More than 50 students from Hamilton College and the five other New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium’s member institutions gathered at Colgate University on Sept. 24 for a Student Diversity Leadership Conference. The conference featured a keynote address by Michael Benitez, Jr., a social justice educator, speaker and activist-scholar, whose work integrates hip hop pedagogy, academic inquiry and personal experience.
“Diversity is a journey, not a destination,” Benitez said. “You don’t reach a place called ‘diversity’ and end your journey. Diversity is an intentional process that requires patience.”
Benitez also addressed the necessary elements of diversity leadership. “You have to conceptualize leadership from different perspectives, not just your own,” he advised. He encouraged the students to understand the dynamics of power and to address the structures of leadership in seeking ways to use difference as a means of uniting their campuses.
“The Leadership Conference provided an opportunity for students to understand that they are part of the transformation taking place in many of the college communities represented,” said Hamilton’s Chief Diversity Officer Donald Carter. “Some students, like those [attending] from Hamilton, are involved with a highly supportive alumni group and recognize that they are a link in a chain that extends through time connecting their experience with others with like experiences playing out in very different times.”
Among the other Hamilton attendees were Consulting Director of the Cultural Education Center Madeleine Lopez, Associate Dean of Students for Diversity and Accessibility Allen Harrison, Jr., Associate Director of Alumni Relations Laurieann Russell, Yongsun Kwon ’11, Denise A Ghartey ’12 and Laura Lee Smith ’11.
Over the course of the day-long event, students and staff also discussed student advising and retention, student empowerment, and the in- and out-of-the-classroom experience.
“This was the first major event sponsored by the New York Six, and it was a great success,” said Amy Cronin, special assistant to the presidents for the consortium. “The students were very engaged in the discussions, and I expect that the network created at the conference will result in continued dialogue in the months to come.”
The New York Six will sponsor diversity programs for its members’ faculty and staff over the course of the 2010-11 academic year, culminating in a diversity summit to bring together the ideas generated by these sessions.
“It was especially gratifying to see the students sharing contact information and announcing upcoming events on their campuses at the end of the day,” Cronin noted. “To establish connections across our member campuses is what this collaboration is all about.”
The New York Six Liberal Arts Consortium is a cooperative venture of six upstate New York liberal arts institutions: Colgate University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, St. Lawrence University, Skidmore College, and Union College.
Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Consortium facilitates collaboration among its member institutions in fulfilling their educational missions and serving the public good. Hamilton is the designated grantee for the project and serves as a hub for the consortium with fiduciary and reporting responsibilities. Through the sharing of expertise and resources, the Consortium enhances opportunities for students, faculty, and staff, while reducing colleges' individual and collective operating and capital costs.