November 20, 2000

Cornell Appoints Diversity Director

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Irma Almirall-Padamsee Ph.D. ’84 will return to Cornell next semester to become the University’s director for student affairs and diversity education.

The current director of multicultural affairs at Syracuse University, Almirall-Padamsee joins Cornell at the height of the community’s concerted efforts to promote diversity.

The modified position incorporates diversity education into the existing directorship of student affairs in the office of campus life.

Almirall-Padamsee stressed that diversity education is “not just having words on a piece of paper that refer to diversity, but then having concrete ideas that breathe life into those words.”

Peggy Beach, associate director of campus life, would not link the new position as a response to the recent bias-related incidents on campus.

“It’s a normal process whenever someone is leaving to review that position,” Beach said, noting E. Ann Shumate’s expected retirement from the position in the next few months. “You want to make sure that all elements will be included in it.”

Students leaders who have been working with administrators to increase diversity initiatives are enthusiastic about the change.

“I think she [Almirall-Padamsee] is going to be great,” said Lisa Wang ’02, co-president of Asian Pacific Americans for Action. “The problem right now is that we — as students, administrators and faculty — have so many good ideas about how to proceed with implementing required course content … that we don’t know where to begin.”

Almirall-Padamsee said, “[When] people find ways to communicate with each other … you can usually uncover what the holes in the picture are.”

Almirall-Padamsee will serve as the chief diversity education officer, which includes a training provision for faculty and staff, according to the job description.

In addition, Beach noted that she will serve as a point of contact for students and parents who are concerned about diversity and other student affairs.

“She comes with an extraordinary amount of energy and an eagerness to get started,” said LeNorman Strong, assistant vice president of student and academic services.

Almirall-Padamsee has served as the associate dean of students and director of multicultural affairs at Syracuse since 1995. In that time, she helped establish an advisory committee on diversity as well as a living-learning environment for students of different ethnicities, races and religions.

“Because this is a cooperative effort … the common denominator is the faculty support of [these] programs,” she said.

Almirall-Padamsee joined Ithaca College in 1991 to create the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Prior to that, she taught linguistics at Cornell and helped start off the Latino Studies Program, serving as its first director from 1986 to 1988.

Archived article by Beth Herskovits