Sometimes a spur-of-the-moment decision you make with your heart puts you on the path you were intended to follow. That was the case for Monique Daley when she was a senior at Weaver High School in Hartford in 1999.
“When it came time to look at colleges, I knew what major I wanted to pursue: communications because I worked at my high school radio station, or maybe even the sciences — but I didn’t know where I wanted to go,” Daley said. “I applied to all of the Connecticut State University schools and when the admissions packet from Western Connecticut State University arrived, something about it resonated with me, and I knew that was where I would be.”
Once on campus as a Communication & Media Arts major, Daley hit the ground running. She undertook an internship at the campus radio station, WXCI; she participated on the WCSU Dance Team; she worked in the Student Government (SGA) office and in Student Affairs. Daley served as an EAP counselor and peer mentor, and was actively involved in student clubs serving Black and multicultural students. She also was one of a group of students that reignited the Delta Sigma Theta sorority on campus that had been dormant for some time. Daley was such a visible presence on campus because of her engagement in so many activities, that when the university’s Centennial Homecoming approached, she was urged to run for Homecoming Queen. In another spur-of-the-moment decision, Daley agreed to run at the last minute and won.
Centennial Homecoming Queen Monique Daley in 2002
Looking back 20 years later at her campus experiences, one thing that stands out to Daley is how many positive influences she found as a student of color. From the Assistant Director of Admissions to the Dean of Students, several department chairs and her Dance Team adviser, Daley was struck by the degree of inclusion and representation in the administration at WCSU.
“I had immigrated from Jamaica for high school and seeing so many people of color as administrators at a smaller university like WCSU really helped shape some and offset other situations,” Daley said. “I could see the years of work by people of color to activate change on campus, which gave me a strong background in advocacy right from the start.”
As a student leader, Daley expanded her interests in advocacy and activism to bring attention to diversity issues such as women’s rights, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, health care access and more by inviting speakers to address these topics on campus. She said she learned first-hand how to engage effectively with people across cultures and relay her points and message despite differences. “I learned the basics of public speaking and leadership skills at WCSU.”
After graduating in 2003, Daley pursued a master’s in Communication at CCSU, working as a graduate assistant then as a program assistant in CCSU’s Women’s Center, where she further honed her advocacy skills. While at CCSU, she also received a Fulbright grant for a cultural immersion experience in Ghana. Following a stint as a council aide to the City Council of Hartford, Daley became the Training and Program Coordinator at Trinity College, where she implemented Title IX-related programming and worked with campus constituents to address campus culture and climate in relation to diversity, equity and inclusion.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the death of George Floyd brought racial and social injustices to the forefront of the public’s attention. Wheeler Health, a statewide leader in integrated primary and behavioral health care based in Plainville, responded to the news by creating its first Diversity Officer position. “I knew I had the qualifications and a natural passion for diversity and inclusion, so I applied,” Daley said.
Now, entering her third year in this role, Daley finds herself helping to shape and define the culture at her workplace — looking at everything from “who we are” to “where we must go from here.”
Daley said her biggest accomplishments have come from her efforts to develop Wheeler’s Health Equity Plan, which will help guide strategy toward equitable care. She also cites the creation of a diversity, equity and inclusion webpage to amplify the work being done internally to diversify not only the workforce, but to build greater connections with those Wheeler serves and to foster new partnerships. Finally, Daley points to community engagement — especially with historically underserved populations such as immigrant communities of color — to provide equitable, barrier-free and just access to care.
It’s been quite a journey from Daley’s childhood in Jamaica to her introduction to advocacy at WCSU to where she is now: pursuing a doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of Hartford and leading Wheeler Health to a more diverse and inclusive future. It’s a path Daley is proud of and will continue to pursue as “a champion and architect of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging.”
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.