Meet Denita, Associate Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Advocacy

Denita Wright Watson recently joined the Penn State World Campus Student Affairs team. Hear from this lifelong Penn Stater about her previous experiences, her dedication to her work, and more. 

What was your background before you took on this role?

Prior to taking on my new role, I had 25 years of experience in education and social services. Throughout my career, I’ve served as school social worker at a juvenile residence facility, a K–8th grade disciplinarian, a federal TRIO program education coordinator, and most recently as academic program manager at Penn State Great Valley. In my spare time, I serve as a children’s modeling instructor, instilling confidence and encouraging creativity in 3–7 year olds. I have been blessed to serve students of all ages from pre-school to graduate school.

What does it mean to work in equity, advocacy, and inclusion?

Working in equity, advocacy, and inclusion means boldly, intentionally, and strategically taking an active role to foster a welcoming, safe environment where all members are valued and supported. It means not shying away from difficult conversations, but recognizing them as an opportunity to engage, reflect, and become better informed. It means empowering those who have not yet found their voice and empowering bystanders to become unapologetic allies.

What are you looking forward to accomplishing in this role?

I am looking forward to collaborating with other members of the World Campus Student Affairs team to provide our students with the support needed to achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals. I look forward to advocating for students and promoting self-advocacy, instilling in them the tools to tackle barriers to their success, and to joining them in celebrating their victories. I also look forward to developing identity-based affinity groups to support our students holistically in their personal growth.

Why are equity, advocacy, and inclusion so important for Penn State World Campus?

Equity, advocacy, and inclusion are so important for Penn State World Campus students because we are a global community. We have students around the world, and they will collectively influence thousands throughout the span of their careers. Therefore, it is our responsibility to offer resources to help groom empathetic, well-informed, responsible global citizens. We want to equip our students with the tools to be unapologetically bold agents of change.

What do you enjoy about working with students?

By nature, I am a helper, connector, and relationship-builder. Providing encouragement and support to others comes naturally to me, as I take pride in watching students grow and accomplish their goals. It means the world to me to be a resource that students can look to to aid in their academic, professional, or personal success.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I am a very vocal and proud Penn Stater! I was first introduced to the University when my 10th grade guidance counselor recommended me for a pre-college summer academic program at Penn State Brandywine (Delco). I went on to graduate with my bachelor’s degree from University Park and my master’s degree from Great Valley. Supportive Penn State staff and faculty members were instrumental in my success, and I’ve made it my personal mission to pay it forward ever since. 

Photo by Danny Hulse.