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PCC Leadership Spotlight Series: Jewel Mideau

Photo of Jewel Mideau, Academic Director of Hospitality Leadership

Pima Community College Leadership Spotlight

Q&A with Director Jewel Mideau, the Leader Behind Hospitality Leadership

What inspires leaders to choose their pathways? Is their present position based on a life-long dream? Or do they find themselves in a professional environment they had never expected? In our second installment of our leadership spotlight series, we’re diving into the personal and professional journey of Pima Community College’s Jewel Mideau, Academic Director of Hospitality Leadership. Discover how her journey led her from a background based in hospitality with industry-leading companies to a future in higher-education with the Q&A below.

Share with us a little bit about your journey / background. 

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I graduated in 1999 from a visual and performing arts high school. I then went on to attend East Carolina University in Greenville, NC where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management. After taking a few years off to work in leadership roles in hospitality, I went on to earn my Master of Science in Human Resource Management. Continuing on my professional career working for Marriott International, Hilton Worldwide, and Station Casinos in Las Vegas, I was eager for more. Becoming a college president has been a goal of mine since 2010, but it was not until 2017 that I began to pursue my doctorate degree and entered into the world of higher education. I started as the Department Chair and Professor of Hospitality at Underwood University, an international university in Atlanta, GA. Very shortly after working in this role, I was contacted by PCC to discuss a need they had for an Academic Director of Hospitality. While I was unsure of how to begin my career shift into higher education, this turned out to be the perfect role for me as I transitioned from business and industry into a post-secondary leadership role.

What challenges have you faced?

As a woman of African-American and Pacific Islander descent, having been raised in the poorest parts of our nation’s capital—Washington, D.C.—I understand firsthand how it feels to be stereotyped because of the color of my skin and the way I look. I was faced with the stereotypical struggles of not being permitted to attend certain schools because I did not “appear” to be as poised as others from different races and socioeconomic backgrounds. I have been denied numerous opportunities to participate in activities and organizations because of the color of my skin or the socioeconomic circumstances from which I came. There have also been many times where I was the most significantly qualified person for professional roles, however, for unspoken reasons, I was not offered those roles. One specific example is even more recent where I found out that I was not offered an executive role because the executive leadership felt as though they would not be able to “control” me as they could with other candidates. While this initially bothered me, it was also a great reminder and compliment to know that I exude such a stature and presence that makes people take notice. Instead of looking at this as a negative thing, I use it as a humble strength. I use my voice and my influence to follow the profound lead of civil rights activist, Ruby Bridges, to “promote the values of tolerance, respect, and appreciation of all differences” (1999).

How has education helped you get where you are today?

Education is critical for many reasons and for many things. As a woman, and a woman of color, I have to do much more by way of education to even be deemed close to as equal or qualified as our white counterparts with much less education; however, again, I do not choose to look at this in a negative respect. I am raising four amazing, beautiful, intelligent, kind, and incredible children and both of their parents are educators. We stand as daily examples to them that through hard work, humility, kindness, and education, they can accomplish anything. I live by the motto that “no one can tell me what I can and cannot do, but me.” I will confer my Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Management in December of 2020, and have been accepted into two law schools. This final part of my educational journey to confer my Juris Doctor will set me up to pursue running for office as I would like to someday sit on the councils and committees that lead the Department of Education for the United States of America.

How do you feel you are making a difference at PCC?

My journey with PCC has not been a tremendously difficult one. Challenging, absolutely, but difficult? No. I am a visionary leader, a transformational leader, and a quantum leader… a leader who leads from the future. Having grown up in politics, I am not afraid of many things. I am unafraid to be the one person to expose issues and get people to simply think from a different perspective. I feel like my ability to bring a completely different, outside perspective to PCC has been pretty well received and has made simple yet significant differences for both the Hospitality program as well as the College as a whole.

What struggles or obstacles have you faced in your career? How have you overcome them?

