Strategic Diversity Plan

December 2016 [Updated February 2021]

Diversity Statement


At Hobart and William Smith Colleges we strive to create a just and inclusive environment where all students, faculty, staff and our wider community are valued and respected. We believe that diversity in identity and perspective enriches our community and prepares us all to lead lives of consequence. We recognize that historical practices and policies have privileged certain groups while excluding others from institutions of higher education, and thus the work of diversity at HWS seeks to account for those inequities by promoting college access and working to ensure that every member of the HWS community has an equal opportunity to thrive and experience belonging.

Strategic Diversity Plan Background


The 2015-2016 academic year was marked by challenges and opportunities as colleges around the country confronted issues of inclusion and diversity. Students organized protests, sit-ins and occupied administrative buildings in the name of social justice and equity. Much like institutions around the country, students of color at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (HWS) organized a protest to shed light on their experiences on campus. Months of planning between senior administrators and students from the collective “we the unheard” resulted in significant changes for the Colleges, namely the decision to hire a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) and the diversification of the student counseling center. Prior to hiring a CDO, President Mark D. Gearan appointed an interim CDO and convened a committee of faculty, students, staff and the chair of the Board of Trustees (refer to appendix A) to develop a strategic diversity plan (SDP) which would help inform the role of the CDO as well as establish institutional priorities. In 2020 a Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was identified, and soon thereafter convened a Council on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (CODEI), consisting of faculty, staff, students, alums and other Geneva residents. Among their mandate was to identify appropriate updates to the Strategic Diversity Plan. This updated plan was also submitted to Senior Staff, and the Board of Trustees Task Force for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for feedback. The updates are included in the current plan.

Strategic Diversity Plan Introduction

Efforts to engender meaningful change depend on institutional support and resources, deliberate action, and ongoing assessment. The Strategic Diversity Plan (SDP) represents an institutional commitment to creating positive social change. It offers HWS an opportunity to declare its deepest held values and articulate ways of upholding those commitments both on campus and in the Geneva community. It is a living document which guides the institution in developing strategies that promote equity and diversify the community.

The plan includes goals and recommendations organized along six key areas: Teaching and Learning, Recruitment and Retention, Space, Student Relations, Community Development and Institutional Research. In order to ensure community buy-in for the plan, once a draft was created, multiple opportunities to solicit feedback were offered including two town hall meetings and an online form. Feedback from those venues were used to develop the final plan.

The first section, Teaching and Learning, explores three main areas which include: the curriculum, professional development for employees and the educational environment for students. The section encourages departments to engage in conversations about their respective curriculums vis-a-vis diversity education, articulates the need for faculty and staff development and offers ways to create a more inclusive student-learning environment.

The following section focuses on Recruitment and Retention and explores ways to attract and retain a more diverse student and employee population. Specifically, the recommendations address the prioritization of diversity throughout all hiring and admissions efforts, the development and routinization of assessment efforts, and the strengthening of identity groups that provide support to historically underrepresented groups.

The third section is dedicated to the enhancement of the physical space to promote equity, dialogue and a strong sense of community. Recommendations include both the construction of new spaces for socializing as well as upgrades to existing spaces which serve historically underrepresented populations.

The Student Relations component of the SDP emphasizes the need to increase and enhance student engagement around issues related to social justice and diversity, measures to increase accountability around hate speech and bias incidents, and an examination of the coordinate system.

Acknowledging the important work already being done by HWS in the Geneva community, the fifth section on community development focuses exclusively on issues pertaining to economic instability and the barriers that economically disadvantaged populations face in Geneva.

Lastly, the section on Institutional Research aims to insure that HWS will make decisions about inclusion and strategic planning based on current and historical data. These data will be disaggregated when appropriate and will serve as an important framework through which we can work to understand the lived experience of students, faculty, staff, alums and the Geneva community.

Strategic Diversity Plan Terminology

In order to ensure a collective understanding of the terms used in this document, the definitions of diversity, inclusion and equity have been included below. The definitions of these terms come from the American Association of Colleges and Universities’ framework on inclusive excellence as well as CODEI’s recommendations.

