"As an RIT alum, I feel very honored. RIT offered me more than I could ever imagine."
In what ways has Saunders/RIT prepared you for the job market?
I have an Associate and Master's degree from RIT. My BS degree is from Roberts Wesleyan. My Doctor of Education degree is from Nova Southeastern University, which became a dissertation titled Development of an Affirmative Action Resource Manual for Rochester Institute of Technology. I was prepared for greater success in the area of Human Resources, which was also the breadth and depth of my MS degree. RIT provided a wealth of knowledge in my role as Interim Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) under Dr. Albert Simone. Under his tutelage, and I still thank him today, I landed the Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer position at Kent State University. I became the first high-level cabinet appointment in the role at Kent State University (KSU). This university became highly successful in diversity, equity and inclusion principles across the entire eight college campuses. Consequently, KSU became an important leader in this work across many universities in Ohio and other states.
The learning that I gained through my area of studies and my area of diversity at RIT, as difficult it was, became the foundational core of my success at Kent State University. In many ways, RIT provided clarity and consequential successes across many aspects of change at Kent State University. As I recently retired from KSU, I feel hopeful that change will continue, not just at KSU but also throughout our world. We need value-driven DEI principles and many workers for change to help change our current pandemic. As I think about Covid-19, I believe it is the role of educators who have embedded research and knowledge in DEI's role and the importance of DEI principles. These educators can lead the change within the classroom and through their broader research. This is needed to keep our world from further decay and to stop the deaths of those who are more vulnerable. Keeping DEI principles as high values across the USA's traumatic need, universities and colleges can change the world. Hats off to all the wonderful faculty as leaders and researchers, and staff from all backgrounds, who not only love this area of work, they live the values of the work. Given the opportunity, these groups collectively can and will surely bring the success that is needed!
What is your favorite RIT memory?
My favorite memory is the day I graduated with my Associate's Degree from RIT. I thought it was a big deal, but to everybody else, it wasn't. I felt the ceremony was just for me, and I dragged my sisters and children to celebrate. I was so happy! As usual, there were very few Associate degree graduates, but that day was one of my happiest memories to receive that first degree. After that, nothing could stop me from going all the way to receiving my doctorate. The love of learning was unstoppable!
What is your career highlight?
I worked for Dr. Albert Simone in the diversity role at RIT for approximately 16 years. I began this role as Chairperson of the Commission for Promoting Pluralism, taking the place of Isaac Jordon, a person with love for people and real change. This was during a time when very few universities realized the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. It was an undergraduate BS thesis titled Achieving a Pluralistic Society at Rochester Institute of Technology that Dr. Simone read, which consequently supported my move in the role of diversity at RIT. The year Dr. Simone retired, he promoted me to the Interim Chief Diversity Officer position. I was in the role for approximately 16 months before I left RIT.
My time at RIT was an area of growth and development, not just for me but also for the university. The 21 years at RIT was a labor of love before moving to Kent State University. It was the RIT experience that proved to be the foundation of absolute growth and dexterity. This experience provided me with solidified success in diversity, equity and inclusion work over the past 11 years as Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Kent State University.
What does being a RIT alumnus/a mean to you?
As an RIT alum, I feel very honored. RIT offered me more than I could ever imagine. I loved taking classes at RIT, teaching classes at RIT, and traveling abroad to teach on behalf of RIT. It was then when I thought I would always teach; however, to move into a faculty role was not permitted for me at that time. That was okay because I still taught classes, and I knew leadership in diversity was another strong success area for me. Although the work was hard as opposition prevails also in this work, and it certainly prevailed, it was and is easy for me to love RIT. RIT became the core of everything that I love - learning, teaching, helping others through DEI principles, and most of all, I met my husband of 21 years right here at RIT, a graduate of RIT and now retired. Also, my daughter spent all of her college education at RIT and graduated with an MS degree in Manufacturing Management and Leadership. She has utilized her degree from RIT in various leadership positions over the past 16 years in Washington, DC. As an RIT alumna, it is a great feeling of even greater success for my family! I sincerely appreciate RIT. I learned and experienced real change, which credences to who I am today, a 32-year retiree, collectively from RIT and Kent State, a DEI woman, still promoting change for our world.