Chief diversity and inclusion officer at SUNY Oswego steps up to leadcommittee seeking to connect campus-city communities
By Lou Sorendo
Q.: Can you give us a sense of what your new role is as chairman of the Campus-City Relations Committee?
A.: I came on as a member in the fall of last year when [city of Oswego] Mayor [William “Billy”] Barlow appointed me onto the committee. As chairman, I really want to further collaboration and connection between the campus community and the greater Oswego community. There are some established events in which the committee engages, such as off-campus housing and student involvement fairs on campus, but there are opportunities to explore deeper community building work. As chairperson, I want to ensure that for both the campus and greater Oswego communities, everyone understands what CCRC does and how CCRC can be a resource for them.
Q.: What does the committee consist of?
A.: It’s a cross-section of our intersecting communities. We have a representative from the Oswego Police Department and a representative from the Common Council, as well as some local business owners including some landlords. We have local residents and representatives from SUNY Oswego’s student government, as well as staff from the college that include myself and Wayne Westervelt, the chief of communications officer at the college.
Q.: How does your role as SUNY Oswego’s chief diversity and inclusion officer help you in terms of skills needed to be chairman of the committee?
A.: Overall, I have a community-building role at the college. Part of that role is listening deeply to people in order to understand their needs, and then helping those people connect to the resources that can help them get their needs met. It is also part of my role at SUNY Oswego to recognize the needs of other community members. These skills are directly transferable into my role as chairperson of CCRC. It’s vital for the college and city to have a close, reciprocal relationship. Things that affect the city and town of Oswego can directly affect campus, and vice versa.
Q.: Any action plans?
A.: One of the first steps I want to take is to listen to community members, business people, students, and all the stakeholders to determine what needs are being met and what further work needs to be done. Then, we can plan from there. I really want to get some feedback on whether we are meeting the needs of the community and I want the committee to examine our existing practices and look for places where we can innovate. We want to maintain and develop resources to meet the needs of local residents and members of the campus community. I want to make sure that anybody coming to the college or to any local employer for a job looks at our community and says, ‘Yes, this is the place for me.’
Q.: How can the committee upgrade the quality of life in Oswego?
A.: Upgrading the quality of life in Oswego is not something that the CCRC can do by itself. This is a collaborative community wide effort and I know that CCRC can have a role in facilitating community collaborations and support ongoing community building efforts. A lot of work is happening already. [SUNY Oswego] President Deborah Stanley is co-chair of the Central New York Regional Economic Development Committee and has worked with that body to foster economic development in Central New York. Mayor Barlow has been very active in securing funds for development projects for the city. Supporting these and other efforts is crucial.
Q.: What skill sets do you bring to the table that enhances the role of the committee?
A.: There are two central skills that I bring that I believe can enhance the committee. First is a focus on evidence-based practices. I want to make sure the work that CCRC does is supported by and based upon evidence of their effectiveness. Second is a dedication to building bonds of trust throughout the community.