Cornell reflects on progress of diversity initiative

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John Carberry

During year one of Cornell’s “Toward New Destinations” (TND) diversity framework, colleges and units worked toward specific goals to increase diversity and inclusion. University officials have made note of efforts toward achieving these goals and are identifying areas in need of improvement for 2013-14.

Launched in March 2012 by the University Diversity Council, TND is a strategic initiative for enhancing a culture that provides for the full participation of all members of the Cornell community. The diversity council includes President David Skorton, Provost Kent Fuchs and Provost for Medical Affairs Laurie Glimcher, as well as diversity professionals on the Ithaca and New York City campuses, vice presidents, vice provosts, directors and deans.

TND 2012 initiatives by core principles
TND 2012 initiatives by constituency

TND defines core principles of diversity: composition, achievement, engagement and inclusion. Each college or unit chose five diversity initiatives tied to one of the core TND principles, to pursue during the 2012-13 academic year.

“With tremendous energy, enthusiasm and commitment, we have made progress toward our combined diversity efforts over the past year,” said Skorton. “We will continue to share ideas for improving our campus culture and fostering a more inclusive community. This is a challenging but critical endeavor on which we must all remain focused.”

For example, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has sought to increase its enrollment of international undergraduates by redefining its admissions priorities and supporting transfer and exchange programs and CALS Visiting Fellows. The result: a 23 percent increase in first-year applications from students outside the United States and an incoming class of which 7 percent are international students, up from 4 percent in 2011-12.

The Division of Budget and Planning held a community volunteer activity at the Red Cross Homeless Shelter/Friendship Center, which had an 87 percent employee participation rate. Increasing understanding of diversity in Ithaca, improving relationships with colleagues, and developing a respective, inclusive working environment were among the results.

In Financial Affairs and Information Technology, a reporting system on the status of local suppliers was created, which includes a diversity “scorecard” in procurement. Baseline metrics include total amounts spent with women-owned, minority-owned and veteran-owned suppliers.

And in an effort to broaden opportunities for underrepresented minority students, Weill Cornell Medical College has established the Tri-Institution Alliance for Diversity (Weill Cornell, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Rockefeller University-Center for Clinical and Translational Science). One new program, Weill-Ithaca Summer Experience in Research, piloted in summer 2013, supports underrepresented Cornell students on the Ithaca campus who are interested in careers in medicine or public health.

Across the university, more than 6,300 faculty and staff completed Respect@Cornell, an educational program about creating a climate free from sexual harassment and violence.

A major support for TND initiatives was the launching of Cornell’s Inclusive Excellence Academy, which features workshops and information sessions for senior leadership, college or administrative unit diversity councils, human resource professionals and others. The academy’s inaugural program was held in August 2013, in which members of 22 college and administrative unit diversity councils met to discuss strategies for measuring effectiveness of their TND diversity initiatives. The session featured Daryl Smith, professor of education and psychology at Claremont Graduate University, an expert in diversity in academia.

TND 2013 initiatives

Looking ahead to 2013-14, units and colleges are continuing to find more opportunities to foster diversity, engagement and inclusion, or to expand existing opportunities. For example, the College of Arts and Sciences has committed to focusing on the composition of its faculty through two faculty diversity hiring initiatives. Among their efforts are reserving faculty renewal bridge funds to allow for more hiring opportunities, particularly of underrepresented minority candidates.

Numerous units have committed to reviewing or discussing the documentary, “Race: The Power of an Illusion,” for shared discussion. Others are partnering with local or national organizations, including the Dorothy Cotton Institute, Santa Monica Community College and Sloan Scholars Program.

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