  • Diversity: Diversity reflects many kinds of individual and social differences. Our working definition of diversity focuses on representational and social differences that are shaped by wider considerations of social equity. These include federal and state protected categories as well as other differences. [Federally Protected Categories: Age, creed, disability, domestic violence victim status, gender identity or expression, familial status, lawful source of income, marital status, military status, predisposing genetic characteristics, pregnancy-related conditions, prior arrest or conviction record, race/color, sex, sexual orientation].
  • Equity: The creation of opportunities for historically underrepresented populations to have equal access to and participate in educational programs that are capable of closing the achievement gaps in student success and completion.
    More information.
  • Inclusion: The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical) with which individuals might connect—in ways that increase one's awareness, content knowledge, cognitive sophistication, and empathic understanding of the complex ways individuals interact within systems and institutions.
  • Belonging: Belonging is the feeling of security and support an individual experiences in their learning and labor. It is about a sense of acceptance, and inclusion of identities from their community. It is when an individual can bring their authentic self to their professional, educational, and personal endeavors.

Strategic Diversity Plan Goals and Recommendations

The updated (2021) SDP includes six key areas: Teaching and Learning, Recruitment and Retention, Space, Student Relations, Community Development and Institutional Research. The following section represents goals and recommendations developed by DEI committees.

Area 1: Teaching and Learning

Goal 1: Ensure that the HWS curriculum demonstrates that diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice are fully addressed in a variety of ways.

Recommendation 1.1: Foster discussions within departments, programs, and offices focused on improving ways in which our courses, pedagogy, research, service, and co-curricular opportunities enhance diversity education, experiences and provide support for students from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

Recommendation 1.2: Provide tangible financial and structural support for emergent ideas and initiatives.

Recommendation 1.3: Create and maintain a robust accountability system that builds on existing processes and improves means for self-assessment.

Goal 2: Ensure that HWS faculty and staff are prepared to effectively address issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice inside and outside of the classroom.

Recommendation 2.1: Train and support faculty and staff to enhance their ability to a) develop greater competency in cross-cultural, inclusive communication, b) effectively engage students in conversations related to diversity, inclusion, equity and justice, c) use inclusive teaching approaches that address the range of learning strengths and needs of all students, including universal design for learning approaches and materials and d) provide safe, supportive environments that promote student learning and address classroom dynamics.

Recommendation 2.2: Provide financial and staffing resources to the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) so that the Office in collaboration with the Provost’s Office, Office of Finance and Human Resources can provide support and outreach to departments, programs, offices and the institution.

Recommendation 2.3: Support regular curriculum revisions that will address changes in curricular goals that reflect the Colleges’ diversity, equity and inclusion values.

Goal 3: Ensure that HWS students are provided with an educational environment where they are respected, valued, supported and can experience belonging.

Recommendation 3.1: Establish a peer mentor program to support incoming first years. This program could assist in connecting first years to the wider campus and serve as a way to further build community within the first-year classes.

Recommendation 3.2: Expand the operational capacity of the Office of Disability Services to support an increasing number of students with disabilities and diverse learning needs at HWS.

Recommendation 3.3: Provide a fully accessible learning environment, including physical access to all buildings and grounds.

Recommendation 3.4: Address socio-economic issues that impact access to educational opportunities such as the cost of classroom materials (books, supplies, etc.) and other economic barriers that may prevent students from fully engaging in all that HWS has to offer.

Recommendation 3.5: Creation of an accessible student emergency fund in which will support students as they incur unanticipated needs.

Area 2: Recruitment and Retention

Goal 1: Create an institution-wide plan for recruiting faculty, staff and administrators to ensure that we meet clear institutional diversity goals.

Recommendation 1.1: Develop new ways to hire HWS employees, attract diverse applicants and construct diverse hiring committees that are consistent across positions in order to promote institutional transparency.

Recommendation 1.2: Establish a duly compensated and certified/trained affirmative action professional who will track and report on how well HWS meets or exceeds our affirmative action targets.

