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Decades of Doing the Work: Patricia Bory

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Patricia Bory headshot, background is DC monument with cherry blossoms in bloom
Patricia Bory and daughter Amaya
Bory and daughter Amaya

Throughout her career, Patricia Bory, assistant clinical professor and chief diversity & inclusion officer at the School of Public Policy, has focused on social justice. But it wasn’t until she got a call from Barack Obama, 44th president of the United States, that she began to weave in policy.

The call, which consisted of about 5,000 campaign workers from the 2008 presidential race, offered an opportunity to focus on the next step: “Who's coming to Washington to make something happen?” Bory recalls Obama asking.

“That shifted [my perspective], from, ‘we won,’ to, ‘now we actually have to do the work,” Bory says.

Prior to coming to DC, Bory spent 10 years working with an AmeriCorps organization. She worked her way up to directing the program, which was focused on social justice education reform in the San Francisco Bay Area. She left to work on the Obama campaign and subsequently moved to DC to begin the next chapter of her career as a public servant.

Bory put her AmeriCorps experience to use, working for  the Corporation for National Community Service, the headquarters of AmeriCorps. She then served as a senior advisor for the Obama Administration at the Department of Labor, doing work around diversity, equity and inclusion, specifically on disability employment policy. In her role, Bory looked at the intersections of disability and employment on both the employer and employee sides.

Once Obama’s presidential terms came to an end, Bory decided it was time for the next chapter in her life. 

“I asked myself three questions,” she says. “What am I good at? What am I most passionate about? And what does the world need from me most right now?”

Her answer — education.

“I had a two-year-old daughter at the time and I realized, ‘that’s it,’” she says. “That's the next chapter: it's to invest in our next wave of leaders who are going to shape what this world looks like for two-, three- and four-year-olds like Amaya.”

Bory has been a faculty member at SPP since 2017 and last year was appointed the Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DIB) Officer for the school, and leads the DIB Task Force. Her goals, both in the classroom and in her DIB work, remain focused on creating  space for the next generation to become the most diverse and most powerful leaders we’ve ever seen.

“We have a real problem with who has access to higher education,” Bory explains. “[It affects] low-income folks, communities of color and other marginalized groups.”

While Bory notes that the problem is widespread, the DIB Task Force is working to combat it at SPP. At its helm, Bory says she is “interested in getting folks — faculty, staff, students — at the policy table or in the classroom who aren't there, either historically or currently.”

Imagine creating classrooms and policy and research where you have a diverse group of people creating the experience.
Patricia Bory Assistant Clinical Professor; Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer

“Imagine creating classrooms and policy and research where you have a diverse group of people creating the experience.” she says.  “That's what I'm trying to do.”

Throughout this work, Bory is conscious of her own identity.  

“As a queer-identified, white, female, single parent of a biracial child — all those elements require me to understand how I show up and how people perceive me,” Bory explains.

She hopes that she can leverage her identity to bring people to the table and ensure they are heard once they are there. Bory notes that an event held earlier this spring — the Graduates of Color Celebration — exemplifies what we can accomplish when we involve these voices in designing an experience.

“That experience is what we want to recreate on a broader scale, across issue areas, across identities,” she says. “And we can do it. We can absolutely do it. That's the kind of belonging that we're trying to create.”


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