Helping lead St. Francis College's ambitious agenda to advance diversity, equity, and inclusivity in all areas of College life, Jeffrey Emil Diaz has taken on the role of interim chief of diversity, equity and inclusion, reporting directly to President Miguel Martinez-Saenz as a member of the president's cabinet.
In this new position, Diaz organizes and oversees a wide range of initiatives intended to bolster a diverse, equitable and inclusive experience for SFC students and employees. These efforts include recruiting and retaining diverse faculty and staff; creating seminars and other programming to foster a deeper understanding of relevant issues; helping increase awareness of unconscious bias and its effects on the College community; building out the academic curriculum to ensure it includes diverse subject matter and viewpoints; and championing student and alumni efforts to organize and amplify diverse voices.
A cornerstone to Diaz's work is the new Diversity Equity Inclusion Steering Committee that he set up and heads. Made up of members of the president's cabinet, students, alumni and representatives from academic and administrative offices, the committee will develop a plan to achieve specific measurable goals that it will roll out in the coming months.
The College will also host a Townhall Meeting for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion that Diaz will lead for students today, sponsored by the SFC Student Government Association and Office of Multicultural Student Affairs.
St. Francis College has long been home to a student body that reflects the rich diversity of New York City and beyond. Fifty-three percent of its approximately 2,500 students identify themselves as Black, Hispanic and Latinx, or American Indian or Alaskan Native, a percent that has increased markedly in recent years.* Women make up more than 60 percent of its student body.**
"Working with St. Francis College is a privilege," said Diaz. "In this new capacity, my appreciation for Franciscan values and an evolving culture at the College has deepened. The Black Lives Matter movement 'woke' many to what people experience as students, at work and in life. Understanding and utilizing diversity, equity and inclusion of all people as a force that can drive innovation, better academics, research, business, and service is mission critical. The College must continue to adapt as its student body becomes increasingly diverse, including as it welcomes more students from around the world."
Diaz is the president of Jeffrey Emil Diaz Consulting, a firm he established in 2010 to provide executive coaching to leaders from a range of academic, corporate, and not-for-profit organizations and institutions. He works with CEOs and executive teams to develop leadership skills. In addition, he regularly addresses issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion.
Diaz also co-founded and directed the Employee Development Center at Cornell University where he and his staff provided employee assistance programming to corporate, academic, not-for-profit, financial and cultural institutions. He served as the counseling advisor to Major League Baseball — where he led locker room discussions on performance enhancing drugs, HIV and other health related topics — and has worked with the National Football League.
In the aftermath of September 11, PBS featured Diaz as a corporate expert on its "Reach Out to Heal" program, in which he offered guidance to leaders and employees.
"As Franciscans, we're called upon to recognize the inherent dignity of all people, and to create and nurture spaces in which all people are welcome. Jeffrey's work is in lock-step with that mission," said President Martinez-Saenz. "St. Francis College has a long track record in cultivating an environment that affirms equity, diversity and inclusion, and we are strengthening and accelerating actions in support of that, thanks in large part to Jeffrey's outstanding leadership."
In summer 2020, President Martinez-Saenz and members of his cabinet outlined new actions the College would undertake to address issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion at the institution. Those plans included hiring a chief diversity officer to develop and lead a multi-year diversity strategy, increasing training for faculty and staff, and reviewing and revising the academic curriculum.
Consistent with those goals, President Martinez-Saenz and the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn launched the 21-Day Equity Challenge, a three-week program starting in June 2020 to encourage students and others to read, watch and listen to a set of works by women and men of color.
President Martinez-Saenz and Diaz are putting together a second 21-Day Equity Challenge for spring 2021.
Diaz began work at St. Francis College in November 2020. SFC is in the midst of a nationwide search for his permanent successor.
*Data from 2020
**Data from 2019