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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Moves to HUB, Ramps Up Programming

staff from dei

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion staff members, seated in the HUB, include (l-r): Travis Gorham, Michael Thompson, Jennifer Bleaux, David Duprey and Vice President Allison Heard.

Changes are coming to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, not the least of which is its move back to the Angell College Center and the HUB.

After a brief stint in Hawkins Hall, DEI made the move over the summer back to the Angell College Center location in order to meet the needs of students in a more centrally located space, said Allison Heard, vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Heard said the location in Hawkins proved to be inconvenient for students in a variety of ways. For one, Hawkins is away from the central “hub” of activity on campus and the ACC is open until midnight, which lends itself to HUB programming throughout the day, evening and weekends, she said.

“The HUB was designed to be a hub, an area of activity where people could meet, gather, exchange ideas and be an inclusive space across campus,” she said.

Travis Gorham, multicultural student success coach, has in recent months been the sole HUB occupant from DEI, but if students were entering for any other, more “elevated issue than the coaching Travis provides, they’d have to come see me over in Hawkins Hall, and that would sometimes lead to them saying it wasn’t worth the effort,” Heard said. “We realized we were making people put a lot of effort and energy into connecting with us.”

Title IX to Return to Campus

The change in campus geography is just one of the new initiatives Heard is excited about as the university enters a new academic year.

“One of the things I’m most excited about is bringing Title IX back,” she said. Title IX is the most commonly used name for the U.S. federal civil rights law enacted as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or any other education program that receives funding from the federal government.

“One of the things I heard clearly when I was a candidate (for DEI vice president in spring 2022) is that we need Title IX back on campus,” Heard said. The university brought on a remote interim coordinator for Title IX upon the August 2021 departure of Butterfly Blaise Boire. A search is underway to bring a new coordinator on board, she said.

“I’m energized and excited for the day when we can announce to our campus that we have a person here for people to see who will also be working on prevention programs where distance and location will not be a barrier for people who have experienced harm,” she said.

Passport Retention Program

Another new initiative out of DEI is the Passport Retention Program, which encourages students to attend programs, events and participate in other campus activities that contribute to success.

Co-sponsored by the Plattsburgh College Foundation, Heard said, “It’s almost like a buffet of workshops and activities where students receive punches on their ‘passport’ for activities they participate in such as time management skills, learning how to calculate grade point average, checking out reference books, learning rules around plagiarism, and other fun things.

“We decided our BIPOC, LGBTQ and first-generation college students need a passport to success, but we didn’t just want to ‘give’ them a passport — we want to walk with them,” she said.

Students will get a punch for going to Community Night, Black Solidarity Day, Black History Month events and more.

“The goal is to travel with our students. They’ll get a planner that contains quotes and other information to help keep them motivated,” Heard said. With 12 punches for a full card, Heard estimated most students could do half of the punches each semester.

“If they finish half per semester, they’ll earn prizes,” she said.

Other DEI events and initiatives coming up include:

  • DEI Employee Belonging and Welcome Back Event Wednesday, Aug 30 from 5 to 7 p.m. in Au Sable Hall. Enjoy refreshments and a live jazz band.
  • Community Night at the Pond Friday, Sept. 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hawkins Pond. Enjoy community and the kick-off to Parents Weekend.
  • Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance Pride Parade Saturday, Sept. 30 beginning at 11 a.m. at Brinkerhoff and Beekman streets. Participants will march to Trinity Park where Pride events will take place.

travis gorham and community advocatesAdditional events this semester will include partnering with the Office of Alumni Relations for Homecoming 2023 with DEI Unity Day Party by the Pond Saturday, Oct. 14 from noon to 2, welcoming all diverse students and alumni in concert with the MLK Committee, Plattsburgh State Gospel Choir and Fraternity/Sorority Life and an alumni jazz brunch Sunday, Oct. 15, and DEI Black Solidarity Day Nov. 6.


Travis Gorham speaks to community advocates during a DEI training session.

DEI Personnel Changes

Heard said she is looking forward to re-introducing students, faculty and staff to all the HUB and DEI have to offer through its services, support and personnel. In addition to Heard, Gorham and a new Title IX coordinator, the slate in DEI is rounded out by

  • Michael Thompson, affirmative action officer formerly in Human Resource Services, and new special projects coordinator
  • David Duprey, former English language specialist in the Learning Center and now executive director for the Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Campus Center
  • Jennifer Bleaux, administrative assistant.

“The monthly healing circles of the TRHT will continue, but David will also add learning circles, which are for people not familiar with the healing circle format, and a post-circle cool-down period where participants can decompress, maybe talk and engage, maybe have refreshments,” Heard said. “I’m really excited about using this space (the HUB) more in more diverse ways.”

Thompson will focus on more than affirmative action and human resource duties, Heard said.

“We talk about student recruitment and retention, but we don’t talk about employee recruitment and retention,” she said. “We’re working on a recruitment strategy for the entire university. Mike will go out, get our name out more to colleges and different schools, talking up SUNY Plattsburgh.

“We’ve totally revamped the university’s exit survey, which DEI will now be responsible for. We want to use it as a tool to make us a better and stronger workforce,” she said. “We’ll be collecting data, trends, reasons people might be leaving. What are some of the things were seeing that can make us more competitive.”

Equity Advocates Program

Heard said the university also will be certifying more employees as equity advocates, a program begun in 2021.

“By fall 2026, we want everyone in our workforce trained as an equity advocate,” she said. “We’ll also be hosting more professional development opportunities. Instead of talking to people about what they should have done, we want to be training them during monthly brown bag lunches on what they can do.

“A lot of exciting things are coming out of DEI,” Heard said.

For more information, contact Heard at 518-564-5410 or email [email protected].

— Photos, Story by Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs

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