Aishah Casseus wanted to be an attorney since she was seven years old. She had role models growing up but no access to potential mentors who were black attorneys or judges who looked like her. She dreamed of becoming an attorney despite never seeing that possibility firsthand. She was smart, determined, and encouraged by a supportive family whose question was not “if” she goes to college but how many degrees she would gain when she got there!
In her role as Director of Title IX for Wake Forest University since October 2020, Ms. Casseus is realizing her dream in our community.
Born in New York into an immigrant family, Ms. Casseus became interested in social justice and civil rights while at Spencer High School in Columbus, Georgia, and throughout undergraduate studies at Troy University in Alabama. She balanced academics, work, and motherhood while pursuing her dreams and raising her daughter. “Motherhood does not mean you lose yourself” is a message that she wants to share with other female leaders. Casseus delayed college until her daughter was in kindergarten and then worked during the day while attending night school.
After graduation she worked at Aflac Insurance and saved money for law school. She completed her law degree at North Carolina Central University, with a concentration in constitutional law and civil rights. In true military-family fashion, Casseus worked and lived in several states on her life journey, from secondary school to passing the bar exam on her first try to her current role at Wake Forest University – including NY, GA, AL, VA, NC, DC, PA, VA, NJ, and FL! Prior to directing the Title IX Office at WFU, Ms. Casseus directed the Title IX and Equal Employment Opportunity office at Winston-Salem State University and served as Interim Director for Title IX at Florida State University. With each transition to a new setting, she expands her role into compliance and investigation, and analyzes situations with “new eyes.” She approaches these positions as an opportunity to change culture on campuses and not just as “checking a box” for required Title IX efforts on campuses, commonly thought of as only investigating sexual harassment complaints.
She strives to build a culture that encourages all students from a variety of backgrounds and experiences to seek assistance and education from her office. She enjoyed her time at WSSU and admits it was hard to leave, but she enjoys the unique challenge of applying policies and regulations in an academic medical center.
When asked about her hobbies, Casseus immediately describes her part-time teaching duties at Forsyth Technical Community College, followed at a distance by travel and keeping house plants alive. She instructs in the paralegal program and provides students with a role model as a female with a diverse background and successful law career, whether as a paralegal or as an attorney. Role models for Casseus include her parents and her siblings (her dad is her biggest cheerleader) and Jennifer Bloomfield, her supervisor at Florida State. These supporters believe in her and trust in her abilities to lead others. Her current mentor is Dr. Anthony Graham, Provost at WSSU, who probably does not realize he is her mentor, but who also recognizes her leadership skills and includes her in his leadership series.
“I will always have a voice wherever I am,” says Casseus. She urges our community to use their voices to engage in the difficult conversations needed to better understand our country’s vast differences in experiences and cultures. “We all consume our country’s past experiences, and it’s hard not to be immediately defensive when faced with inequalities. It is tough for everyone,” says Casseus. To understand past experiences means acknowledging inequities that exist without making it harder for each other to succeed. “Just don’t make it harder for others.” Aishah Casseus has made her dreams come true, and our community is the better for her messages.