Cornell University invites inquiries, nominations and applications for an experienced, innovative, committed, and collaborative professional to serve as Executive Director of the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives.

About Cornell University

cornell 0908 13 038Cornell University is a remarkable community of scholars, educators, students, staff, and alumni who are deeply influenced by proud traditions and a set of cherished founding principles. Unique among its Ivy League peers, Cornell is a private university with a land-grant mission, a world-class research institution known for the breadth and rigor of its curricula, and an academy dedicated to preparing young people to be well-educated and well-rounded citizens of the world. Its faculty and students believe in the critical importance of knowledge—both theoretical and applied—as a means of improving the human condition and solving the world’s problems. It embraces traditional liberal arts education, practical applications of knowledge, and interdisciplinary and collaborative approaches to research and teaching. It champions free and open intellectual inquiry and expression, treats all individuals with dignity and respect, celebrates diversity, and remains open and accessible to all who meet its high academic standards. Faculty, staff, and students will thrive at Cornell because of its open, collaborative, and innovative culture; the opportunities provided by beautiful, vibrant rural and urban campuses; and programs that extend throughout the state of New York and across the globe.

Today, Cornell University consists of fifteen schools and colleges. Among the Ithaca campus, the Weill Cornell Medicine campuses in New York City and Qatar, and the new Cornell Tech campus in New York City, the university enrolls nearly 15,000 undergraduates and over 8,000 graduate and professional school students. Cornell employs some 8,100 staff and 1,600 professorial faculty members in Ithaca and at Cornell Tech, and an additional 5,000 staff and 1,700 faculty members at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Cornell’s deep-seated commitment to diversity traces back to its Reconstruction Era origin, when co-founders Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White committed to creating a new kind of university that was open to all individuals, regardless of race or gender. Cornell’s motto—“Any person, any study”— first appeared in 1868 in a letter from Cornell to White. In the service of inclusivity, Ezra Cornell deliberately and repeatedly urged faculty to give the most disadvantaged applicants a chance at a high quality education. Cornell’s founding vision of racial and gender nondiscrimination was a radical one at a time when discrimination was the norm, enshrined in law and pervasive in higher education. Cornell was the only Ivy League university to combine the highest academic standards with a radical democratizing mission, rooted in hope that this combination would lead the way to diversifying higher education everywhere.

UP 2014 1021 208 selectCornell’s early and explicit recognition that student diversity is essential for its educational mission is still evident today in the university’s abiding commitment to multiculturalism, academic diversity, and access. Cornell’s inclusive community of scholars, students, and staff imparts an uncommon sense of larger purpose and contributes creative ideas to further the university's mission of teaching, discovery, and engagement. Such ideals are woven into the very fiber of Cornell’s identity, and have solidified the institution as a vanguard for academic excellence at the nexus of equality and opportunity.

Cornell continues to demonstrate in practice its commitment to these guiding principles. From the very beginning of her term as Cornell University’s 14th President, Martha Pollack has underscored the continuing importance of Ezra Cornell’s founding vision. Recognizing that achieving our goals of diversity, equity, and inclusion requires constant vigilance and sometimes difficult but essential work, she convened a Presidential Task Force that focused on improving the campus climate for Cornell’s diverse student body. This effort has helped to sharpen the university’s focus and commitment to its founding mission, and has resulted in a broad range of recommendations that are being diligently implemented. It is an exciting moment in which to search for an Executive Director of the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives; the successful candidate will benefit from engaged leadership at all levels in the pursuit of a more diversity, equitable and inclusive campus community.


Overview of the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives

The Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) sits within the Provost’s Office, reporting to the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE). The VPUE’s deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is informed by the many insights gleaned from extensive outreach with students, staff, and faculty as co-chair of the recent Presidential Task Force on Campus Climate, her academic research on inclusion in organizations, and her data-driven exploration of the undergraduate student experience.  

OADI oversees a range of academic programs and initiatives – funded by the University, grants and gifts – dedicated to supporting the academic engagement and success of students from backgrounds that have historically been underrepresented in higher education.  These include students who are first in their families to go to college, from low-income families, military veterans and reservists, individuals of color, adult learners, and from other non-traditional backgrounds. OADI provides academic, professional, personal, and financial advising in both individual- and group-formats to support students’ academic excellence and well-being while at Cornell as well as in their post-graduate pursuits. OADI is known as a place of lively discussion and interchange, a family environment in which to feel at home and speak openly, and as providing a strong voice of advocacy across the institution. 

Cornell is looking for a dynamic leader to join the OADI team: someone who recognizes the discipline, focus, and hard work required to help the office succeed and embraces the challenges that lie ahead. OADI needs a leader who will thrive on empowering the OADI staff so they in turn can help OADI students meet and exceed their potential, while also playing a leadership role in uniting broader university efforts to optimize students’ academic success and well-being.

