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Magazine recognizes university's diversity efforts

Magazine recognizes university's diversity efforts


SUNY Cortland has been nationally recognized for the progress it has made in diversity, equity and inclusion as it has evolved from a campus that was 95 percent white two decades ago, to a university in which more than a quarter of all enrollees are students of color.

The many Cortland programs and initiatives undertaken to embrace racial and ethnic diversity, gender identity and sexual orientation, faith and spiritual differences, and campus community members with disabilities were honored Sept. 18, as SUNY Cortland received the 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award.

The HEED Award recognizes U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion. It is awarded by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education.

It’s the first time Cortland has been honored with this award. The university will be featured among other winners in the magazine’s November 2019 issue.

Top colleges and universities for diversity are honored annually by INSIGHT Into Diversity.

“SUNY Cortland is honored to be recognized as a recipient of the HEED Award,” said James Felton III, the university’s chief diversity officer and director of the Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office.

“This award demonstrates the university’s efforts to promote a more open and welcoming place for all, and the strong commitment that President Erik J. Bitterbaum has placed on diversity,” Felton noted. “It also acknowledges the many individuals on campus who work tirelessly to promote the success of all faculty, staff and students.”

The magazine considers what candidate colleges and universities have accomplished in many different areas, including: health and wellness, support (financial, social, academic and professional), campus climate, community outreach, events and celebrations, social justice and activism, policy and innovative diversity education.

The HEED Award process consists of a comprehensive and rigorous application that includes questions relating to the recruitment and retention of students and employees — and best practices for both — continued leadership support for diversity, and other aspects of campus diversity and inclusion, said Lenore Pearlstein, publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

“We take a detailed approach to reviewing each application in deciding who will be named a HEED Award recipient,” Pearlstein said. “Our standards are high, and we look for institutions where diversity and inclusion are woven into the work being done every day across their campus.”

Cortland long has strived to infuse inclusion and diversity into the university experience, both inside and out of the classroom. The HEED Committee cited some of the most compelling reasons to the magazine’s judges:

  • The university’s longtime, annual student-run Diversity Conference, which last year drew hundreds of students from campuses across New York state and beyond.
  • The institution’s growing annual Kente Celebration marking campus diversity among graduating seniors. This year, more than 100 students were honored, the largest number ever.
  • The launch in July 2019 of a Kente Alumni Reunion program by the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association.
  • Outreach efforts of the association’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion subcommittee.
  • The School of Education’s C.U.R.E. Program preparing students to teach in urban or multicultural classrooms.
  • Creating an Applied Learning Practitioners initiative.
  • A host of study abroad/international awareness programs and initiatives.
  • Title IX/Green Dot training and educational programs to foster a safe and equitable campus experience.
  • An inaugural TRANsAction Day focused on gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • Conducting an Intergroup Dialogue Series on Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Conducting ongoing leadership workshops focused on diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • The Multicultural Male Initiative/Men of Color Student Leadership Conference.
  • The Wellness Wednesdays series covering the gamut of physical, mental and social wellbeing topics.

“We are thrilled to present our 2019 HEED Award to you and your colleagues because your campus truly exemplifies ‘excellence in diversity,’” Pearlstein said.


HEED Award Application Committee members met with SUNY Cortland President Erik J. Bitterbaum, shown on the right in front of Corey Union. With him, from the left, were Mary Schlarb, James Felton III, Zachariah Newswanger,  Eunice Miller, Jeremy Jimenez and Kathleen Lawrence. Members not pictured are Vierne Placide, AnnaMaria Cirrincione and Roman Rodriguez.

Only a handful of New York state’s higher educational institutions have earned the recognition, including the following three others in the SUNY system: Buffalo State College, SUNY College at Old Westbury and the University at Albany.

Besides Felton, HEED Award Application Committee members included AnnaMaria Cirrincione, director of multicultural life and diversity; Jeremy Jimenez, assistant professor, foundations and social advocacy; Kathleen Lawrence, professor, communication and media studies; Eunice Miller, senior staff assistant to the provost; Zachariah Newswanger, associate vice president, facilities management; Vierne Placide, assistant professor, health; Roman Rodriguez, student director of diversity, equity and inclusion; and Mary Schlarb, director and senior international officer, International Programs.

“Having worked with a team of colleagues to earn the HEED Award for two consecutive years at my previous institution, this award also serves as motivation to continue to grow and expand in this area,” said Felton, who had been the inaugural chief diversity officer at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland.

“Winning the HEED award does not mean that we have achieved our diversity goals,” Felton noted. “It means we are more truthful and intentional about how we do diversity work.”

INSIGHT Into Diversity presents timely, thought-provoking news and feature stories on matters of diversity and inclusion across higher education and beyond. Articles include interviews with innovators and experts, as well as profiles of best practices and exemplary programs. Readers also will discover career opportunities that connect job seekers with institutions and businesses that embrace a diverse and inclusive workforce. Current, archived and digital issues of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine are available online. For more information about the 2019 HEED Award and the magazine, visit