College Wins National Award for Second Time

New students at Pass through the Pillars

SUNY Oneonta received the 2017 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education, on Aug. 31.

As a recipient of the annual HEED Award—a national honor recognizing U.S. colleges and universities that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion—SUNY Oneonta will be featured along with 79 other recipients in INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine’s November 2017 issue. This is the second time SUNY Oneonta has received the award.

“One of SUNY Oneonta’s enduring values is inclusive excellence, the belief that all students, faculty and staff bring assets to the campus because of, not despite, our differences,” said SUNY Oneonta President Nancy Kleniewski. “Many individuals and groups are working together to help increase the level of diversity on our campus and to ensure that the interactions we have with each other are constructive.”

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine selected SUNY Oneonta based on the college’s diversity and inclusion initiatives, and ability to embrace a broad definition of diversity on campus, including gender, race, ethnicity, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community.

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

Since receiving its first HEED Award in 2014, SUNY Oneonta has significantly increased diversity among the campus community. This year’s class of first-year students includes an increase from less than 20 percent to a new high of 28 percent of students from underrepresented ethnic and racial groups. Faculty members from underrepresented groups now make up 20 percent of the college’s faculty.

In 2010, SUNY Oneonta revised its mission, choosing diversity as one of six pillars supporting the college’s first strategic plan. This led to a variety of initiatives, including the reorganization of institutional efforts to ensure equity and inclusion under the leadership of Chief Diversity Officer Terrence Mitchell, who joined the college in 2014, and implementation of the Anti-Defamation League’s “A Campus of Difference” diversity education program.

In 2012, the college established an annual Common Read and endowed lecture to infuse cultural literacy into the academic program by asking all incoming freshmen to read a diversity-themed book, which is then discussed across several disciplines. For its 2017 Common Read, the college has chosen “Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race” by Margot Lee Shetterly, who will deliver the Mills Distinguished Lecture at SUNY Oneonta on Sept. 25.

SUNY Oneonta has also invested in initiatives to support diversity among students, including LGBTQ students. Over the past few years, the college has institutionalized the experimental SUNY Pride conference, adopted a preferred names policy, installed gender-neutral bathrooms throughout the campus and created a gender-neutral housing option in Higgins Hall.

SUNY Oneonta’s INSIGHT Into Diversity award was one of three given throughout the SUNY system. One other campus—SUNY Buffalo State— and SUNY System Administration also received the HEED Award.

“We have a responsibility to our students, but also to ourselves—the leaders, faculty, and staff of SUNY—to build on our diversity within our walls and provide a safe and welcoming environment where we can all thrive,” said SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson. “Everyone deserves a chance to pursue their goals, and I am honored to continue to lead and build on our founding principles and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy."

"Receiving the HEED award for the sixth year in a row—the first for a higher education system office—is an outstanding accomplishment," said Vice Chancellor and Chief Diversity Officer Carlos N. Medina. "It recognizes our early work and implementation of our sweeping Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policy, as well as our ongoing efforts to strengthen our support of all our students, faculty and staff."

View more information about the 2017 HEED Award.

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