March 9, 2011

Letter to the Editor: Setting the record straight on OMEA

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To the Editor:

Re: “Cornell Closes Minority Educational Office, Promises to Create Replacement,” News, March 7

Monday’s article was misleading regarding several aspects of the new initiative to enhance and improve Cornell’s programs for underrepresented students. The Office of Minority Educational Affairs is not “closing,” nor being “dissolved.”  Rather, sometime this summer, the office will be renamed as the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, and its mission will be honed to focus on academic support and success for a diverse undergraduate student body, increasing collaboration with college advising offices and establishing a partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Research. Two components of OMEA, the Minority Finance Commission and funding for minority-serving student organizations, will be moved to the Dean of Students Office. Other components of OMEA, including the New York State Opportunity Programs Office (HEOP and EOP), the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program, the Cornell Professional Opportunities Program and student worker co-funding, will remain in the renamed Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives. A national search is underway for an Assistant Vice Provost for Academic Diversity Initiatives to lead this office (replacing the vacant OMEA Executive Director position). Currently the staff of OMEA are split between two locations, Barnes Hall and Comstock Hall. Plans are underway to bring all the staff of OADI together in one location, to increase their effectiveness and accessibility for students.

In addition, a national search is underway for an Associate Dean for Inclusion and Professional Development in the Graduate School, located in Caldwell Hall, to work with students from groups historically underrepresented in graduate education, emphasizing development of skills to enable graduate and professional students to be successful in their academic pursuits at Cornell and in seeking appropriate careers. An internal search is underway for an Associate Dean of Students for Intercultural Programs who will play a leadership role in fostering communication and collaboration among various student life organizations — including those that will be housed at 626 Thurston Avenue — the Asian & Asian American Center, the African Latino Asian Native American student programming board, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Resource Center and Cornell Alumni-Student Mentoring Program.

We anticipate all three of these new positions will work collaboratively to guide vision, programs and resources toward achieving university goals for an academically successful and diverse student body. We anticipate each of these positions will be successfully filled before the start of fall semester.

Barbara A. Knuth, Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School