fter talking about how much now-retired Vice President of Student Affairs Barb Jones meant to her Boston College experience and the University as a whole during a time of social tumult, Akosua Achampong, BC ’18, isn’t in a sad mood or low spirits.
Despite losing an administrator she viewed as an understanding advocate fighting for students and serving as a role model for women on campus, Achampong is itching to talk about something else.
“I love Joy Moore,” Achampong said in an interview in August. “Joy Moore is a superstar, let’s just start there. She is so badass, like wow.”
Jones’s successor as vice president for Student Affairs, Joy Haywood Moore, BC ’81, embodies the characteristics the former Undergraduate Government of Boston College president holds dear: strong, female, graceful, poised, kind, compassionate, diligent, undeniable.
“She is someone who moves with such grace and poise—it’s amazing,” Achampong said. “She’s definitely a woman that I immensely look up to in every way, and her ability to fulfill so many roles and inhabit so many spaces. I connect with her on many different levels. … I’m not sure I’ve met someone like her before.”
oore exudes another feature Jones showcased in spades: enthusiasm. There isn’t a topic somebody can touch on that Moore isn’t interested in engaging on. She listens intently, her responses are measured in that she takes time to gather her thoughts, but enthusiastic in that she isn’t afraid to make it clear how she feels.
And she feels good about her new job. Moore’s former home was in the Cadigan Alumni Center, where she served as associate director of alumni relations and directed Commencement. Despite the apparent change in department, Moore believes she’s just refocusing her vision onto current students instead of the former ones. Her job is now to enter students’ lives at a different point in their BC experience.
Moore said she “loved” working with alumni, but her passion lies in her work with younger students.
“I don’t want to sound corny, but I think, having been a student here myself, and then having worked in a variety of schools, even though they were high schools … just being around young people … has always been where I found my source of energy,” she said.
Moore has taken the helm at the Archer School in Los Angeles, Dana Hall in Wellesley, Mass., and, most notably, the Oprah Winfrey Academy for Girls in South Africa. As she settles back into what it’s like being a part of the natural rhythms of undergraduate life, she’s leaning specifically on what she learned in South Africa to establish her role at BC.
Moore is concentrating on being “engaged, visible, and present” for students on campus. After working out of the student body’s experiences for her first few years at the University, she said it’s vital that she work to get a sense of student interest in different areas.
“I recognize that I can’t be in all of those things, but I want to try to be [in] as many as possible so that I can really know what’s going on and get a sense from the students of the things that are important to them,” Moore said.
She admits she doesn’t have a vision for her role yet—that’s what this assessment period is for. Moore is of the opinion that she can’t come into a vice president role at BC, especially one at Student Affairs, without having as close to a clear understanding as possible in regards to what matters to the student body before deciding what her ultimate vision is for her job.
“I just don’t feel like I can sit in isolation and develop [my vision] and say, you know, here it is,” she said. “My sense is that it has to come from those who [my vision] is going to serve.”
Moore’s plan has been to meet with as many organizations as possible, such as UGBC and the Thea Bowman AHANA and Intercultural Center (BAIC), and the Montserrat office and its students, but she’s also encouraging students to come to her office hours—they’ll be called “What’s Up With Joy Moore” and take place most Wednesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m.—so that she can canvas general student opinion. Jones’s Student Affairs advisory group will continue during Moore’s tenure as well, giving her a focus group setting where she can learn more as well.
hat doesn’t mean she’s disregarding what she’s learned from her past. She calls her time in South Africa particularly poignant. She takes pride in how she packed her life up and moved to a country where she didn’t speak all the languages, thinking she knew what she needed to know about her new home and finding out quickly she did not know. She said the resilience and the ability to not be afraid of what you don’t know that she learned over her years working with the students, parents, and Winfrey built the foundation for her current administrative career.
“[It] prepared me for coming into new environments, like Student Affairs … and being able to, with some level of confidence, jump in and work from past experience,” Moore said. “The experience in South Africa was definitely distinctive. But there is clearly common ground that every young person … wants to have an education, because they understand that that’s what’s going to get them to the next place in their life.”
She noted that the major difference between her South African students and her BC students is that in South Africa, the girls came from challenging, almost hopeless situations that only education could transport them out of. Few BC students are in that situation, but both groups share the knowledge that their educations are what vault them into situations they find appealing.
The similarities don’t stop at the students, either. Both the parents Moore worked with while she was in South Africa and those she’s ready to work with in her new role want the best for their children. Moore said she would be working to support the efforts of parents in the same way she did while she worked on a different continent.
There are BC students who can relate to situations many of the girls in South Africa faced—specifically those working with Montserrat. Moore, herself, was a Montserrat student during her time as a student at the University, and she intends on concentrating on improving opportunities for lower-income students at BC.
“I recognize that students who identify themselves in that category have a different challenge ahead of them,” Moore said. “What I would want to make sure they understand is that their first priority is to their work—so that they can do well and achieve the things they want to achieve—and not dwell on or let their family’s financial circumstances define who they are.”
