Dean breaks glass ceilings

Between 1942 and 1964 Ernest C. Dillard held multiple different leadership positions as a staff member with the International United Automotive Workers (UAW). In each position, he was the first African American person to hold the position. Seventy years after Dillard began working with the International UAW his granddaughter, Linda Oubre, broke ground herself as one of the only African American female dean of business in the country without a doctorate when she was hired at SF State.

Oubre didn’t go straight into education. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles and then enrolled into Harvard business school. While waiting for her husband to graduate, Oubre got her first taste of education.

“My husband was a year behind me so I stayed and worked on the admissions board at the Harvard Business School,” she said. “I’ve always had the interest [of working for a college] but then I went to work for the LA Times mostly because student loans and I was kind of tired of school.”

During her time with the LA Times, Oubre worked in financial planning. She worked on major projects like their printing press in East LA before moving on and working for The Walt Disney Company. With Disney, she helped start new secondary businesses like Disney’s book publishing before returning to the LA Times and helping to launch their website. That led to more work with companies trying to move onto the Internet before moving into teaching.

She worked at the University of California, Davis and then the University of California, San Diego before returning to Davis.

It was during her second stint at Davis that she was recruited by SF State.

“They wanted a non-traditional dean,” she said. “With all the state budget cuts that students are going through, they wanted someone that knows how to find revenue and look at new programs.”

According to Jennifer Summit, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Oubre has done a great job at finding the revenue.

“Over a few short years, she has already made a significant difference, opening a new Student Success Center in her college, investing in advising and tutoring and expanding career services and professional development for College of Business grads,” Summit said.

Finding the money needed to make these changes has been a lot about getting donations and while fundraising money, she has faced discrimination because there aren’t others quite like her.

“I’ve been in meetings when I first started as dean where donors turn to my white male Assistant Director of Development and say ‘How does it feel to be the new dean,’ because there is an assumption that deans don’t look like me.”

She has learned to embrace who she is and use it to her advantage.

“I’ve really learned to embrace that because that’s a part of who I am,” Oubre said. “The one donor that did that to me I turned to and asked for a big donation and she’s actually been one of my best contributors to the college since then.”

For her, this isn’t about making a statement about being a strong woman of color, it is just who she is.

“It’s who I am, it’s what I live every day. From my perspective I’m just Linda,” Oubre said.

Programs aren’t the only way Oubre helps the school. She always helps by going out of her way to greet students when she sees them in the hall and helping any way she can.

“Dean Oubre is a tireless advocate of student success and educational equity, and everyone who works with her is inspired by her principled commitment,” Summit said.

Oubre is not only helping with her ability to find donations and help students, she is also helping out of her own pocketbook.

In 2016, Oubre launched a scholarship for students of labor studies in honor of her late grandfather Dillard, who 70 years before her, began breaking ground just like she continues to do today.

Linda Oubre, the dean of business, uses her time working in big business to help students achieve their full potential. (David Rodriguez/Golden Gate Xpress)

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