Dubuque City Manager Mike Van Milligen has named Gisella Aitken-Shadle as the City’s new chief of equity and human rights. She will begin her employment with the City in August, filling the vacancy created when former Human Rights Director Kelly Larson became the development and learning manager in the City’s human resources department.


Van Milligen said:

"Gisella has made equity a focus of her education and her work and she will make a tremendous contribution to our organization and our community,” .

As chief of equity and human rights, Aitken-Shadle will lead the City’s development and implementation of equity and inclusion initiatives and will be responsible for managing and delivering the City’s Intercultural Competency program to all City employees and external groups. She will also manage an organization-wide effort to advance equity in budgeting, community engagement, and high-priority service delivery, as well as collaborating with leadership and community stakeholders to establish equity as a shared value across the organization and community.

Aitken-Shadle said:

“I look forward to working with the City of Dubuque and building on what has already been done to make our community more welcoming and inclusive,”. “I want to make sure we are reaching out to underrepresented communities and that people have equitable access to the opportunities available to them.”

Aitken-Shadle has served as the district director of adult education and literacy at Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) since 2015 and leads the college’s High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED), English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), and Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs.  She also serves as the chairperson of NICC’s Diversity Equity, and Inclusion Committee. From 2009 to 2015, Aitken-Shadle was an instructor in NICC’s Adult Education and Literacy Academy, ESOL, and Spanish GED programs.

Prior to her time at NICC, Aitken-Shadle served as the director of Hispanic ministry for St. Raphael Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Dubuque from June of 2011 to September of 2013 and the director of Hispanic ministry for the Archdiocese of Dubuque from August 2010 to February 2012. She also worked previously as an instructor and coordinator of services for English Language Learners at the LAYC Career Academy, a tuition-free charter school for adults in Washington, DC.

Aitken-Shadle holds a master’s degree in public administration (MPA) from the University of Dayton where she also earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies with a human rights concentration and a minor in political science.  She will receive her doctor of education degree in leadership for organizations from the University of Dayton on July 22.  She is fluent in English, Spanish, French, and Italian.

Her community involvement and professional associations include serving as a steering committee member for the Iowa Association of Community College Trustees Alliance to Foster Equity and Inclusion, a board member for the United Way of the Dubuque Area Tri-States, a board member for the Dubuque Multicultural Family Center, and a committee member for the Pacific Islander Health Project.  Aitken-Shadle is vice president and board member for the Latina Leadership Initiative (LLI) and a founder and board member for Latino Empowerment and Development (LEAD).  She is a founding member of the Iowa Latino Alliance, which was established during the COVID pandemic and provides a free Spanish translation/interpretation service.  She also serves on the Dubuque Community School District Equity Committee, the Association of Iowa Latinx Professionals (PILA) Advisory Board, and the Iowa Literacy Council.  She is a past board member for Greater Dubuque Development Corporation (GDDC) and served on GDDC’s Future Leadership Committee.  She was named a 2021 Rising Star by the Telegraph Herald.

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