Equity, Inclusion, and Beyond: Today’s Urban Chief Diversity Officer

  • Merodie Hancock Empire State College, State University of New York
Keywords: Graduation-Rate Disparities, Inclusive Campus Culture, Inequity In Access, College Completion, Underserved Students, Pluralism In The Classroom, Stop- Or Drop-Out Rate, Campus Gestalt


This paper, based primarily on the author’s perspective as president of SUNY Empire State College, will explore the need for and means of leveraging the chief diversity officer’s role in creating an equitable and inclusive environment within the distributed world that is Empire State College’s “campus” and, specifically, within SUNY Empire’s urban environments. Empire State College fills a unique role in today’s higher-education landscape. It was founded in 1971 by Ernest Boyer, then the chancellor of the State University of New York, to make education accessible outside the confines of traditional curricular and delivery structures, and to better meet the needs of New Yorkers with locations, academic programming, and student services responsive to diverse communities and learners. Today, Empire State College continues to embrace and fulfill that mission, with individualized education as its cornerstone and nearly 18,000 undergraduate and graduate students in 34 academic centers around the state of New York, in several countries overseas and online around the world. The vast majority of its undergraduate students have attended at least one previous institution, are employed, and are likely to have family and dependent-care obligations. The college is purposefully nonresidential, designed to be where our students live and work. Students can choose structured or individualized academic programs, depending on discipline, and have the options of classroom-based, online, or independent study, as well as weekend residencies, or a hybrid of education delivery via these modes.

Author Biography

Merodie Hancock, Empire State College, State University of New York