Jillian Cuellar, Candidate for Council

Jillian Cuellar

Director, Tulane University Special Collections
SAA Council is uniquely positioned to catalyze change, to create opportunities for transformation, and to build something entirely new in service to our fellow members and our profession. Listening to what our colleagues are saying—as well as to what is left unsaid—is the first step toward action.



Hello, colleagues! As an archivist for more than 15 years, I’ve focused most of my career on finding creative ways to engage people who are new to archives. I especially enjoy working with and learning from students and early career professionals; some of the most rewarding moments of my career have resulted from creating opportunities for new archivists to translate theory into practice. I started my career as a project archivist at Parsons School of Design, Columbia University, and New York University. At UCLA, I led a renowned graduate student training program in new directions, oversaw a pioneering digital initiatives program for Special Collections, and worked with a dynamic team of archivists as head of Collection Management. In my current role as director of Tulane University Special Collections, I provide leadership and vision for a division of talented staff who work together to ensure the broadest possible access to the resources in our care.

I joined SAA as a student in 2005—primarily because I received a scholarship for underrepresented students that paid for my membership. In the beginning, I wasn’t active; I didn’t have professional development funds so conferences were out of the question, and I didn’t know how else to get involved. I was lucky to meet colleagues who helped me find my path. Since then, I have contributed to furthering SAA’s mission in these capacities: Collection Management Tools section (elected vice-chair and chair, 2013–2015); 2014 Program Committee (appointed member); 2014 Student Program Subcommittee (appointed chair); 2015 Student Program Subcommittee (ex officio member); Technical Subcommittee on DACS Working Group to revise DACS Statement of Principles (invited contributor, 2017); ARL/SAA Mosaic Diversity Program Advisory Group (appointed member, 2013–2020); 2020 Program Committee (appointed co-chair); Career Services Commons career counselor (volunteer, 2021). I’ve presented in a number of forums, including conferences convened by SAA, the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the American Library Association, the Society of California Archivists, and the Archivists Roundtable of New York. I am a member of the Archives Leadership Institute 2014 cohort, and I’m part of the newest cohort of the Association of Research Libraries Leadership Fellows. I have a MLIS from Pratt Institute and a BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin.



Each candidate prepared a diversity statement according to SAA guidelines.

My professional perspective is undoubtedly influenced by the positionalities I was granted and those I have claimed. I’m a Mexican American, a feminist, a Tejana, a mother, a wife, a sister, and a daughter. I hold many privileges which have allowed me to achieve moderate success in patriarchal white spaces. I don’t speak Spanish but I do speak some Spanglish—an undervalued skill which has helped me connect with people from a myriad of backgrounds and my own cultural and familial background. Of course, my identity alone doesn’t prepare me to advocate for advancing DEIA principles in my work or throughout our profession. My career has been a series of experiences that have reinforced how much I don’t know about the lived experience of others, the complexities that we all inhabit, and how this impacts individual careers, our shared profession, and the broader educational landscape. I’m continually humbled by that understanding. In that awareness, I strive to become a better learner, listener, teacher, and partner. I know I hold biases, and that it’s my responsibility to actively work to uncover those biases and fight them through self-education, reflection, and action.

I’m an optimist by nature, yet I share the disillusionment, anger, frustration, abandonment, and deliberate exclusion that many who belong to marginalized communities feel in this profession. Like many BIPOC individuals, I have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to lack access to highly educated familial networks, generational wealth, or to be one of the few, or only, person of color at the table. I also recognize that many archivists, regardless of representational status, are bewildered by the opaqueness of navigating a career in archives. If elected to Council, I hope I can be a resource for those who have yet to find their way in our field, as well as amplify the voices of those who have already found their footing.

Our impact as archivists depends on our ability to build sincere relationships with communities that have historically been excluded from our institutions. Our willingness to build platforms for every member of our profession to contribute their knowledge to advancing our goals is equally important to the health of our field. SAA Council is uniquely positioned to catalyze change, to create opportunities for transformation, and to build something entirely new in service to our fellow members and our profession. Listening to what our colleagues are saying—as well as to what is left unsaid—is the first step toward action.



The tragic and thought-provoking events of the past year and a half have indelibly impacted the world and our profession, and carved out a space for projects and initiatives that challenge and amplify the historical record, and foreground the urgency of equity and inclusion. How would you bring this growing investment in social justice to bear as a Council member and support diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within SAA, the Council, and among the general membership? How would you help promote and implement the SAA Work Plan on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility?


As a leader and manager in my organization, I carry a greater responsibility for ensuring that DEIA principles permeate all aspects of my work environment. It is deeply important to me to cultivate a work community that values collaboration, imagination, and intentional practice, and it is not possible to achieve this without an inclusive and equitable culture. If elected, I would bring this perspective wholeheartedly to Council. SAA’s Work Plan on DEIA is inspiring because it comes directly from its members. It coalesces the concerns of a wide swath of our colleagues into concrete, actionable initiatives that we all have a responsibility to advance together. It also serves as a tool to hold ourselves accountable to each other. If elected, my Council peers and I would play an integral part in helping SAA achieve these goals. But we will also need to ensure that we are pushing for ongoing criticism and revision of the plan. This plan has a long horizon, making it even more important that we continue to be responsive to new and emerging concerns along the way. And as we undertake this work, Council must model the values infused throughout the document—including transparency, creativity, and openness to change and difference—among our own group as well as within the groups we liaise with.

SAA represents a select group of people—those who have been able to, and desired to, “professionalize” their expertise and passions into a career; who can afford to pay membership dues; who have support from their workplace, families, and networks to contribute their time uncompensated; and who are willing and able to traverse a patriarchal white profession. Many of us realize the privilege inherent in this. As members, we must remember that our professional work has implications for all kinds of cultural memory workers, including those who can’t or choose not to participate in our organization. The SAA Council should foreground those perspectives, too, particularly because many of the goals and tasks outlined in the Work Plan necessitate building meaningful, collaborative relationships with those who may not currently be part of our membership. This includes our colleagues in allied organizations and professions, educators outside the spheres of archives and higher education, and community advocates. These groups can be ambassadors who help us reach new audiences to welcome into our fold, giving SAA new life by infusing different perspectives that push us in unimagined directions. The SAA Council can play a key role in helping to build trust with these constituencies in a respectful and mutually beneficial way.



Slate of Candidates

The Nominating Committee has slated the following SAA members as candidates for office in the 2022 election:

Vice President/President-Elect


Nominating Committee