  • Adopt an affirmative action plan for staff hiring to better provide equal employment opportunities.
  • Establish mechanisms to consistently increase the recruitment of underrepresented faculty and staff.

Recommendation 1.3: Establish faculty and staff retention strategies that will guarantee their growth, well being and sense of community of minoritized groups.

Recommendation 1.4: Assess the Colleges’ campus climate around diversity, equity and inclusion so that staff and faculty thrive in a welcoming and safe environment.

Goal 2: Increase the representation of students from historically underrepresented groups to more adequately represent national demographics.

Recommendation 2.1: Establish mechanisms to consistently increase the recruitment of underrepresented groups particularly students of color, first generation students, international students and students with diverse socio-economic backgrounds. 

Recommendation 2.2: Review the current systems in place for awarding financial aid and consider new opportunities that will enhance diversity within the incoming classes.

Recommendation 2.3: Establish a reporting process by which student recruitment and retention strategies and their success are shared with the campus community on a regular basis.

Recommendation 2.4: Require training for all HWS employees involved in the Admissions process (including staff and faculty involved in the admissions process but located outside of the Office of Admissions) to make certain that issues of diversity and inclusion are understood at all levels to enhance the recruitment of a very diverse class of incoming students.

Goal 3: Strengthen the identity of cultural clubs and affinity groups such as the student cultural clubs, institutional initiatives like the First Generation Initiative, and employee affinity groups to make certain they are all empowered with appropriate resources.

Recommendation 3.1: Ensure that institutional resources are directed to the various clubs, organizations and initiatives that provide support and resources to historically underrepresented groups.

Recommendation 3.2: Consider alternative funding structures that would allow these groups budgetary freedom from the fluctuations of a student-driven budget allocation process.

Goal 4: Study and assess, in an ongoing manner, issues of recruitment and retention as they relate to diversity and inclusion across the institution.

Recommendation 4.1: Develop ongoing assessment practices aimed at improving diversity and inclusion in the recruitment and retention of faculty, students and staff. This should be part of routine institutional level assessments and evaluations. 

Recommendation 4.2: Monitor tenure success rates and turnover rates for faculty by gender, race and ethnicity and take appropriate steps for improvement where needed.

Recommendation 4.3: Implement exit interviews to determine why HWS employees leave, particularly members from historically underrepresented groups. Engage in an historical analysis to determine patterns or trends among groups.

Goal 5: Ensure that all the members of the Colleges’ community are subject and accountable to the same institutional values and expectations designed to support inclusion, equity and an understanding of difference.

Recommendation 5.1: Offer campus wide training for students and HWS employees (faculty, administrators and staff at all levels) on issues around diversity and inclusion and uphold a consistent expectation for all members of the community to engage in diversity education.

Recommendation 5.2: Recognize and reward offices, departments, programs and individuals that contribute to promoting diversity, inclusion and equity by a) supporting diversity programming, b) valuing such contributions in teaching, service and scholarship through the tenure and promotion process for faculty and the performance evaluation process for staff and c) granting awards, fellowships and/or other formal recognitions for such activities. 

Recommendation 5.3: Make diversity a campus-wide priority by aligning divisional goals and missions with the SDP, so that individual offices and employees are expected to support the work of diversity and inclusion. Performance evaluations should reflect such expectations accordingly.

Area 3: Space

Goal 1: Enhance the physical environment on campus to protect the safety of all members of campus – students, faculty and staff - while also promoting dialogue, engagement, and community.

Recommendation 1.1: Establish a committee with representation from students, faculty, and staff to advise in the planning and redesigning of social spaces across campus. This committee should have representation from a variety of student constituencies, with particular emphasis on groups that are underrepresented on campus and/or lack social spaces over which they have control. This committee should be convened by the President in consultation with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and it should be included in all conversations about the configuration of space with departments such as Buildings and Grounds and Student Activities.

