A Richer, Brighter, and Better Future

AU Welcomes Brielle Nettles as the new Director of DEI Excellence


Ella Cummins

New chair of DEI Brielle Nettles stands outside of her office in the Ashland University Student Center.

After two long years of searching for the right candidate, Ashland University would like to extend a warm welcome to Brielle Nettles, as the new Executive Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive (DEI) Excellence as well as special assistance to the president.

Nettles graduated with a degree in cultural studies and a minor in literature, she has also obtained her master’s in social work. Nettles has thirteen years of professional experience. Nearly ten years of her work has focused on equity and belonging, four of which have been in progressive DEI leadership roles

“I’ve worked in institutions around the country,” she said. “I’ve worked at Fordham University (NY), Maryland Institute College of Art (MD), Clark College (WA), and the University of Pennsylvania (PA).”

Nettles’s professional history has been geared towards creating community and building inclusive spaces, “My research in undergraduate and graduate school has been about figuring out ways to support human flourishing.”

Nettles began her work at AU on August 9th, immediately taking initiative by reaching out to all DEI clubs and organizations on campus as well as beginning her work with the Pathways Program.

The Pathways Program is a pre-orientation program where students have a chance to move into residence halls and have a jump start on their college careers. They meet with peer mentors, faculty and staff, and learn about other campus resources to help them have an early experience with AU for a smooth transition.

“In the past one of the ways it has operated was only as pre-orientation,” she continued. “My desire now is to expand it beyond that, to be more aligned with best practices for fostering belonging and community. So as time passes this (Pathways) might look a bit different.”

While the students of AU have welcomed Nettles warmly and cheered her on through her beginning weeks, some members of the Ashland community have not had the same sentiments as seen in the comments on the Ashland County Pictures’ Facebook page.

Nettles answered, “I am not deterred or afraid by the comments I read. One thing about my work here at AU and beyond is that I perceive this work as a ministry of reconciliation. I consider DEI work to be at its core a process of building community and peacemaking, and my commitment to this work is being the place where violence ends.”

Though her journey has just begun on campus and with the community, Nettles is committed to the work that she has planned and the changes she intends to make through her time here.

“I would like you (students) to know that I am here for you. That I came to this community because I saw something special, that I believe in the promise of AU. I believe in the rich legacy that AU was built upon, and I believe in the potential for a future that is richer, better, and wider than we imagined.”