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Banner for Cherie Hodge's "Shifting DEI Culture in the Laboratory"
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Meet the 2023 Leadership Summit Speaker: Cherie Hodge

Learn about incorporating DEIA and leadership frameworks with diversity initiatives at the 2023 Leadership Summit

MaryBeth DiDonna

MaryBeth DiDonna is managing editor, events for Lab Manager. She organizes and moderates the webinars and virtual conferences for Lab Manager as well as other LMG brands, enabling industry...

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As Lab Manager’s 2023 Leadership Summit draws closer, we invite you to get to know the laboratory and management professionals who will be speaking at this exciting event.

Headshot photo of Cherie Hodge
Cherie Hodge, director of instructional laboratory operations at Mt. San Jacinto College
Credit: Cherie Hodge

Cherie Hodge, director of instructional laboratory operations at Mt. San Jacinto College, will speak on "Shifting DEI Culture in the Laboratory." Her presentation will provide an overview of DEIA, self-identity, bias, and leadership frameworks to exhibit how how these topics integrate with the diversity initiatives.

Read more about Cherie's career, her passion for travel, and the best piece of advice she's ever received. Register today at for your chance to learn from Cherie's insight at the Summit.

Q: How did you get started in your career?

A: I did not pick my career; my career picked me. It was never my intention to work in higher education after graduation. I was a full-time student hoping to get accepted into the nursing program. While a student taking prerequisites, I was asked if I would like to work as a student worker in the Anatomy and Physiology department. As a way to reinforce lecture content, I accepted. The opportunity led to a permanent full-time position that has spanned 25+ years. During my time as a lab tech, I did not consider myself a leader, but knew that others looked to me for guidance and knowledge. In December 2019, the full-time faculty in which I worked with for 20+ years decided to retire. That is when I began to look for new opportunities outside of the classroom where I could experience a new challenge.

In January 2020, I was offered an interim position as the director of instructional laboratory operations. After declining the opportunity two times, I decided to take a walk over to the “dark side”. I transitioned into this role during the height of COVID. With limited administrative knowledge and constant thoughts of imposter syndrome, I constantly doubted my abilities and often thought about retreating back to the lab. I learned quickly how important it is to take challenges one day at a time. It is also as important to celebrate the small victories. A small victory is a victory, nonetheless.

Fast forward three years and I am now serving as the permanent director of instructional laboratory operations for the district. I take great pride in the diverse team of individuals who comprise my team. I lead in full transparency so that all individuals are included, all voices heard, and all take part in the collaborative efforts to improve upon student success and retention in STEM at MSJC and beyond.

Q: What five words best describe you?

A: Balanced, mindful, self-aware, empath, fair

Q: What is the biggest lesson learned in your professional career?

A: Acceptance goes much farther in leadership than tolerance. My worldview does not impact the relationships I have with those whose views differ. I’ve learned to accept the qualities, characteristics, choices, differences, and personal lived experiences that make up the individuals without judgement. 

Q: What is the biggest work-related challenge you've faced? How did you overcome it?

A: One of the biggest challenges that I have faced thus far is walking into a position in which there was no clear delineation of duties or expectations. As the first director of operations for our college district, the expectations of my duties were blurred with other positions in other departments. Having clearly defined duties and roles was not prioritized from onset. This led to confusion in decision-making matters. Also, as a district wide director, I am in charge of overseeing three of the campuses with laboratories. Initially was required to report to three different deans/VPs covering the three campuses. The lack of consistency and standards throughout the district made it extremely difficult to provide clear directions to my team. I was able to overcome this challenge by meeting with my VP to discuss the challenges I was experiencing. After several conversations, the executive cabinet made the decision to implement district-wide pathways deans. With this new structure, I can better collaborate with my direct dean to standardize processes while prioritizing the needs of the sciences districtwide.

Q: What kinds of hobbies or interests do you have outside of your job?

A: Travels, grandkids, foodie, selfcare, spirituality, and more travels. Before Covid, I considered myself a wanderlust, wandering aimlessly domestically and abroad learning about different cultures and eating my way through different types of cuisine. I especially enjoy solo adventures where I am able to be still long enough to refresh, refocus, renew and reimagine.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you've ever received?

A: If you're making emotional decisions based on your ego, then you should probably rethink your decision-making processes.