Recommendation 1.2: Create a physical space (standalone building) that is dedicated to social interaction where all members of the HWS community would feel comfortable and have access regardless of race, gender identity, ability, sexuality, age, class, religion. This building must have spaces that are usable by both individuals and groups and are conducive to activities that include: informal studying, small group meetings and gatherings, and campus-wide events (such as films, conversations, music and open mic performances). This building should provide services that support the population and activities that use it (such as food, comfortable seating, and flexible furniture arrangements).

Recommendation 1.3:Create Small Social Spaces throughout Campus that are open 24 hours a day.

  • Residential Halls: Create additional spaces in each residential building in which students can socialize. These should be configured to accommodate studying, watching TV, and hanging out. Each floor housing first-year students should have its own residential lounge for students, and each building housing juniors and seniors should have at least one residential lounge
  •  Arts Campus Enhancement: Create a lounge on the arts campus that provides dining options as well as places to study and congregate.
  • Relaxed Study Academic Space: Create a study lounge where students have casual seating to work and study with access to printers.
  • Extended hours for common space: Offer additional spaces that empower student interaction and connectivity and ensure that existing spaces on campus are adequately advertised to students.

Recommendation 1.4: Provide additional safety precautions and monitoring in campus spaces such as additional lighting across campus to ensure visibility, as well as Blue Light and other warning/alert systems. Balance an increased level of security patrols of common space with respect for student autonomy and independence. 

Recommendation 1.5: Assess the accessibility of all facilities on campus for people with disabilities and take necessary steps to make them fully accessible.This assessment should take no longer than one year and must include a five to ten-year plan to achieve this goal. 

Recommendation 1.6: Continue efforts to install gender-neutral and physically accessible bathrooms in all residence halls and campus buildings. Ensure that the publicity of these locations is widely disseminated and accessible to the campus community. Develop an institutional policy which ensures that all new construction includes gender neutral and physically accessible restrooms.

Recommendation 1.7: Pool and equitably re-allocate all living spaces on campus.

  • Equitable Selection Process:  Consider mechanisms to solicit student feedback and input in the assignment of non-dormitory housing.
  • Equitable Distribution of Spaces:  Revisit the question of fraternity housing as it impacts the equity, distribution, and access to space of overall student housing. Determine whether Greek Life is in concert with goals of equity and inclusion across student housing.
  • Study Impact of Coordinate System: Assess the distribution and utilization of spaces between and across both Hobart College and William Smith College to ensure equitable distribution. Things to consider as part of equity include: distance to academic buildings and the library, distance to administrative support, convenience of dining and facilities.

Recommendation 1.8: Ensure that the new common dining hall for faculty and staff supports the hours, space, and availability conducive to faculty and staff utilization and engagement.

Area 4: Student Relations

Goal 1: Foster dialogue to promote understanding across different student identities and experiences

Recommendation 1.1: Create opportunities to infuse diversity education throughout the student co-curricular experience (paying particular attention to where gaps may exist).

Recommendation 1.2: Revive the Common Read to generate intergroup dialogues around issues of diversity and inclusion.

Recommendation 1.3: Continue generating opportunities for dialogue between Campus Safety Officers and all students, including those from historically underrepresented backgrounds, in an effort to support critical dialogue and conversations about race inequality and cultural divides.

Recommendation 1.4: Assess the Colleges’ campus climate around diversity, equity and inclusion so that students thrive in a welcoming and safe environment.

Recommendation 1.5: Develop student engagement initiatives that ensure students’ well-being and success.

Goal 2: Increase accountability for bias incidents, hate speech, and instances of discrimination

Recommendation 2.1: Reevaluate and develop clear and consistent policies when responding to such incidents.

Recommendation 2.2: Foster a more coordinated community response to bias incidents, hate speech, and instances of discrimination.

Goal 3: Acknowledge the contemporary understanding of gender identity and the implications of the binary coordinate system.

Recommendation 3.1: Ensure that procedures, policies, and practices throughout the institution recognize and support transgender and gender diverse students so they can fully and seamlessly participate in social, academic, athletic, co-curricular, and community experiences.

Recommendation 3.2: Provide opportunities to educate students, faculty and staff about transgender and gender diverse experiences.

