Laura Rugless, executive director of equity and access services and Title IX coordinator at Virginia Commonwealth University, has been named Cornell’s new associate vice president for the office of institutional equity and Title IX coordinator.
Rugless will begin her new role Jan. 2, 2020. She succeeds Chantelle Cleary, who will remain on staff through January to help with the transition.
Rugless brings more than 15 years of experience in civil rights, equity and human resources in higher education, state government, private law practice and the military. Virginia Commonwealth is among that state’s largest and most diverse urban public research institutions, with 11,600 employees and 31,000 students.
“We are so fortunate to have identified such a high-quality candidate,” said Mary Opperman, vice president and chief human resources officer. Laura has exceptional knowledge and experience, and will be an important and thoughtful voice in the advancement of equity for our students, faculty and staff.”
The Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX is responsible for training, education and prevention efforts in the areas of discrimination, harassment, and sexual and related misconduct. The office also works closely with the Division of Human Resources and the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity on outreach and support for the Cornell community. Rugless will report to Opperman.
Rugless, an Army veteran, grew up in the Chicago and Baltimore areas and credits her experiences there – and as an Army platoon leader – for her interest in civil rights.
After graduating from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William & Mary, Rugless practiced law and worked in the area of civil rights compliance, including Title IX, for several universities and organizations.
“While an institutional equity framework is based in the law and can be complex, fundamentally I think of it as trying to understand a situation and helping people,” she said. “What keeps me going is the opportunity to make a positive difference and contribute to a community of belonging.”
Cleary, who came to Cornell about a year a half ago from the University at Albany, has accepted a position that will take her back to the Albany area.
“Under Chantelle’s leadership,” Opperman said, “the Title IX and institutional equity functions have made many important advancements, including increased training, and improved policies and record management. This is progress that we are poised to continue under Laura’s keen guidance.”
“Cornell’s egalitarian origins and unique mission as the only private land-grant institution drew me in, as well as the exceptional work to advance institutional equity and Title IX that already has been done,” Rugless said. “During my campus visits and interviews, I had the opportunity to meet with dozens of people, including several students, and was really impressed by the engagement and capability throughout the university.
“This is so important,” she said, “because civil rights belong to us all and everyone has a role to play.”
Ashley Fazio is communications director for Human Resources.