As a college president, I value diversity, equity and inclusion as the essence of a college community and believe community colleges should be reflective of the diverse communities they serve. Therefore, in 2013 I supported the Suffolk County Community College (SCCC) board of trustees’ adoption of a strategic plan that included a goal for diversity: “To reflect the ethnic, demographic, and economic composition of Suffolk County.”
This goal supports our students’ need to think creatively, be open to new perspectives, and build their skills in a culturally competent manner. Implementing this plan began with reinforcing the importance of the college’s vision and mission statements, creating diverse lifelong learning opportunities for our students, and attracting strong leadership and a distinguished faculty to the institution.
The success of the college’s teaching and learning environment requires that every member of the college community be willing to embrace the principles of honesty, integrity, loyalty, teamwork, equity, diversity and inclusion. We ensured that these institutional components set the framework and foundation for all of our work moving forward.
Investing in people
Over the next several years, the college continued to develop a well-coordinated approach that supports diversity, equity and inclusion across our institution. I recruited and appointed a senior-level administrator who reports to me and serves on our cabinet to immediately establish a framework for this effort.
In 2015, the position evolved into a chief diversity officer (CDO) and I filled the position of affirmative action officer to create a team that would improve administrative, faculty, staff and student recruitment and retention. These administrators work collaboratively with cabinet members and senior leaders in academic affairs, student affairs, human resources, executive deans/campus CEOs and my chief of staff, among others.
They began by strengthening, advertising and ensuring outreach to diverse audiences (candidates), improving interviewing, providing coaching, training and professional development, and by analyzing data to improve outcomes. The annual operational plan developed within divisions tracked and accomplished quarterly goals, including reorganizing student services for veterans, disability, and mental health services; working directly with departmental faculty and with search committees; increasing the college presence in the local community; increasing high school outreach to positively impact placement into remedial education; and establishing LGTBQ and Undocumented Student task forces.
These initiatives required an investment in resources to promote best practices, including funding key positions at the director and support level to ensure successful implementation and accomplishment of these goals.
Read the full article in the new issue of AACC’s Community College Journal.