Alumni of Color Association creates community for Cornellians

In October 2019 I walked into the Thomas Commons, excited about my 10-year class reunion, but I found myself isolated again. After a close observation, I realized 99% of the alumni celebrating their return did not look like me. 

I immediately became conflicted. My memories of learning how to navigate a new environment full of microaggressions and difficult conversations were mixed with the celebration of Lyrically Inclined’s first poetry slams and laughter in the dining hall. My entire reason for staying at Cornell was the amount of energy and compassion poured into me from the Office of Intercultural Life. Even though I stayed after graduation to provide support for students, the disconnect and lack of support for students of color can give alumni of color very little reason to return. 

Recognizing this disconnect, the senior diversity officer and a few key alumni jump-started the Alumni of Color Association. The grassroots initiative develops positive relationships between alumni of color and Cornell College while assisting students of color in their academic journey, civic participation, campus engagement, and career development. The Association’s role with students will be vital to building the connection between future alumni of color and the college.  

“I’m most excited about connecting Cornell students of color to extraordinary opportunities beyond Cornell and being a resource to students of color as they matriculate,” said founding member Ariel Harris ’13.

Associate Professor of Chemistry Jai Shanata ’05, also a founding member, said the Association is needed as there is no single organization representing this constituency.

“Creating this organization will create a voice for Cornell’s alumni of color,” he said. “I’ve had more contact with alumni of color in the past several months than I had in the preceding several years. This has been a rewarding and cathartic experience.”

Founding members also include TaSheena Cunningham-Rimmer ’06, Gordaki Moore Pook ’07, and Heather ‘Byrd’ Roberts ’09.

If you identify as a person of color and are interested in enriching the student and alumni of color experience through networking, student mentorship, giving, or just want to learn more about the association, I invite you to reach out to