Making this a Place for Everyone
In November of 2017, SUNY Cobleskill named Scott Ferguson its new Chief Diversity Officer. Having worked at – and, in a number of cases, owned – several different enterprises, he’s gained many significant insights into the dynamics of human interaction.
“Until recently, I was in the computer business in South Carolina,” Scott says, “and I helped create a diversity initiative that resulted in a fundamental improvement in the way our company operated. Seeing is believing, as they say, and I quickly became convinced that programs like that can make a world of difference in any sort of organization.”
Though newly appointed, Scott has already been actively taking part in discussions concerning the bringing about of “One Coby Campus Community.” “We’re working to formulate a strategy that fosters open, productive discussions of diversity, equity and inclusion between all of SUNY Cobleskill’s stakeholders. That means our faculty, students, administrators and staff,” he says. “It’s important that we’re all in this together.” Fortunately, there is already one program on campus that could conceivably serve as a template for how some aspects of such an effort might be accomplished. It’s called the Empire of Change.
The Empire of Change was founded in 2015 by a group of students who wanted to address issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. They arrived at the idea of holding a series of open forums addressing such topics as the confederate flag, healthy relationships and politics. The byword was that any and all in attendance, regardless of background or personal identity, were given equal time and close attention to what they had to say. The club’s dedication to openness has subsequently given rise to such events as an annual fashion show, the presentation of an original play and widely varied service projects. Simply put, the Empire of Change is inclusion in action.
“I think that sort of program is a fine example of what we’ll be trying to do,” says Scott. “I’ve always believed that any strategy in an effort like this has to be broad-based, to be one that touches and involves every single part of a large community. The good news is that SUNY Cobleskill already fosters a very collaborative and cooperative culture. Many places don’t have that kind of head start. Happily, we do.”
Feature photo of Scott Ferguson, Chief Diversity Officer, taken by by Mohamed Baligh ’12, Communications & Marketing New Media Specialist