when they can participate.” He added, “All the ways in which our students elevate this institution, I will miss that, I will miss that terribly.”

The relationships Hussain speaks of are evidently strong with students, but equally as meaningful for his colleagues at HWS as well. Associate Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Ben Ristow told the Herald, “I have cherished his brotherhood as a teacher and friend, and his mentorship and support of HEOP students has been total.”

“His work in Summer Institute is a testament to his dedication to first-generation college students of color, and I will always hold his model of love close to my heart,” Ristow continued, “I wish him success and happiness at Middlebury, and I know he’ll find it because that’s who is, someone who bears kindness like a fire, so everyone can see.”

Even as he leaves behind such a vivacious, intimately connected community, Hussain is still eager for the future. He draws upon what he has learned and witnessed at HWS, saying, “What I’m really looking forward to is seeing how these principles of democratic processes and anti-racist practices will engage with another community.”

And into that future he carries a greater understanding of the profound power of a collegiate institution given his own experiences. Even as a believer in college educations and everything HWS offers, Hussain is not afraid to be open and honest about those experiences.

“I do not believe that even the most liberated institution of learning is the actual source of liberation,” he remarked, adding, “But it will allow for certain processes.” Those processes, according to Hussain, depend on the collaboration and collectivity that he has always purported.

“It’s the road that we walk together. It’s the walk that matters, because it’s the walk that we continue after we leave and while we’re at the school,” he said. “The school will not save you; we have to save each other.”

For Hussain, it is that journey together as an HWS community in conjunction with the Geneva community that matters the most, and the growth that is realized within that journey. Hussain wants students to find value that transcends the marketing and steep price attached to higher education, encouraging students to not find dependency on the institution to resolve “deeper angst on liberation,” but instead find worth in their own work and voices.

The VP told the Herald how much he hopes to maintain a connection to HWS as he moves on to a new position. “I think that there’s a familial connection that is about the people and the shared experiences,” he stated, assured that his bond to the people here will not be ruptured even as he leaves the physical space. It came as no surprise when he said how he hopes to return to the campus in the future as well.

And that bond with the students, staff, and faculty could not have been clearer throughout the interview. Hussain was waving and smiling at students passing by, kindly greeting Professor of Writing and Rhetoric Hannah Dickinson as she walked through campus, and showing a genuine appreciation for the people who define HWS. As Jaheim Jackson remarked, “My favorite thing about Khuram is that he’s such a down-to-earth person and sees you for who you are, not for what someone thinks about you.”

As Hussain continues on his new path, he remains hopeful for the futures of HWS and Middlebury.

“I hope that we continue to build a world around our students that allows them to fully participate in a world of possibilities,” he began. “I hope that we continue to diversify our student body, our faculty, our staff, at all levels of leadership. I hope that we continue to employ more transparent processes of communication. I hope that we continue to model vulnerability and not try to manage crises, but to participate as members of a community.”

“I hope that we can genuinely say we belong to each other,” he finished.

Despite Hussain’s long journey at HWS, there are still many students with which he has not had the opportunity to engage. The Herald asked him what he wished to say to those students who he does not know and those with whom he has already bonded, as he has learned from and listened to all of them throughout the years.

“I am still and have been in community with you and your voices,” Hussain stated. “The voices of students, the lessons they have left me with, they have always been with me,” he continued saying, “The ways in which students use those voices intentionally is soul-shaping and soul-shaking.”

Before departing, the Herald prompted Hussain to impart any advice or encouragement upon students. In doing so, he conveyed the power he sees in this student body and what he continually hoped to see from that already existing strength.

“I do believe that this is the generation that sees the writing on the wall, that sees that now is the time to awaken a society to a crisis that can and must be engaged with,” Hussain asserted. “And the things that we draw out from this school and draw out from ourselves can be vital resources in transformational work.”

He sees the potential in the students of HWS, advising them to “Continue to expand your sense of what community is, what community can be, and what your capacity for change is, drawing on your strengths and those skills that you’re harnessing right now.”

Hussain affirmed that current students have survived and thrived during some of the costliest of times, “Yet here you are,” he said, confident that students will continue to be active and use their voices in the powerful ways that he has witnessed.

Khuram Hussain has been a consistent, dedicated, and thoughtful member of the HWS and greater Geneva communities. Whether serving the Council on DEI or as a professor of Education, or sweating in the classroom over the summer during the HEOP Summer Institute, his guidance and care have touched hundreds of students, faculty, and staff here at HWS. His absence will be felt on a deep level after his departure this summer, but the wisdom and encouragement that he has left behind will live on in our community.

Thank you for everything you have done, Vice President Hussain. You will be missed, but you will always have a place at HWS.

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