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PYSK: Loreli Wilson

Get to know Loreli Wilson, Director of Inclusion & Social Impact Programs, Veterans United Home Loans

Job description
In my role, I oversee diversity and inclusion and community initiatives for Veterans United Home Loans.

Why you are passionate about your job
Veterans United’s diversity and inclusion program was custom-made for the VU culture. When we create programs, we get to dream up and implement ideas that work with the culture of the company. Our team’s efforts directly help others — I couldn’t imagine a more fulfilling duty.

What people should know about your role as the director of inclusion and social impact
Even though I’ve been working on diversity and inclusion at VU since 2012, I don’t always have all the right words, and I don’t know everything there is to know about diversity and inclusion. No one ever will. As our society grows and changes, the concepts and language of diversity evolves and becomes broader. We should all strive to learn and grow alongside others. Everyone’s life experience is different, and it’s important to empathize with others’ experiences, hear them, believe them, and support them how they choose to be supported.

The next challenge facing your programs and diversity and inclusion
George Floyd’s death has shaken our country and opened many hearts and eyes to issues that many people were unaware of before. A lot of folks are really passionate about fighting for racial and social justice right now. But once the dust settles, it could be easy for many people to slip back into their normal daily routines. The challenge for me is to keep this passion alive, work toward sustainable change, and ensure that we don’t fall right back into the old habit of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. We all need to make life-long commitments to fight racial and social injustice and economic disparities.

Your next professional goal
The goal for anyone working in diversity and inclusion is to be so effective you work yourself out of the job.

How you want to impact the Columbia community
I want to be a part of systemic change. Our work can change minds and hearts, but we also need to impact systems to build long-lasting and sustainable change.  

Most people don’t know that you 
Most people don’t know how to pronounce my name. I mostly hear Lorelei, like from the “Gilmore Girls,” but it’s actually pronounced like Lora-Lee. It’s a combination of my parents’ names put together, Lorna and Eli, but in the Philippines, they pronounce “Eli” like “Ellie.”

What led you to pursue this role in diversity and inclusion
My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1970s. They were both very active in the local Filipino American Cultural Society. As first-generation born Americans, my brothers and I had two ways of living: at home, we were immersed in the Filipino culture, and outside of the house, we tried very hard to fit into a predominantly white community. I grew up trying on several different identities because I couldn’t understand where I fit and how to reconcile those two aspects of my life. The world is changing, and being able to work to help others feel comfortable in their own skin without repercussion, to ensure fair practices, and provide support to diverse communities is a job I grew up to do.

Tell us about your family
My husband, Eric, is also a part of the VU family as the external affairs manager. I’m proud of his incredible work in the area of legislative and regulatory relations. We have two kids, Lincoln, 10, and Arden, 8. There are a lot of conversations in our house about “Fortnite” and “Animal Crossing” lately.

What is your favorite activity to do with your family
Biking on the trails with my family is one of my favorite things to do. I wouldn’t consider us “bikers” because we haven’t gotten to the level of padded biking shorts, but we’re working our way up. 

Greatest strength
I’m strategic and persistent.

Greatest weakness
I can over-analyze anything, which sometimes gets me stuck in my analysis paralysis. But, I’ve surrounded myself with trusted people to shake me loose after getting stuck in my own brain.

Best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor
I’ve gotten great advice in the past. One of the most recent and impactful pieces of advice was: “Don’t say I think before a statement. Your statement is more powerful without it.”

Quote you live by
“If not me, then who? If not now, then when?”

What you do for fun
Eat all the foods around town with my family. Food makes me happy. And great food makes me dance.

Favorite hangout spot in Columbia
I should say “anywhere but home” since we were quarantined for a few months, but in reality, I’m more of a homebody and love being home. When I do go out, it’s Katfish Katy’s a little outside of town, or hitting up one of my favorite restaurants: Mama Chims with the family or Flyover for date night.

Your favorite way to get involved in the community
I’m on the board for the Inclusive Impact Institute, the Flourish Initiative, and Greater Missouri Leadership Foundation. Each one provides me with a perspective on how to enhance the community we live in. 

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