Deirdre Hargrove-Krieghoff recently joined the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) team as Human Resources Executive Director where she manages human resources and talent development.
A Madison native, Hargrove-Krieghoff was previously the vice president of Workforce Development, Inclusion and Retention at the Urban League of Greater Madison and a department director at St. Mary’s Hospital where she managed facility operations, department human resources and leadership development, and diversity and inclusion.
We recently caught up with Hargrove-Krieghoff, who also co-chairs the Madison Area Diversity Roundtable, to ask her our 12 questions.
1. Rank your Top 5 MCs. I am going old school with: MC Lyte, Public Enemy, Run DMC, LL Cool J, more recently Common
2. Which motivates you more: doubters or supporters? Doubters
3. Do you prefer being called Black or African American? African American
4. What three leaders in Madison under 50 have impressed you the most?
1. Alex Fralin, Chief of Schools for Secondary Education at Madison Metropolitan School District. Alex’s passion and tenacity for bringing the MMSD’s vision to life is admirable!
2. Everett Mitchell, Director of Community Relations at UW and pastor of Christ the Solid Rock. He is committed to making this community one with strong relationships and partnerships where each person is valued
3. All of the young ladies that I met earlier this year from Madison Memorial High School at the “Exploration in Leadership” networking event. There were approximately 20 young women of color who came to network with women leaders from our community. To see these future leaders share their stories and future plans was very inspiring and gave me hope that our communities will be in good hands. These ladies are going places!
5. What’s the biggest stumbling block in Madison to turning the corner on our racial disparities? The Midwest politeness. Our community, as a whole, can become more courageous about having frank, open conversations to learn about our own experiences (which shapes our worldview), and other people’s experiences which can reshape our world view. I have a friend who says, “Be less certain. Be more curious.” As individual community members, we could conduct a powerful exercise of entertaining that someone different from ourselves has had a different life experience which has shaped their life perspective. My friend goes onto to say that when we are unwilling to hear or experience other’s views, we lose the potential richness of multiple diverse perspectives. These multiple perspectives help to not only solve the problems, but open up the opportunity for us to come together as a community.
6. What are your top three priorities at this point in your life?
1. To be sure that I raise my daughter to know that she is a smart, beautiful, kind person that can take chances and be fearless and know she can do whatever she sets her mind to, and to know the importance of being the change she wants to see.
2. To help the Madison Metropolitan School District attract, develop, and retain the best teachers and staff for our students.
3. Live a balanced life that includes time for family, friends, wellness, and well-being.
7. You’re a product of the Madison Metropolitan School District. What was your secret to thriving here when so many students of color are struggling? First, when I was a student, it was more than 30 years ago. A lot has changed in the Madison community during that time. With that being said, there are two things that stand out: 1. I understood the importance of education; it was instilled very early on. As an elementary student I knew I was going to college and our family discussed it regularly. 2. My mother was involved in our education: she knew what we were involved in, guided and coached us, and “lived at the schools.” She was a strong advocate for me and my siblings.
8. What are some of the unique challenges of being an African American woman in Madison?
Being visible, being seen as capable, being taken seriously, and sometimes being taken not too seriously. There is a challenge of navigating these dual worlds. On the one hand(in some circles), I am not taken seriously, and, on the other hand, if someone interacts with me, based on their limited experience with African Americans, they somehow think I am an exception to the unfortunate stereotype that is perpetuated in mainstream media. It’s important for people to know that I am not the exception, but the rule. There are numerous African-American women in Madison and around the country that are doing good and even exceptional work, holding it down, and getting it done. It’s par for the course! We conduct ourselves in ways that we normally would and somehow we are seen as extraordinary! My hope is that we can elevate the visibility of all of the African-American women in the greater Madison area so they can be seen as both ordinary and extraordinary.
9. What metrics will let us know when the tide is turning on our education gap for students of color? The increase in the number of college entrants for our students of color, and the reduction in the unemployment rate for people of color
10. What are your three favorite movies and why?
1. Glory (I love Denzel!)
2. The Wiz
3. Dirty Dancing – don’t ask…
11. With all the racial challenges in Madison, what keeps you here? All of the challenges. My family has been a part of the Madison community for five generations. This is truly my home. I want to fight for a better Madison and see a better Madison.
12. Who are your role models? My mother. She was a single mother of five children, who all went on to attain college and/or graduate and PhD degrees. She taught me the meaning of thoughtfulness, sacrifice, tenacity, advocacy, community, and family. She is someone who has always had my back, tells me like it is, and always sees the best in me.