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Anreka Gordon, left, and Tanyah Barnes will serve as Binghamton University diversity fellows until the summer of 2016.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Diversity fellows benefit Binghamton
November 9, 2015Tweet
In May 2014, Anreka Gordon was preparing to graduate from Binghamton University with a master’s degree in public administration. The Poughkeepsie native was looking for job opportunities and hoping to work in New York City.
“I applied for a position down there – and I’m still waiting to hear back about it,” she recalled with a laugh.
Gordon soon became intrigued by a posting on the University’s Human Resources website about a “diversity fellowship,” a two-year program offered by the Division of Administration (now known as the Division of Operations).
“Everything it was looking for in a candidate matched me,” Gordon said. “I thought: ‘That’s me! This is the position for me!’”
For the past 15 months, Gordon and a second fellow – Tanyah Barnes – have worked to gain an understanding of University business and develop campus relationships while promoting diversity and inclusion.
“I’m learning so much from the position,” Gordon said. “I’ve grown so much. I’ve also learned a lot about the Binghamton area and have met influential people who I would not have met if I was somewhere like New York City.”
The diversity fellowship was developed in 2014 by then-Vice President of Administration James Van Voorst and was based on an initiative that the division undertook in the late 1990s. The fellows work in University offices on assignments that provide a variety of insight into how the campus runs on a daily basis.
The fellowship program is supervised by Joe Schultz, associate vice president for human resources and a divisional diversity officer. He reports to Vice President for Operations JoAnn Navarro.
“At the completion of the two-year program, (fellows) will have the opportunity to be appointed to a full-time, regular assignment within the Division of Operations,” Navarro said. “We believe the program has allowed (fellows) to learn about core University operations, not only in the Operations division, but in other divisions as well.”
Gordon and Barnes have not only taken different routes to their fellowships, but have traveled different paths over the past year.
Barnes already had a variety of campus experience when she became a diversity fellow in the summer of 2014. She received her undergraduate degree in business administration in 2005 from the University of Florida and her master’s degree in education in 2009 from the University of South Florida before joining Binghamton University as a resident director later that year. Barnes spent two years as an RD in Mohawk Hall and another two years as an RD in Marcy Hall.
“Residential Life here is great because it gives the RD the chance to take part in ‘collateral experiences’ and ‘committee opportunities,’” she said.
Among those experiences were working with Case Manager Beth Riley on sexual-assault programs; assisting Associate Vice President of Communications and Marketing Greg Delviscio on branding initiatives; aiding Gerald Hovancik and the Web development team; and serving as a temporary recruiter for the Graduate School.
Barnes learned about the diversity fellowship and was placed in the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
“I had so many different experiences and knew so much about campus that I could come in and help the development of the (diversity office) while also learning,” said Barnes, who is supervised by Chief Diversity Officer Valerie Hampton.
In her role with DEI, Barnes has worked with Road Map interns on an “I Am UDiversity” campaign; analyzed Campus Climate Survey data; helped plan and promote the Alumni of Color festivities during Homecoming 2015; and developed branding projects for the Multicultural Resource Center while mentoring the center’s student interns.
“I’ve learned more about how the institution works, especially from an administrative vantage point,” she said. “I’ve also learned to take a step back and think about how all of the different constituencies are impacted by a decision.
“This (office) works with so many campus departments,” she added. “We have to know how the other entities operate so that we can better work with them.”
Gordon, meanwhile, has also gained first-hand knowledge about how campus entities operate. She spent her first six months working with Human Resources before spending time in the Risk Management and Administrative Compliance Office, Internal Audit and the Business Office. Gordon now works in Physical Facilities.
“I go into (the positions) knowing that it is temporary,” said Gordon, who received her undergraduate degree in business administration from Binghamton University in 2012, after transferring from Dutchess Community College. “I’m not going to get too comfortable, but I am going to soak up the experience while I can. That keeps things fresh. The job isn’t repetitive.”
“This University is woven together by the functions of each area on campus,” she added. “In the (fellowship), I get to learn about the pieces of the puzzle. How does it all fit together? How does HR affect the rest of campus? How does the rest of campus affect HR? It is eye-opening.”
Gordon’s fellowship highlights include participating in the Leadership Development Program, in which she was mentored by Cindy Cowden, associate director of facilities and internal operations of campus recreation; serving as a member of the University’s international travel safety committee; attending professional conferences; and assisting in communications training for more than 300 employees.
Both Gordon and Barnes said they have enjoyed embracing their versatility and want to remain at Binghamton University when the fellowship ends next summer.
“It’s been a beneficial opportunity to get a breadth of experiences,” Barnes said. “I have wanted to see how I could help Binghamton University be better for the next person like me who comes here.”
“As a diversity fellow, I don’t have one ‘set’ department,” Gordon said. “I’m floating, but I’ve learned to make each department my home. I want to feel like I’m on a path that is leading me somewhere. Every experience I have here is part of that path.”