Over the past five years, the Legal Services Center (LSC) has continued to expand and evolve in order to address the community’s changing legal needs and respond to student interests. We have added clinics, including the LGBTQ+ Advocacy Clinic, and launched new projects, including a medical-legal partnership focused on homelessness prevention, and our student enrollment is larger than ever.

Destini M. Agüero
Destini M. Agüero

With this expansion has come the need to grow our leadership team at LSC—to advance strategic thinking about our twin missions and to ensure we continue to meet standards of excellence in our teaching and advocacy.

In 2022, LSC therefore created its first-ever deputy director position, a role that the LSC community is thrilled our colleague Destini Agüero agreed to take on.  Destini has served as director of the Estate Planning Project in LSC’s Veteran’s Legal Clinic since 2018 and will continue to do so as she adds new responsibilities as LSC deputy director.  “Destini brings to this new and critical leadership role her trademark intelligence, good judgment, and passion for LSC’s mission,” said Daniel Nagin, clinical professor of law, and faculty director of LSC and the Veterans Legal Clinic.  “More than that, Destini is universally respected for her openness, diplomacy, and fundamental decency.”

In the following conversation, Daniel talks with Destini about her new role and the work she is leading.

Daniel Nagin:

Hi, Destini. Thank you for making the time for this conversation. I am delighted that we have  this opportunity to discuss the experience and perspectives you are bringing to your new role. What were your thoughts when you first heard about the deputy director position?

Destini Agüero:

I was very excited about what this could mean for LSC. I realized this role would provide another voice on the leadership team and greater bandwidth to focus on some crucial areas at LSC: decision making, staffing, and resource management, among other things. Each of these is hugely important to our work with clients and students.

Daniel Nagin:

What was the potential that you saw in the position?

Destini Agüero:

LSC’s six clinics are extensive; we are the largest clinic at the law school. We’re all doing incredible work—and, at the same time, I saw potential for us to promote even greater collaboration among clinics, learn from each other, and help inspire one another by sharing our experiences more often. I had already started to create spaces where we could have harder conversations around difference and access, inclusion, and most critically, racism and anti-blackness. I thought it was important to create additional opportunities for us to talk about these and other topics, and develop plans around how we can address them as a community, given the positions we hold and the power we have. Across the board, I saw many opportunities for us to work together to deepen our conversations and impact.

Daniel Nagin:

You mentioned an interest in creating spaces for hard conversations. Would you elaborate on what has motivated your advocacy, especially as deputy director?

Destini Agüero:

It is no secret how society at large and its systems treat and react to the needs of marginalized communities, including the need for dignity and safety. My motivation lies in this truth.  We’re advocates for marginalized communities, so we need to have space to openly discuss these issues and resources to advocate for broader change.

Specifically, as deputy director of LSC, taking on this role meant facing the challenge of navigating white spaces in a leadership position as a person of color. I don’t think this is a challenge exclusive to me, as many from marginalized communities likely have experienced this coupling of apprehension and joy in a moment of success.

I’m grateful that we want to create an environment where everyone is encouraged to bring their whole self to work at LSC. I’ve leaned into my Mexican culture and tried to model sharing vulnerabilities in these newly created spaces around racism, inclusion, and embracing difference, because I know my experiences and feelings as a person of color, especially around barriers to entry, are shared by others. Helping LSC to be as inclusive as possible is my core responsibility as deputy director and serves as a foundation for all other responsibilities in my portfolio.

Daniel Nagin:

These are critical issues indeed; as you note; they are foundational to other goals.  So what does the rest of your portfolio as deputy director look like?

Destini Agüero:

The rest of my portfolio includes examining our decision-making structures, looking at processes and the values embedded in them, and ensuring that everyone has a voice in the operations and culture of LSC.  As part of this work, we are looking at our hiring and advancement practices and crowdsourcing ideas and input from the LSC community. I have also led a transition to a new case management system at LSC. This has been a lot of work, but has allowed me to get to know colleagues in ITS, which has been wonderful.

Daniel Nagin:

That is quite a substantial portfolio.  What are some of your concrete goals going forward as deputy director?

Destini Agüero:

I have several things I want to accomplish. As with everything we do at LSC, these goals necessarily involve lots of voices, ideas, and contributions from the wider LSC community. First, I want to expand the supports we provide to the various teams at LSC so that we can continue to pilot new ideas and respond to emerging community needs. I also want to build community across clinics while maintaining the autonomy that we currently have, which requires striking the right balance.  As part of this effort, we’ve created spaces to engage with LSC clinic students about the work we all do, because each clinic has a unique impact on the clients we serve and the LSC community as a whole.

Daniel Nagin:

Given that you are engaging with so many people on so many different topics both within LSC and across campus, I am sure you’ve been absorbing a lot of new information in your deputy director travels.  What’s something new that you’ve learned since becoming deputy director?

Destini Agüero:

As we’ve built—and I say “we” because it’s taken the full community at LSC to move these initiatives forward—spaces to talk about how racism and other inequalities appear in our work, I’ve learned so much about my colleagues: their tireless passion, the challenges they face in their different practice areas, and how they are creatively tackling systemic issues. It has been inspirational to see everyone’s commitment to ongoing growth, and hear how they use their privilege and power to address these core issues.

Daniel Nagin:

One final question.  What is something you do outside of work as a hobby or outlet away from the demands of your job?

Destini Agüero:

I crochet at the end of every day. My grandmother, Irma, taught me to crochet when I was very young and it has turned into my form of meditation. It’s a nice connection to my family and wonderful to be able to create something lovely, especially if I have had a hard day.

 

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