SUNY Ulster now has its first Chief Diversity Officer! Learn more about her and what she does for the SUNY Ulster community:
How would you describe your position to someone unfamiliar with it?
The Chief Diversity Officer is a person who focuses on opportunities to expand diversity and inclusion of all students, faculty, and staff. A CDO explores ways to improve organizational culture for all faculty, staff, and students by working collaboratively with campus leaders to solicit input, implement, and maintain the institution’s diversity and inclusion plan (DI Plan).
What sort of work does your position involve?
My position, specifically, is one that is shared among 3 colleges – SUNY Orange, SUNY Sullivan, and SUNY Ulster. I report directly to the President and am responsible for the implementation and maintenance of a strategic DI Plan. Some of my responsibilities include advising and conferring with the President on issues involving the programs and services of the College, including policies, procedures, and strategic planning as it pertains to diversity and inclusion; serving as the primary spokesperson in communicating the importance of equity, inclusion, and diversity as well as sharing the DI Plan to stakeholders; providing expertise and collaboration with the Office of Human Resources to develop, implement, and monitor policies, procedures, and activities which impact campus culture on diversity, such as hiring procedures, promotion and retention of current staff; and providing expertise on campus publications, media and public relations (such as website, social media, advertising, mass emails, etc.) to ensure that communications are free of bias and reinforce the commitment to an inclusive campus through word and imagery.
Will you be working with students directly?
I’m going to begin working directly with students by holding forums to hear their thoughts on diversity and inclusion on campus. Based on student responses, I can provide recommendations to improve the DI Plan and SUNY Ulster’s efforts in inclusion. I plan to support the work of the director of student life as it pertains to activities that promote
diversity and inclusion on campus.
What do you hope to accomplish for SUNY Ulster in this position?
My goal is to carry out SUNY Ulster’s vision to empower students, faculty, and staff to build a diverse, welcoming, and inclusive campus for all faculty, staff, and students, where all are respected and appreciated for who they are as an individual. To develop and implement programs, trainings, seminars, lectures, events, discussions, and other group opportunities to promote culturally sensitive leadership and interpersonal skills for all members of the campus community; promote an environment which encourages respectful discussion to improve cultural proficiency; and provide expertise to appropriate campus leaders to develop a student recruitment and retention strategy that encompasses programs and activities to actively encourage the enrollment of diverse students and enhance the learning experience of all students.
What first interested you about this line of work?
As an educator, I have always focused on how best to create an environment where ALL students can learn regardless of race, ethnicity, social economic status, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, language, etc. I began my work as a teacher within the prison system where I often heard from my students that they dropped out of school because they didn’t ‘fit in.’ As I continued my work within PreK-12 school environments, I supported school districts that were cited for disproportionality of Black and Latino students either in special education or suspension address and revise their policies and procedures to become more inclusive. After reviewing the district quantitative and qualitative data, the main reason for the disparities always led to the districts’ inability to deal with differences of certain student groups. As CDO, I promote diversity, but of equal importance, inclusion. I can provide my expertise to campuses to create or strengthen inclusive environments to advance equal educational opportunity for all. Diversity and inclusion have always been very important to me.
What would you say are the biggest diversity-based issues facing colleges today?
I believe one of the biggest diversity-based challenges colleges face deals with inclusion – that feeling of belonging on campus regardless of identity. Every faculty member, staff, and student should feel they work or study in an institution that values their identities and beliefs; an institution that encourages them to be their true selves without worries of humiliation or retribution. As diversity increases, the need to be mindful and intentional in our approach to promote diversity and inclusion on campus needs to be at the forefront.