Cornell names Hemie Collier as new senior diversity officer

Cornell College is announcing the creation of a new position–senior diversity officer–as campus leaders take steps to create lasting change and address systemic racism.

Director of Intercultural Life Hemie Collier will take on the challenge.

Hemie Collier
Hemie Collier

“My main goal as the new senior diversity officer is to strengthen the college’s vision and direction for diversity, equity, and inclusion,” Collier said. “I believe we already have a direction, I will be using this role to strengthen it throughout our campus community.”

Collier will have institution-wide responsibilities, such as chairing the Diversity Committee and joining the President’s Council, which is a group that is responsible for setting institutional priorities. At the same time, he will continue to devote significant time to the student experience through programming and educational initiatives.

“Through this role, Hemie will help us to strengthen our policies, processes, and programming so that we are an even more self-reflective and thoughtful community that is focused on achieving greater equity on our campus,” said President Jonathan Brand. “Ultimately, we need to consider the ways in which we demonstrate our commitment to, appreciation for, and integration of diversity and equity throughout campus.” 

Collier, a Waukegan, Illinois, native who attended Luther College, holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Concordia University Ann Arbor, and is pursuing his doctorate in higher education from Concordia University Chicago.

Collier has been actively advocating for this position in recent months. He says while the college had been moving in this direction, the national environment of social unrest helped accelerate the change. The college will transition into the next school year with a strong focus on racial equity with Collier leading the way. 

“It’s definitely going to be one of the main focuses for the entire Cornell community moving forward,” Collier said. “First, we need to ask ourselves how are we going to tackle making our students of color and students from traditionally marginalized identities feel more comfortable on campus, and second, how are we examining what systematic racism and discrimination we may have as an institution?”

Collier says he wants the college to hold itself accountable by examining everything through a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

“We have to make sure this is our students’ home,” Collier said. “At the end of the day, I want our students to walk out of here, whether it’s our African American students, our white students, our Latinx students, our LGBTQIA students, international students, male, female, non-binary–whatever–I want them to walk out of here and say this was one of the best experiences I have ever had.”

Collier says the college is doing a lot already, such as programming for students and diversity training sessions for faculty and staff, but the college wants to work on becoming more transparent with students about the steps the college is taking. 

“What policies do we have in place that are not only saying that we have diversity, equity, and inclusion, but how are we  carrying out the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion?” Collier said. “If we look at the curriculum–is it aligned with our diversity and inclusion statement? Are we working toward the goals that we set?” 

Collier said this work won’t be easy, and it will take the entire community, including alumni.

“In order to change an environment, in order to change a culture, it takes work, it takes time, and it takes patience,” Collier said. “It will take everyone within the Cornell community, both past and present, to work as one to see the Hilltop continue to grow and provide a space where everyone can learn and reach their full potential.”

This year will be the first official year for Cornell’s new curriculum, known as Ingenuity. Texts and courses associated with the First-Year Seminar and the Second Year Seminar will aim to increase understanding of race and racial equity. Faculty members also recently reviewed their courses and are finding more opportunities to engage students about these topics. They’ve pinpointed classes (listed below by block) that can teach about racialized histories and their role in contemporary structural inequality, deconstruct white privilege, celebrate black and brown people and their achievements, challenge racism in the criminal justice system, and work for justice. 

  • Block 1: PSY 276, ANT 308, PHI 354, SOC 317
  • Block 2: ANT 101, SOC 255, ART 272, ANT 312, PHI 308
  • Block 3: REL 129, SOC 101, ENG 111, GSS 270, LAS 235, ANT 2260, HIS 358, SPA 350
  • Block 4: SOC 101, ANT 101, GSS 171, POL 334, HIS 320
  • Block 5: SOC 101
  • Block 6: SOC 101, HIS 154, EDU 160, ANT 359, SOC 343
  • Block 7: ANT 101, ANT 222, ENG 351, HIS 354, HIS 335, PHI 362, SOC 348
  • Block 8: SOC 248, SPA 365

Collier says all of this work won’t be easy, so it will take the entire community.

“In order to change an environment, in order to change a culture, it takes work, it takes time, and it takes patience,” Collier said. 

All of this work will make a big difference for each and every one of Cornell’s students who are vital to our community and vital to who we are.