Area 5: Community Development

Goal 1: Ensure economic vitality in Geneva through the development of services and resources at HWS.

Recommendation 1.1: Review hiring practices at HWS to ensure local economically vulnerable populations have sufficient access to jobs at HWS.

Recommendation 1.2: Work with Sodexo to ensure local economically vulnerable populations have similar access to their jobs.

Recommendation 1.3: Implement community outreach/communication programs to better promote opportunities at HWS and Sodexo to local economically vulnerable populations. (Work with churches, neighborhoods, list serves, etc.)

Recommendation 1.4: Consider using The Ontario ARC College Experience Program as a model for implementing programs to support economically vulnerable populations.

Goal 2: Create strong outreach programs and strategies from HWS to the Geneva community to positively influence employment opportunities for residents.

Recommendation 2.1: Work with Geneva Workforce Development to identify skills gaps for economically vulnerable populations and develop regular bilingual training programs/workshops to address the gaps.

Recommendation 2.2: Develop a mentoring/job coaching/skills training program for residents who are trying to enter/re-enter the workforce.

Recommendation 2.3: Identify, support and/or establish partnerships with existing Geneva agency programs that are working to reduce barriers to employment (e.g., LAWNY’s Unemployment and Employment & Reentry Program for the specific subset of formerly incarcerated population, Geneva Boys and Girls Club Education and Career programs).

Goal 3: Launch initiatives to promote and support small business opportunities within the Geneva community.

Recommendation 3.1: Establish an inventory and an historical timeline of the participation of women and communities of color in small business ownership in Geneva to better understand barriers that may exist.

Recommendation 3.2: Develop a supplier diversity policy for HWS which would promote the use of women, minority and/or LGBT owned businesses.

Recommendation 3.3: Meet with current small business owners within these populations to identify the unique challenges and barriers to small business ownership.

Recommendation 3.4: Find ways that the Colleges can address any issues/barriers that are identified. Determine what current programs/initiatives are already in place and identify ways to support them or implement new opportunities as needed.

Goal 4: Create a Community Employment Task Force using the Geneva 2020 framework to bring all appropriate community resources and stakeholders together to address and reduce the barriers local residents face to full employment.

Recommendation 4.1: Identify prospective members from HWS and the Geneva community.

Recommendation 4.2: Define a mission, vision, goals and a timeline for the work of the Task Force

Area 6: Institutional Research

Goal 1: Identify equity gaps, with a particular emphasis on race/ethnicity and the experiences of Black, Asian, Latinx, Indigenous and Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander peoples and other historically underrepresented identities and backgrounds.

Recommendation 1: In coordination with The Office of Institutional Research and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will collect, analyze, visualize and share institutional data that are meaningfully and appropriately disaggregated by identity categories (race/ethnicity, gender identity, disability, among others), to drive data informed decision making at the Colleges.

Recommendation 2: Develop an Equity Dashboard that is easy to access and visualize.

Recommendation 3: Identify additional data or evidence to analyze that may reveal additional patterns or inequities, such as broadening identity markers beyond Common Application categories.

Goal 2: Identify policies, practices and procedures that create barriers for student success.

Recommendation 1: Disaggregate institutional assessment data on high demand and special programs with a focus on relevant practices.

Recommendation 2: Identify additional data or evidence to analyze that may reveal additional patterns or inequities, such as broadening identity markers beyond Common Application categories.

Goal 3: Analyze the ways in which these data enable us to inform and challenge our beliefs, perceived notions and stereotypes about students of underrepresented identities and/or backgrounds.

Recommendation 1: Institutional Research and ODEI conduct community-wide dialogues based on evidence collected to support data-informed decision-making at the Colleges.

Recommendation 2: Address any equity gaps that are identified and celebrate any accomplishments and/or movement forward in narrowing these gaps.