About the Position

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The OADI staff are actively engaged in the lives of students, and are committed to providing outstanding programs and services. The new executive director must thrive in a dynamic, student-centered, engaging team atmosphere and must be committed to leading and challenging staff and students to engage fully in vital and vibrant learning environments that support holistic development. This person will work collaboratively with the Executive Director of Academic Success Programs – who oversees the university’s Learning Strategies Center, Prefreshman Summer Program, and the Office of Internal Transfer and Concurrent Degrees – to develop an evidence-based approach to identifying best practices, implementing priorities as directed by the vice provost, and representing the office on university initiatives and committees. The VPUE is looking forward to partnering with, and leveraging the professional expertise of, the new executive director to strengthen OADI’s leadership voice on campus and its collaborative relationships with the undergraduate colleges to ensure that students have equitable access to the opportunities, advising, academic support, mentorship, and vibrant networks they need to thrive at Cornell and beyond.

The executive director will lead a team of 13 (which includes three vacancies), of whom two will be direct reports, and will oversee an operating budget of approximately $1.5 million and an additional $1 million of state and federal grant programs. These programs include the Arthur O. Eve Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP). 

The Successful Candidate

The successful candidate must possess a master’s degree from an accredited institution in a related field, a minimum of eight years of related experience including demonstrated progressive growth in leadership and supervision of professional staff in a higher education setting. The candidate must possess expertise in the areas of student affairs and academic advising, grant-funded programs, and personnel and budget management. In addition, the executive director must have a deep, proven commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, with a demonstrated capacity to connect with individuals across racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and other identities. A doctorate in a related field; solid grant writing and/or previous experience with identifying and securing advancement initiatives that would strengthen OADI and Cornell’s competitive edge; and fundraising are preferred. 

In addition to the above-stated qualifications and characteristics, the candidate’s professional experiences should include: 
  • Successful track record of upper level administration of programs and initiatives; well-versed in project management, budgeting, streamlining operational processes, and maintaining effective administrative protocols; strong planning and organizational skills.
  • Knowledge of leadership principles involved in strategic planning and resource allocation, including leading and managing change.
  • Success as a creative and innovative leader whose work is informed by effective strategic planning and evidence derived from regular assessment activities. This includes demonstrated ability to develop and implement assessment plans and to use assessment results to improve the effectiveness of services and programs for students.
  • Successful track record of developing and empowering professional staff and cultivating positive team cultures.
  • Ability and agility needed to work successfully within a complex and decentralized environment, which involves establishing credibility and developing strong relationships with units across the university.
  • Evidence of successful collaborations with a wide range of stakeholders both inside and outside the university, including staff, students, administrators, faculty, parents/families, alumni, and potential donors.
  • Extensive experience with grant management, in particular with grant-funded student opportunity and/or success programs for underrepresented and under-resourced student populations.
  • Demonstrated effectiveness and successful leadership as a culturally competent professional with broad experience interacting with and supporting the needs of diverse student populations. Proven campus leadership and ability to communicate and advocate for student needs with a variety of stakeholders.
  • Demonstrated fluency in relevant research and national conversations on academic diversity initiatives, being seen as the go-to on campus resource in this area. Will have consistent participation in local, regional, and/or national professional organizations.

The new executive director will be an outgoing, persuasive, charismatic, and articulate leader known for their fair-mindedness, and creativity in developing and presenting sound and well thought-out ideas. OADI recently completed a self-study to inform its future priorities, a process that fully engaged the team and has energized staff about OADI’s future. It is imperative that the new executive director work closely with OADI staff to refine and implement the strategic recommendations that have emerged from the self-study. 

Additional attributes include:
  • Reputation as an outstanding, responsive communicator and an inclusive decision-maker who is successful in being transparent with staff and students.
  • High emotional intelligence including the ability to recognize and make full use of the field expertise of staff members within the office.
  • Proficiency in developing annual goals and objectives that are clearly linked to the mission of OADI and the university. This will involve leading the OADI team through the process of refining its new mission.
  • Proven critical thinking and problem-solving abilities as well as data fluency and ability to apply a data-driven approach to decision-making.
  • Personal characteristics associated with highly productive and successful professionals, including a vigorous work ethic, sound judgment, integrity, demonstrated initiative, attitude and personality to be effective at fundraising and building relationships with colleagues, senior leaders, students, and other stakeholders.  

How to Apply

Interested candidates should send a letter of application and resume/CV that relates skills, abilities, knowledge, notable achievements, and professional experiences to the stated qualifications for the position. The packet should be sent to The subject line should be EDOADI.

Confidential inquiries may be made by contacting Megan Spelman at or at 585-366-4329. 

For full consideration, all materials should be received by April 5, 2019. The process will continue until the position is filled.

Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We are a recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans and Individuals with Disabilities. Cornell University is an innovative Ivy League university and a great place to work. Our inclusive community of scholars, students, and staff impart an uncommon sense of larger purpose, and contribute creative ideas to further the university's mission of teaching, discovery, and engagement.

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