New diversity approach stresses flexibility, accountability

Jason Koski/University Photography
Diversity officers, from left, Yael Levitte, A.T. Miller, Sheri Notaro, Renee Alexander and Lynette Chappell-Williams.

Today, President David Skorton reaffirmed the university's commitment to diversity in a message to faculty, staff and students. This commitment, he said, is "central to the university's founding vision," "remains a core value of Cornell" and is a key goal of the university's 2010-15 strategic plan. He and Provosts Kent Fuchs and Laurie Glimcher are now directing the development of explicit diversity goals -- through the University Diversity Council (UDC) -- across all university populations to which units and departments will be held accountable, Skorton said.

The UDC has been restructured to represent a wider breadth of the campus community and to incorporate a new approach called "Toward New Destinations." It allows colleges and units to tailor their diversity initiatives, based on institutional goals, to their particular needs. The restructuring also includes a new emphasis on measuring results.

"We've developed a wide range of initiatives and goals that will help guide the colleges and units in their endeavors," said Skorton, who with Fuchs and Glimcher, dean of Weill Cornell Medical College and provost for medical affairs, is leading the UDC. "Together, these goals and initiatives represent the full reach of Cornell's commitment to diversity and inclusion, while the new UDC provides a model of collective leadership and professional expertise that I believe will significantly further our engagement in diversity."

The university's deans and vice presidents will be asked to choose five diversity initiatives each year that best suit their needs and strategic plans and to report on their progress at year's end.

The approach includes diversity initiatives that are grouped by the core principles of:

  • composition, which refers to the demographic makeup of a unit, such as strategies for attracting and/or retaining more members from underrepresented groups;
  • engagement, which refers to the personal, social and professional commitment to institutional goals and activities, such as developing activities and events that "promote opportunities for engagement across difference";
  • inclusion, which involves strategies to improve the campus's multicultural climate and interpersonal relationships; and
  • achievement, which reflects levels of attainment for underrepresented individuals or groups, through, for example, leadership training, honors, awards and other milestones.

The restructured UDC includes five diversity officers:

  • Renee Alexander, associate dean of students and director of intercultural programs;
  • A.T. Miller, associate vice provost for academic diversity initiatives, for undergraduate education;
  • Sheri Notaro, associate dean for inclusion and professional development, in the Graduate School;
  • Lynette Chappell-Williams, associate vice president for inclusion and workforce diversity; and
  • Yael Levitte, associate vice provost for faculty diversity and development (see related article).

These diversity officers will formulate policy, evaluate progress, identify opportunities and locate areas of concern within their areas of responsibility, and view diversity concerns at the university as a whole.

The UDC also comprises the senior leaders to whom these diversity officers report:

  • Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services;
  • Kent Hubbell, dean of students;
  • Laura Brown, vice provost for undergraduate education;
  • Barbara Knuth, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School;
  • Mary Opperman, vice president for human resources and safety services; and
  • John Siliciano, senior vice provost for academic affairs, who with Levitte is responsible for faculty diversity.

Marin Clarkberg, director for institutional research and planning, is also a member of the UDC.


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