This article originally appeared in the Fall-Winter 2019 issue of Carolina Law magazine.
Ada Wilson ’09 began making an impact in her position at Auburn University’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity on her first day. She encouraged a senior who wanted to study abroad to research scholarship opportunities and apply for a Fulbright award. The graduate now teaches ESL in China through the Fulbright program. Since then, as assistant vice president for access and inclusive excellence, Wilson’s influence on underrepresented students has been widespread.
“Contributing to institutional change and directly impacting the student experience every day is rewarding,” says Wilson, who started at Auburn in 2017. “My job requires taking a critical lens to the student experience, fostering a culture of high expectations and achievement, and affirming individual identities and lived experiences.
She leads signature programs that aim to help students meet those expectations.
Tiger Retreat, an orientation program for new students that Wilson designed, helps build a sense of community. Now, older students who were in the program are mentors in it. “I’m seeing the trajectory of this effort into a space where students want to give back,” she says. “Birthing that program and seeing its impact on the student community is very meaningful.”
The Critical Conversations Speaker Series that Wilson and her colleagues at Auburn designed brings guests to campus in support
of free speech in higher education. Partly inspired by the series, she developed and teaches an honors course on civil discourse.
“The course is an exciting approach to shaping a narrative around equity, diversity and inclusion,” Wilson says. “I have the opportunity to watch students grapple with some of our most challenging issues today while providing a space for them to learn how to tell their story and listen to others’ stories.”
Wilson’s initiatives promote a campus climate that affirms individual student identity through “high-impact, transformational
experiences,” she says.
UNC School of Law was transformational for Wilson through the applied-learning experiences she had with mock trial, the North
Carolina International Law Journal, the Juvenile Justice Clinic, the Black Law Students Association and an externship, among others.
“Carolina Law continuously shows up in policies I help shape for students. Understanding how to look at an issue, create a framework to address it, and execute — every aspect of that is Carolina Law,” Wilson says. “Having a toolbox with nuggets from law school has given me a strong trajectory and role in higher education.”
Wilson’s role in higher education began at Chapel Hill, her alma mater, where she was director of inclusive student excellence in
the Office for Diversity and Inclusion until she went to Auburn. She still makes an impact at Carolina Law, where she leads a
training on Motivated Awareness during orientation each year through Wilmor Works, the business she co-owns with Raleigh
attorney and Chapel Hill alumnus Michael Morrison.
“Attorneys and individuals who hold a J.D. have the capacity to transform our nation,” Wilson says. “I’m inspired to help attorneys
and law students understand the importance of viewing the world through a lens of equity.”
Promoting equity is Wilson’s calling.
“My lived experiences have brought me to a place where I can truly impact our nation and our world,” she says. “My life’s work
will be helping reshape narratives around individual identity and using that as a catalyst for change. I always tell my students that
my undergraduate tenure gave me a voice, and Carolina Law taught me how to use it.”
— Jessica Clarke