New head of People and Culture believes in fostering a sense of belonging and ensuring that people feel seen and heard in the spaces in which they work.
New York, N.Y. — Today, Venus Devnani McClelland, Executive Vice President of AJWS, the leading global Jewish human rights organization, announced Dionne R. Wiggins as the new Vice President for People and Culture. In this role, Ms. Wiggins will lead key objectives that will transform organizational culture, systems, and processes to ensure that each is best in class.
“Dionne is an exceptional leader who brings innate talent, expertise, education, heart, and mind to all she does. I know the organization will feel and benefit from her human-centered, service-oriented beliefs about leadership, empowerment, and excellence for all people,” Ms. Devnani McClelland said. “Dionne’s background in law, government, and the nonprofit space allows her to bring expansive thinking and perspective to this important role for AJWS, and I look forward to her partnership and vision.”
“I am excited to join a global human rights organization that is on the ground, helping individuals in so many ways,” Ms. Wiggins said. “I was especially drawn to the work that AJWS does with women and girls. The work feels very tangible. And the fact that I get to work for an organization where you can see the work that is happening and be a part of those results is exciting to me.”
Prior to joining AJWS, Ms. Wiggins served as the Senior Director of Diversity & Personnel Initiatives at the New York City Department of Education. There, she led labor and employee relations as well as human resources work. She also served as the Chair of the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee for the Special Education Office.
A staunch advocate for women, children, all people of color, individuals with disabilities and animals, Ms. Wiggins has more than 20 years of professional experience in the legal, human resources and diversity, equity, and inclusion sectors. She has worked for law offices, nonprofits, and government agencies, including the law offices of Smigel, Anderson & Sacks LLP, the New York Foundling and Birch Family Services.
She draws daily inspiration from her mother and late grandfather, whom she calls her “bookends,” and who imparted such values as humility, fairness, and perseverance.
“When I look at AJWS’s core values, I see so many of the values instilled in me by my grandfather, values that have guided my professional journey throughout the years. Everything I do, I try to do from a place of dignity and integrity. I live and breathe inclusivity; it’s something I have had to fight for over the years. So, working for an organization that fights for that daily is something I value deeply,” Ms. Wiggins said.
“Humility and accountability are also key. You can never forget where you came from and how you got there, and I firmly believe that accountability is necessary to be a strong leader,” she continued. “Then there is courage, which is front and center in everything AJWS does. For me, courage is everything. As a Black woman, and sometimes the only person of color in the room, it takes courage to speak up. If you lean into that courage, you can be a person that effectuates change.”
Ms. Wiggins holds a bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), a master’s degree in Human Resources and Employment Relations from Penn State University, a Juris Doctor degree from Widener University School of Law (Harrisburg) and a Certificate in Conflict Resolution from Cornell University. Most notably, Ms. Wiggins was recently named as the 2022 recipient of the Outstanding Alumni award by Penn State University’s School of Labor and Employment Relations.
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