Catching Up With Dr. Michele Villagran

Community Profile

“As we continue to work in diverse workplaces, we have to consider how our own understanding, practices and behaviors impact how effective we are in our interactions.”

Michele A.L. Villagran, Ed.D, MSLS, MBA., MDR.
Assistant Professor, SJSU School of Information
CEO and President, CulturalCo, LLC
Alhambra, California

Dr. Michele Villagran has been a member of the iSchool faculty for just a little over a year, but in that short time, she has made herself at home in all aspects of our academic community. Dr. Villagran’s accomplishments this past year reflect her dedication to teaching, law librarianship and research involving cultural intelligence, diversity and inclusion.

2019 A Year of Accomplishments

At the start of 2019, Dr. Villagran was named a “Leader of Today” in the second edition of the book Celebrating Diversity: A Legacy of Minority Leadership in the American Association of Law Libraries. Along with this recognition, Dr. Villagran also authored two chapters—“Legacy of Leadership” and “Minority Law Librarians: A Snapshot”—for the publication as well. 

Dr. Villagran’s expertise in the area of cultural diversity was further recognized when she was awarded a 2019 Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section Research and Scholarship Grant. The proposed project, Examination of Cultural Intelligence within Law Libraries, will allow Dr. Villagran to take a close look at the role of cultural intelligence in academic law libraries with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the subject from the perspective of law librarians. According to Dr. Villagran, the study of cultural intelligence is timely within the field of law librarianship and states that the research will “support several identified domains of professionalism: leadership, teaching and training, and marketing and outreach.” Dr. Villagran plans to share her findings with law librarians to help them better serve their stakeholders as well as with iSchool students who are interested in academic or special librarianship. 

Last fall, Dr. Villagran took her work to a national stage when she was selected to serve as an expert on cultural diversity for the Institute of Museum and Library Services grant project Destination Preservation: A Roadmap for Libraries Leading Participatory Archiving Projects. Dr. Villagran will be a valuable addition to this team as her expertise will be used to lend a cultural lens through which to view the project, as well as bring a dimension of diversity and inclusion that had been identified as missing in the project prior to her selection.

Career Roots in Public Libraries

As extraordinarily busy as her past year may seem, 2019’s fast pace is actually the norm for Dr. Villagran as over the years her career has seen many iterations both in and beyond the library field. Beginning with librarianship, Dr. Villagran spent 10 years working in public libraries as a page, circulation staffer and adult services assistant before finding her niche in law librarianship. As Dr. Villagran tells it, “Law has always been one of my loves. I was glad to see I could pair my library work experience with a professional interest.” Following this new career focus, Dr. Villagran earned her MSLS in Legal Informatics from the University of North Texas and made the transition from public to law librarianship.  

Graduate Studies Lead to New Research Interest

In addition to her MSLS, Dr. Villagran also completed a Master’s in Business Administration in Strategic Management while at UNT. This degree led her to pursue further studies in dispute resolution at Pepperdine University, as well as her doctorate of education in organizational leadership. It was here that Villagran became instantly fascinated with cultural intelligence, which she defines as “the capability to adapt and function effectively in new cultural situations.” Driven by this new interest, Dr. Villagran went on to become a certified facilitator at the Cultural Intelligence Center and then went on to start her own consulting business, CulturalCo, which specializes in diversity and conflict resolution. These studies are also what ultimately brought Dr. Villagran to the iSchool as an assistant professor. As she relates, “I felt the openness of the iSchool when I have interacted with faculty, students and alumni. I was instantly attracted before the position was even open.”

Dedicated to Current Work Here at SJSU

Combining her studies and work experience in law librarianship, dispute resolution and cultural intelligence has resulted in what we at the iSchool see today: an accomplished professor, tireless researcher and sought-after expert in the field of diversity and inclusion in librarianship and beyond. According to Dr. Villagran, “It’s never too late to start understanding cultural intelligence. We have to consider how our own understanding, practices and behaviors impact how effective we are in our interactions. It is a timely investment in our profession.” Dr. Villagran is doing much to advance the practice of diversity and inclusion in the information field, and her contributions will continue to propel the profession forward to a new standard of professionalism.