I have faced many struggles and obstacles throughout my career. While struggles are never fun, they are extremely necessary. In recent years, I have encountered experiences where people have tried to silence me for speaking out against blatant injustices. I will never be silent about taking a risk to stand up for what is right. I don’t give a damn about your color, your class, your socioeconomic status, your age, your sex, or your religion. I only care about equality, kindness, loving one another, being unafraid to sometimes have to stand alone and fight for a cause, and being unapologetic to use your voice at all costs. I will always be my most authentic self, regardless of the risk that may follow. This issue is of extreme importance to me, and especially more so now during these perilous times. I was blessed to grow up with a mother who was fierce. She was unapologetic, was scary at times, was bold, extremely vocal, and who fought against even the most prominent of leaders when necessary. Yet, she was poised, kind, loving, and revered by so many people. I have learned to emulate that woman I called Mom, finding myself possessing a fierceness that oftentimes even scares me. But I will not allow it to mute me. What inhibits risk is simply fear. We have an innate fear of too often worrying what people think of us, what people will say about us, and how people will respond to us. Growing up in Washington, D.C., I had many intimate opportunities to be counseled and educated by amazing political leaders. One special man in particular, D.C, Mayor Marion Barry, used to say to me, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” He would also say, “Never let anyone tell you what to do, always be willing to open your mouth and fight. Know that sometimes you will be met with much opposition, some bruising, and you may get knocked out a few times, but getting knocked out doesn’t mean you are out of the game. Just keep fighting.” I’ve lived this way my entire life, so why stop now?

Why is Pima Foundation important in your work at PCC?

Pima Foundation has been critical to my work at PCC because they have educated and assisted me with connecting on a completely different level with community and industry partners. They have provided integral guidance to our program and assisted us with creating our program’s first ever scholarship account through the Foundation. Without the Foundation’s guidance, these scholarship opportunities would not be as easily possible for the students whom we serve. The Foundation is important to the work we do because they are often able to be a bridge between organizations, opportunities, and critical learning experiences. I have learned a great deal from the Foundation and just how partnerships and relationships are cultivated, and they have been integral to our workforce uptik as well.

How does PCC and the Foundation keep Tucson thriving?

PCC and the Foundation keep Tucson thriving because we are visible, accessible, and collaborative with the community, as well as with the students whom we serve. The Foundation and its team has done a tremendous job of supporting many causes, issues, and activities throughout PCC and the community. This has enabled us to build relationships and trust throughout Tucson that we look forward to continuing to strengthen for years to come.

How does your program keep Pima thriving?

The Hospitality Leadership program keeps Pima thriving because we have been able to re-engage with the hospitality community as well as the community as a whole. We have been able to create strong and profound partnerships with numerous companies and organizations such as Visit Tucson, Marriott, Charro and the Flores family, and the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association to name a few. We have also changed and strengthened our Advisory Committee and through their support, we have restructured our program, creating a brand new Hospitality Leadership AAS degree, as well as taken the opportunity to secure a five year Department of Education Title V Grant for Hispanic Serving Institutions. This grant provides us with the unique opportunity to build a brand new state of the art baking and pastry kitchen, a campus restaurant, as well as outfitting our Hospitality Center of Excellence with state of the art technology in order to build our entire program and offer fully-online [courses] as an option as well. This technology will also equip us with opportunities to partner with schools around the world as well as chefs and hospitality leaders to conduct video discussions, learning, and activities from our own kitchens.

How do you keep students thriving?

Keeping students thriving can be challenging; however, it is a challenge that I happily and eagerly accepted. As the Academic Director of our program, I am tough on our students, however, I lead with love. I don’t talk to them, but rather with them. I ensure they are included on decisions for the program as this inclusion garners a completely different level of participation from them. For example, when I decided we should create an entirely new degree, we solicited the students’ thoughts and feedback as to what they would like to see. We took that feedback and incorporated it as appropriate, leaving the students eager and excited for the degree to roll out this upcoming Fall 2020 semester.

Is there anything else about your experience that you would like to share with the community?

No matter your academic level, age, class, culture, disability, ethnicity, gender, nationality, race, religion, sexual identity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status, I embrace, celebrate, invite, encourage, support, and live by an example that ensures that every single person in our environment has a voice. I have had the pleasure over the last almost three years of leading my program and working with Pima Foundation since my arrival at PCC. The ability to work with and serve students and educators from all walks of life have been purely refreshing, providing an opportunity to be a member of a veteran-supportive, Hispanic Serving Institute that embraces various cultures and perspectives. I am a leader who leads with love, and this in return creates opportunities to mentor, to teach, to learn, or to simply listen.

Transform Tucson one student at a time. Help change the lives of the community through accessible higher-education and new workforce opportunities by visiting Designate your gift to Director Mideau’s fast-growing department by selecting “Hospitality Leadership Support Program” for lasting positive impact on Pima County. 

The views expressed in the above are those of the interviewees. All opinions expressed do not reflect those of Pima Foundation, Pima Community College, or its affiliates.