She said she recognizes the opportunities students have to redefine their identity at BC—not so that students are giving up their past, but more so that students can take advantage of the University to add elements to their person that are a point of pride.
n fact, that redefinition is an important part of how Moore ended up back at BC in the first place. When she returned home from Africa in 2011, she was looking to “redefine Joy.” She was looking to reconnect with her family after having been away from them for four years, which meant being in Boston.
“I knew Boston College to be an institution that was welcoming … an institution that I always felt was sort of on the move, there was always something coming,” Moore said. “That excitement interested me. And it was a place that I knew, as a community, they really cared about the people work there.”
In her capacity in Cadigan, she was able to take advantage of multiple opportunities where she could reinvent herself. Her new experiences included her concentration on alumni relations, her involvement with the Dublin Aer Lingus college football classic, and, a year ago, she took on the responsibility of directing commencement—all the while settling back into family life after her time abroad.
Moore thought it was important to know that despite her not being Catholic, the spirituality the University pushes students and faculty to make a part of their BC experience appealed to her. Deepening your faith in an attempt to gain a new “breath of energy” is something Moore finds wholly unique to the BC experience.
Notably, the BC experience isn’t the same for every student on campus, especially the genders and races that call this campus home who aren’t in the majority. The work Moore wants to do with the BAIC enter is centered around improving those experiences. A woman of color in a vice president position at a school that has struggled to diversify its student body and its faculty as the University has moved into the 21st century means a lot to students involved in Bowman, like Achampong.
The former UGBC president found Moore a guiding light for her BC experience. When Achampong felt marginalized or that administrators couldn’t relate to her, Moore was the administrator she went to. Moore’s willingness to listen and lean on her own experience as a black woman provided the perspective Achampong craved, and now Moore can add that perspective to even more students’ experiences.
That perspective, Moore noted, is not one filled with countless memories of being discriminated against while she was at BC. In fact, she said she couldn’t recall any specific incidents where she was discriminated against, but especially considering the incidents that incited the Silence is Still Violence March, Moore is ready to take on issues of inclusion.
“I came into [my time at BC as a student] with a mindset that this campus was mine, fully, just as much as it was anyone else’s,” she said. “And I conducted my life and myself in that way, taking advantage of opportunities and getting involved.
“[I was focused on] taking advantage of the goodness. That negative stuff, I tried not to let it come into my space. … Fast-forward to the grown-up Joy Moore now, and I take my role as being a role model very seriously. And I take that seriously for other African American young women who are here, for faculty and staff, and for all students. If you work hard, if you have an attitude of optimism and a sense of energy and inclusivity then people will want to be a part of what you’re creating.”
Moore said that in a community this size, a race-related incident similar to the events of last fall could come up again that needs to be addressed. Although she doesn’t fear the fallout that can come about from such incidents, her goal is to try not to let such incidents grind the University to a halt.
“I know that there are some students in this community who grew up without knowing a black person or a person of color,” Moore said. “And so now, here they are in a community where there are many, and they’re having their first encounters. And I take a lot of the actions and things that may have been done in the past just as naive—they probably know that it’s wrong, but I don’t think they realize how it affects people.”
She said that knocks are going to come to members of this community because of the color of their skin—it’s a part of her life, and it’ll be a part of every person of color’s life on this campus. Moore says it’s her job to educate students on what words can mean to different races, genders, or any other identifying factor to a student at BC.
To Moore, her tenure is the beginning of a new dialogue that needs to be opened up between each member of the BC community.
“I think one way to try to help with that conversation is to have more conversation,” she said. “It’s uncomfortable, and it’s awkward, and people are going to have different viewpoints, but that’s okay. You can have different viewpoints, but you can’t be disrespectful, you can’t be unkind. … Not when you’re in this community, and not when you get out there in the world.”
Moore suggested mini-town halls could be a direction she chooses to take advantage of in order to further open such dialogue, but that’s one of the takeaways she thinks she’ll develop as she talks more with students and faculty across campus.
hat doesn’t mean that Moore isn’t ready to listen to students while she tries to educate as well. She plans on continuing to learn as the months pass by, since that’s how she’s become a mentor to students in the past: Passing on the lessons she’s learned in the past.
She credits her parents, Oprah Winfrey, Gayle King, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, and Thurgood Marshall as figures she’s either interacted with or read about to learn more about her history. From there, she’s taken those lessons and tried to pass them onto the people who surround her, whether they be BC students, young women in South Africa, or her peers in the Student Affairs office and the BC administration.
Achampong can attest—one of Moore’s lessons has stayed with her to this day—and is quite pertinent to how the vice president is approaching her new position. Doing the right thing will bring people to your cause.
“It’s not hard to get people behind what you’re supposed to be doing,” Moore told her.
It’s a heartening sentiment BC’s student body has had trouble finding in the administration in the past. Criticisms have been leveled at University administrators for not addressing student concerns, especially surrounding the racial divisions made evident as the “Silence is Still Violence” movement came to prominence last October.
Perhaps Moore is the sign of a more relatable era beginning at BC. As the primary front-facing member of the administration, how responses are made will be in Moore’s hands as they were in Jones’s.
Now, all that’s left to find out is whether she plans on following her advice to Achampong.
Featured Image Courtesy of Joy Moore