Appendix A SDP 2016 Committee

Josiah Bramble, Student 
Maurice Charles, Chaplain 
Donna Davenport, Dance Faculty 
Mark Gearan, President 
Tanisha Genao, Student 
Keoka Grayson, Economics Faculty 
Lou Guard, President’s Office 
Lisa Kaenzig, William Smith Dean’s Office 
Mary Kelly, Education Faculty 
DeWayne Lucas, Provost’s Office 
Heather May, Theatre Faculty 
Alejandra Molina, Intercultural Affairs 
Afrika Owes, Office of Diversity & Inclusion 
Erin Pelkey, Chemistry Faculty  
Carlos Robles, Student 
Solomé Rose, Office of Diversity & Inclusion 
Niame Traore, Student 
Maureen Zupan, Board of Trustees 

Appendix B Council on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 2021-2022

Becca Barile, Associate Vice President for Campus Life
William Boerner, Assistant Vice President/Title IX Coordinator
Zaheer Bowen, Student Trustee
Rebecca Burditt, Associate Professor of Media and Society
Christian Calienes, Director of Institutional Research
Nancy Cheri-Arif, DEI Assistant/Program Coordinator
Martin Corbett, Director of Campus Safety
Skip Darden, Alum
Jane Erickson, Trustee
Brandi Ferrara, Director of the Salisbury Center
Keoka Grayson, Associate Professor of Economics
Xiomara Hall, Alum
Khuram Hussain, VP for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Irini Konstantinou, Student Trustee
Melissa Joyce-Rosen, Director of Leadership Giving
Christopher Lemelin, Associate Professor of Russian Area Studies 
Jamie MaKinster, Associate Provost
Alejandra Molina, Director of the Intercultural Affairs Center
Ani Mukherji, Assistant Professor of American Studies 
Alan Paynter, Director of Admissions
Susan Pliner, Dean for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment & Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning
Darlene Polanco, Alum
Jason Ramos, Student
Michael Rawlins, Trustee 
Rafael Rodriguez, Alum
Brian Sales, Alum 
Lindsay Sharman, Head Basketball Coach
Gib Shea, Student Trustee
Sarah Starks, Student
E. Tejada, Associate Director of the LGBTQ+ RC and IC
Stefan Thompson, Head Basketball Coach
Nuzhat Wahid, Student Trustee
Tenzin Yonten, Student


Appendix C Achieved Recommendations

Recruitment and Retention, Goal 1, Recommendation 1.5: Reevaluate and potentially redesign the Intercultural Affairs Center. Given its importance as a hub for underrepresented students on campus and its use as a social gathering space, formal event location, and potential use for academic coordination, this space needs to be welcoming and functional for student, group, and activities. Consult with the staff of the Intercultural Affairs Center as well as student, faculty, staff, and community users of the space to uncover and address the strengths and limitations of the facility. 

  • Initiated Fall 2020
  • In progress Spring 2021

Recruitment and Retention, Goal 4, Recommendation 4.3: Hire and/or adequately staff a full time Institutional Research department at HWS with statisticians who specialize in population movements to help inform long-term recruitment and admissions efforts.

  • Completed Spring 2021

Student Relations, Goal 2, Recommendation 2.1: Goal 2: Increase accountability for hate speech, instances of discrimination and microaggression.
Recommendation 2.1: Strengthen the bias incident reporting process and ensure there
are opportunities to report back to the community, where applicable.

  • Established Bias Incident Reporting process
  • Established the Bias Incident Report Team (BIRT)

Student Relations, Goal 3, Recommendation 3.1: Facilitate a campus-wide conversation about the coordinate system to inform the overall direction and configuration of the Colleges.

  • Initiated Fall 2018
  • Assessed Spring 2019
  • Continued follow up Fall 2021

Appendix D No Longer Relevant Recommendations

Recruitment and Retention, Goal 2, Recommendation 2.3: Consider the use of additional application materials (e.g. supplemental questions, as used at peer institutions) to send a clear message to applicants about our institutional core values.

  • Implemented Fall 2017
  • Assessed Spring 2018

Student Relations, Goal 1, Recommendation 1.3 Support the efforts of Mosaic New York to reach larger audiences at HWS in order to increase the awareness of social justice issues.

Not currently operating