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Allison Heard Named SUNY Plattsburgh Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

new dei vp allison heardAfter a comprehensive national search over the spring semester, Allison Heard was selected to assume the role as vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion at SUNY Plattsburgh.

Heard, currently director of institutional diversity and Title IX coordinator at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois, replaces Dr. Michelle Cromwell, who left the position at the end of the fall 2021 semester. Heard begins her tenure at SUNY Plattsburgh in early October.

Dr. Alexander Enyedi said that Heard “brings a depth of experience, a wealth of ideas and a background of success to the position. I welcome her to this role and am excited by all of what she brings to the position.”

UVM Graduate

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Heard is no stranger to the weather experienced in the Northeast — she earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Vermont in Burlington, in 1994 and 1996 respectively. As a student there, she actually visited the SUNY Plattsburgh campus to attend an event hosted by the Black Student Union.

“I have fond memories,” Heard said. “It was an opportunity for me to connect with others in a supportive environment. College is the place where I learned the most about diversity and where I was able to develop positive self-esteem. SUNY schools are a force to be reckoned with, and SUNY students are their own best advocates.”

With her master’s in higher education and student affairs administration, and a soon-to-be-completed doctorate at St. Francis focusing on the impact of hiring for mission and its correlation to campus culture and feelings of belonging, from St. Francis, Heard is well-suited to take the reins as vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.

“My interest in SUNY Plattsburgh is both personal and professional. Professional because this move is a growth opportunity for me with regard to the depth of work and its alignment with my background and education,” she said. The personal side comes with being not just a first-generation college student but a first-generation college student of color at a predominantly white institution in the North East.

‘Like Many SUNY Plattsburgh Students

“When I initially went to college, I was much like many of the students at SUNY Plattsburgh. I met kind and caring professionals and faculty, who worked with me as a first generation college student,” she said. “They helped me persist and earn my degree. This is my opportunity to give back to students in the same way and to use my talents and collaborative partnerships with others, on campus and in the community, to make college an option for them and to help them graduate.”

Among her work and background, one of the things of which she is most proud is her creation of a “Pause for Justice” speaker, book and radio series through the Illinois Department of Human Services Healing Illinois grant that examined racism, conscious, and unconscious bias.

Heard said she is also very proud of her collaboration with the Laverne and Dorothy Brown Library, which created a racial healing room and book collection for people seeking to learn more about the devastating impact of racism, the urgent call to anti-racism, and our awareness of lingering trauma.

With an in-depth knowledge on the impact of gender-based violence and how it informs our understanding of the neurobiology of trauma, Heard said she feels that “prevention education and upstander intervention can change the trajectory in how we understand isms, and the role we play as change agents.

“College is the place where I learned the most about diversity and where I was able to develop positive self-esteem. SUNY schools are a force to be reckoned with, and SUNY students are their own best advocates,” she said.

Cardinal ‘A Gorgeous Bird’

Calling the cardinal “a gorgeous bird known to defend their territory,” Heard said it will be an honor “to be welcomed into the Cardinal family.”

While she will remain in Joliet to finish up the last few weeks at the start of the semester, Heard hopes to hit the ground running and said the first order of business is “to take the advice of interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, Dr. Richard Miller, and to listen.”

“Sometimes people doing this work get so caught up in themselves that they do everything they want to do and nothing that the community needs. My first order of business is to learn what people care about on campus,” Heard said. “My second order of business will be to finish the important things on campus related to diversity and inclusion that others have already started and to see those things through to fruition.”

‘Draw Upon Our Strengths’

She also wants to work with others “to make the SUNY Plattsburgh family stronger.”

“My goal is to work with President Enyedi, Cabinet, and the entire campus to develop a strategic plan around diversity, equity and inclusion that will draw upon our strengths so we are able to leverage those same strengths to be one of the most attractive academic institutions for students and their families,” Heard said. “People have a lot of options about where they can attend college. We want SUNY Plattsburgh to stand out because there are already a lot of wonderful things happening on campus.”

Miller will remain as interim vice president to assist with the transition after Heard arrives on campus.

“I appreciate all of his work for SUNY Plattsburgh over 2022 and his willingness to assist in the transition,” Enyedi said. “I also thank the search committee, chaired by Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Anne Herzog, for its thorough and thoughtful review and selection of the three qualified and strong candidates for this highly competitive search.”

Shared Investment in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

“I also recognize and appreciate the high level of staff, faculty and student participation, both on campus and via Zoom, at each candidate session. Your commitment to this process demonstrates our shared investment in diversity, equity and inclusion, both on our campus and beyond,” Enyedi said.

"Heard said she is looking forward to returning to the North Country and visiting local churches, parishes, and organizations, adding, "I will gladly accept your invitation.”

Heard’s office will be in the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office located in 102 Hawkins Hall.

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