Judging by the awards on her shelf, 2022 has been a great year for Erica Acosta, Director of Diversity Initiatives at Wilkes University. She was honored with the 2022 Young Professionals Award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Champion of the Year by the Elevate Young Professionals Network and the Diversity Leadership Award by the Wilkes-Barre Branch #2306 of the NAACP. But these accolades are the result of 15 years of professional dedication and a commitment to community that started during her childhood in Brooklyn, New York.
Acosta grew up in a family that was invested in their church and their community. Her role as Lady Liberty in a production by the Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) Activist Youth Theater Group really lit a spark. “I had a passion for community involvement and making the community better,” Acosta says. “It all started back home.”
In spite of her early exposure to these vital issues, Acosta didn’t think about a career in diversity until college at The State University of New York at Buffalo. Now, she reflects on 15 years of student-focused diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work. “I’m passionate about it,” she says. “It’s not a façade. It’s not just a job. It’s a lifestyle.”
On any given day, the lifestyle might find Acosta meeting with students in her office, marching in a parade, serving on an organization’s board of directors or learning with her Leadership Northeast class. While she appreciates the occasional moments of applause during her jam-packed schedule, Acosta focuses on the impact the recognition helps her create. “It’s not about the validation. It’s about planting the seeds. Receiving these awards outside the silo of Wilkes University opens the door and pushes the conversation forward about DEI.”
For more on Acosta’s work, check out this Hispanic Heritage Month story from PA Home Page.