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Ensuring access for all, Extension adds DEIA leadership

camaya wallace bechard

URBANA, Ill. – A new leadership position will guide University of Illinois Extension’s efforts to ensure its programs are relevant, inclusive, and accessible to all of Illinois’ diverse residents and communities.

Camaya Wallace Bechard recently transitioned to the inaugural position focused on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA). She previously served as an Illinois Extension consumer economics educator where she incorporated lifespan perspectives to understand the financial needs and circumstances people face at different life stages. She encourages holistic views of the individuals and communities she serves. Wallace Bechard earned a doctorate in human development and family studies and a graduate certificate in community engagement from Michigan State University.

“We are pleased to welcome Camaya to the leadership team to serve all of Illinois Extension in fulfilling our vision and mission specifically related to DEIA training, assessing and evaluating, and regulatory compliance,” says Shelly Nickols-Richardson, associate dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and director of Illinois Extension. “Ensuring that Illinois Extension is accessible to and comprehensively includes our wonderfully diverse individuals, families, communities, and businesses across Illinois is a foundation of our excellence.”

In this new role, Wallace Bechard will advance the Extension vision as a place where everyone is valued and respected. “We do this through a critical lens, knowing this is a lifelong process,” Wallace Bechard says. “We are aware that DEIA involves all of us. This position serves to further organize our work for civil rights compliance, build consistency, and integrate these values and principles in all we do.”

Wallace Bechard values Illinois Extension’s commitment to DEIA. “We are working to create more opportunities for visibility, transparency, and accountability in the work we do internally and externally. This includes strategic approaches for professional development opportunities for staff and volunteers, training with partners and other stakeholders, and developing resources for continued support in our outreach work.”

“Illinois Extension is fortunate to have a national leader for DEIA initiatives in our inaugural position,” says Nickols-Richardson. Wallace Bechard is a certified facilitator for Real Colors® and a trained facilitator for trauma-informed care. She has completed mental health first training through the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.