Poppy Sias-Hernandez: Working to Build Equity with Love, Integrity, and Generosity

Poppy Sias-Hernandez: Working to Construct Fairness with Love, Integrity, and Generosity

Posted by Laura Crowell, USDA Fairness Fee Communications Lead in


Mar 14, 2023

As a Latina girl, raised in a black group by a single white mom, Poppy Sias-Hernandez understands how entry to equitable help and assets can have a life altering affect.

In 2020, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Sias-Hernandez because the first-ever Chief Fairness and Inclusion Officer (EIO) within the Govt Workplace of the Governor. Along with her function because the Chief EIO, she additionally serves because the Govt Director of the Workplace of International Michigan.

In February 2022, Sias-Hernandez grew to become one in every of 15 members appointed to the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s Fairness Fee. Appointees serve two-year phrases and produce a novel understanding of their particular person fields {and professional} niches. The fee and its two subcommittees – the Agriculture Subcommittee and Rural Group Financial Growth Subcommittee – are tasked with evaluating USDA packages and providers and recommending methods USDA can scale back obstacles to entry by implementing transformative modifications.

Sias-Hernandez credit getting access to an inexpensive group faculty training with altering her life’s trajectory. After highschool, Sias-Hernandez moved to California to stay together with her father. There, she was capable of take group faculty lessons for $15 per credit score hour, an entire departure from Michigan the place group faculty was not financially accessible or possible.

This chance allowed her to change into the primary in her household to obtain a university training, which included a bachelor’s diploma from College of California at Berkley and a grasp’s diploma in Organizational Change Management from Western Michigan College, the place she acquired a Thurgood Marshall Fellowship.

Her top quality at Berkely was titled “Ladies of Shade within the U.S.”. Based on Sias-Hernandez, that’s the place she did quite a lot of early pondering relating to points regarding fairness and inclusion. The experiences and data gained from that course have been formative over the course of her private {and professional} life.

Sias-Hernandez credit the younger feminine professor instructing the course with recognizing that the fabric had “lit a hearth inside her”. Sias-Hernandez explains, “She mentioned to me, ‘That is going to be a problem in life. Are you prepared? You will must discover a option to drive the change you need to see whereas understanding that you’ll doubtless by no means see it.’”

These phrases grew to become the inspiration to Sias-Hernandez’s life. “That was so formative and has been all through my life as a result of it’s the fact,” mentioned Sias-Hernandez. “I nonetheless have that mindset. How do you retain displaying up with love, integrity, and generosity figuring out you’re not at all times going to see the change you might be working for?”

As knowledgeable, Sias-Hernandez has devoted a lot of her 20-plus yr profession to constructing and creating fairness. Throughout the pandemic, Sias-Hernandez partnered with different Michigan state authorities departments to construct a migrant group response mannequin to supply entry to healthcare, monetary help, and different assets to impacted farmworkers. One among her companions on this mission, the Michigan Secretary of Agriculture, inspired Sias-Hernandez to use for the USDA Fairness Fee.

Initially, Sias-Hernandez was apprehensive a few potential function on the Fee, however says she shortly found how a lot good work was potential. Greater than six months into the work, she says she’s impressed by the collective experience of the Fee, and the group’s willingness to collaborate and share their particular person presents, skills, and lived experiences.

“I’m loving this Fee. I’m loving the educational; I’m loving the excessive degree of dedication,” she mentioned. “It’s the fitting components to create terrific momentum and you’ve got these Commissioners who’re simply tremendous dedicated to doing good work.”

From Sias-Hernandez’s viewpoint, the work of the Fairness Fee creates techniques which are accessible to all inhabitants teams. “Generally you hear fairness talked about by way of a person lens, referenced as assembly individuals the place they’re,” mentioned Sias-Hernandez. “However I actually take into consideration fairness by way of a techniques degree lens and thru a inhabitants degree lens.”

Sias-Hernandez describes governmental techniques and packages like a present in a stream. “These techniques ought to be designed to maintain individuals within the present. However what truly occurs is that some individuals must swim upstream to entry the present, as a result of it actually wasn’t made for them,” she mentioned. “My imaginative and prescient for fairness is that we’re making a present that captures all individuals; that anybody can step into the stream and swim with the present quite than having to battle towards it.”


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