SUNY Adirondack welcomes chief diversity officer

Cornelius Gilbert
January 09, 2023

College appoints Cornelius Gilbert as campus leader

QUEENSBURY, New York (Jan. 9, 2023) — SUNY Adirondack is proud to announce the appointment of Cornelius Gilbert, Ed.D., as the college’s chief diversity officer.

Gilbert grew up in Chicago, earned bachelor’s degrees in History and Afro-American Studies, a master’s degree in Afro-American Studies and a doctorate in Education with a focus on History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I wanted to look at higher education and how social movements, particularly the black power movement, impacted it,” Gilbert said. “One of those impacts was me and the role of chief diversity officer.”

Gilbert grew up the youngest of three children of a college-educated father and learned early the importance of education. “My father was a 1966 South Illinois University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry,” he said. “That was a PWI, or predominantly white institution — and this was in 1966 — so our household really valued education.”

While studying at University of Wisconsin, Gilbert was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the nation’s first black Greek collegiate fraternity. 

“That brotherhood is important on a college campus, because it gives you a community of people who resemble you,” he said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, Gilbert worked as an advisor to students with undeclared majors. After a few years, he started work on a doctoral degree, then taught at Northern Illinois University and the University of St. Thomas. 

While he was living in Minneapolis, the nation suffered another “racial awakening,” he said. “With the murder of George Floyd, I was at a point in life where I wanted to do more, in terms of my skills, my knowledge. In the midst of the pandemic, I was thinking, ‘What else can I do to spread awareness, to really do that diversity work, equity work, inclusion and belonging?’”

He started looking for jobs that would help fulfill him professionally and personally. Applying to the chief diversity role at SUNY Adirondack made sense on many levels. “The opportunity to do good work is part of the reason, but another is family — my brother lives in White Plains; and I enjoy nature. Plus, I have an interest in Bigfoot, so hearing he calls this area home caught my attention,” he laughed, explaining that something about the mythical creature holds his interest.

Gilbert’s role at SUNY Adirondack includes working with college President Kristine D. Duffy, Ed.D., the Board of Trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, students, and the Office of Student Engagement and Diversity Initiatives to fulfill the college’s vision of being the educational provider of choice and pathway to success through a “commitment to innovation, excellence and inclusion.”

“We are excited to have Cornelius here to propel meaningful conversation and take action toward achieving equity and inclusion,” Duffy said. “With him, we will continue our commitment to making the college and this region more welcoming for everyone, while recognizing and celebrating each person’s experiences.”

Gilbert said he started his career with intent to work at a community college. “I can bring great value to the students a community college serves,” he said. “Life had to teach me what it had to teach me, to say, ‘This is where I need to be.’”