OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego and its vice president for student affairs and enrollment management, Dr. Jerald Woolfolk, recently earned State University-wide awards — the first time they were ever bestowed — as the SUNY Diversity Conference recognized their years-long commitment to fostering diversity, inclusion and social justice at the college.
The institutional Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice Award recognized SUNY Oswego, under the leadership of President Deborah F. Stanley, for its innovative plan — infused through all campus sectors — to effectively communicate, consistently practice and creatively develop cutting-edge programs supporting diversity, inclusion and social justice.
“SUNY Oswego is honored to accept this SUNY-wide award for institutional efforts to make the college a welcoming, supportive and inclusive place for all,” Stanley said. “This college not only has a rich history and long record of celebrating and recognizing faculty, staff and students from diverse backgrounds, it has a plan to proactively, thoughtfully and with a participatory approach continue to move our efforts forward. We know we must do more and we are committed to doing more.”
Woolfolk’s individual award recognized her leadership in the sustained effort to ensure the college embraces all, including members of traditionally underrepresented groups.
Encompassing 17 college departments, from Athletics to Residence Life, from Admissions to Career Services, the Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management under Woolfolk encourages employees to view their work on a daily basis through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Oswego is a wonderful place,” Woolfolk said. “I appreciate the opportunity President Stanley has given me to move the dial on diversity and inclusion. We have a wonderful team. Yet this did not begin with me; this work has been going on for years. We all have a hand in this. These awards are indicative of the work our entire campus has done.”
The contributions of Woolfolk and her team have included training programs for many employees and for leaders of student organizations; the “I Am Oz” campaign and its Diversity Speaker Series, monthly heritage celebrations, and posters seeking to educate about identities and cultures; the student-focused topical discussion series “Oz Speaks;” the “Shine a Light on Oz” program encouraging meaningful conversation — in person and on social media — among students, faculty and staff about understanding differences, as well as being understood; the launch of the S.H.O.P. food pantry for students in need; and campus-wide leadership on matters of diversity and inclusion.
“In four years under Dr. Woolfolk’s direction, the college’s Division of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management has created a unified, meaningful curriculum of programs, trainings and discussions laser-focused on developing a campus culture of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice,” Stanley said. “She began with an effort to infuse these principles in her own division and, in short order, agreed to take the helm of an inclusive campus group that developed the college’s Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Plan.”
Dr. Carlos Medina, associate provost and associate vice chancellor of SUNY’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, presented the awards at ceremonies Nov. 30 during the annual SUNY Diversity Conference.
The awards were created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the office, whose mission is “to achieve the holistic integration of New York’s underrepresented and economically disadvantaged populations into the academic culture of higher education” and “strengthen SUNY’s ability to create a learning environment needed to develop the extraordinary leaders who will succeed in an increasingly culturally diverse and globalized society.”
This fall, SUNY Oswego enrolled its most culturally diverse student population ever: 28 percent self-identified as Hispanic, Asian, African American, Native American, Pacific Islander or multiethnic. That included a first-year class of nearly 35 percent on this measure of diversity — 15 percent higher than in 2010.
Diversity at Oswego not only means race, ethnicity and culture, but also being inclusive regardless of religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, socioeconomic background, status as a veteran, an individual with a disability, or a first-generation, international or transfer student.
“It’s a goal to increase structural diversity, certainly, but also to meet the needs of students who are not typical of students this school traditionally enrolled,” Woolfolk said. “We have to be responsive in the moment and to look ahead as best we can to determine the support needs of all our students, and to plan for the future.”
Other examples of the college’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion:
* The African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Student Leadership Conference celebrated its 31st year this fall, offering a weeklong series of multicultural workshops, networking and entertainment events.
* The Mentoring Program for New Faculty and Staff of Color is in its 20th year, providing a mentor from outside each employee’s department in addition to departmental mentors.
* Academic majors such as broadcasting and mass communication, political science, theatre, English and history have worked to infuse themes of diversity, equity and inclusion into their course offerings.
* All four schools of the college have made strides; for recent example: The School of Communication, Media and the Arts received a SUNY “Explorations in Diversity and Academic Excellence” grant, offering a range of special courses, programs and discussions using the lens of creative expression to explore differences in race, ethnicity and culture. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recently sponsored an “Implicit Bias” workshop for all faculty on campus. Dedicated to social justice, the School of Education, through the Teacher Opportunity Corps and the Holmes Master’s Program, seeks to expand the ranks and boost support of those from groups historically underrepresented in education. The School of Business recently celebrated the student-led effort to establish a chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants.
* The college appointed Dr. Isiah Brown, a visiting assistant professor of management in the School of Business, as its inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. Along with Stanley, he is working closely with campus leadership and representatives of all campus areas to continue implementation of Oswego’s Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Plan.
* The Institute for International Education chose Oswego’s “I, Too, Am Study Abroad” campaign for honorable mention in its 2016 Andrew Heiskell Awards for Innovation in International Education. The program, one of only three honored in the study-abroad category, recognized the college’s efforts to increase participation of students from underrepresented groups in study and travel opportunities. Institutional scholarships also support the effort.