December 5, 2002

Diversity Focus at CAPS

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With the recent hires of two African-American therapists, Gannett: Cornell University Health Services now has a more diverse staff in the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) program.

Dr. John Wright and Dr. Velma Williams both began working as CAPS clinicians.

CAPS also has two Asian-American therapists, as well as a Latina therapist who is also an assistant director of the program as well as multiple therapists who are various sexual minorities.

“Wright and [Williams] both bring expertise and experience in working with minority students and college students in general. Williams also specializes in eating disorders and both have a lot of experience with outreach, especially but not exclusively for minority students,” said Sharon Dittman, the associate director of community relations for Gannett.

Dittman explained that these hirings were a part of “Gannett’s long-standing commitment to diversity.”

Hiring a diverse staff is an important part of the public face of that commitment.

“If people look in and see diversity on our staff, it is much more likely that they’ll see that this is an organization that values diversity,” she said.

Some students see minority therapists as important for another reason.

“An African-American therapist can identify with something that other people can’t, namely being black in a racially scarred country,” Kyessa Moore ’04 said.

For one residential advisor (RA), that potential for understanding opens new doors.

“I don’t think I’d be any more or less likely to recommend to people that they go to Gannett but I think it could be a bargaining point,” said Genger Charles ’04, an RA in Risley Residential College.

Moore and Charles, however, both worried that the new hires are having little impact because minority students do not know about them.

“The best way to get the word out would be over the minority listserves. It hasn’t been there, at least from what I’ve seen and I’m on two of them,” Moore said.

Charles also voiced concern about how CAPS communicates with minorities.

“I don’t think they specifically target minority communities,” Charles said.

According to Dittman, however, CAPS and Gannett try very hard to work with underrepresented communities.

“We try to be very visible but we’re not just about having credit. If we can work within networks of people on this campus, that’s good. There is a representative from Gannett on almost every possible diversity committee on this campus. Serving our diverse community is one of the number one top priorities at Gannett,” Dittman said.

Archived article by Freda Ready