New Office of Inclusion and Academic Excellence works to build belonging at CVM

In the fall of 2020, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine entered a new era of dedication towards diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) by welcoming Dr. Melanie Ragin as the first assistant dean for inclusion and academic excellence. Since joining the college, Ragin has assembled a team to make up the Office of Inclusion and Academic Excellence (OIAE) — the first department of its kind at CVM. “Our mission, first and foremost, is to create a culture of belonging at the college,” says Ragin. The team does this by engaging with all members of the college — faculty, staff and students — to develop initiatives, head committees and foster collaborations.

The OIAE team

"Dr. Melanie Ragin, assistant dean for inclusion and academic excellence

As head of the OIAE, Ragin works to enhance collaboration, awareness, and relationship-building across all groups at the college. Prior to her role at CVM, Ragin was director of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program at Binghamton University, where she oversaw teaching, programming, and identifying research opportunities and placements of first-generation/low-income and/or underrepresented students. Prior to her position at Binghamton, Ragin was director of inclusion and cultural enhancement at the University at Buffalo’s School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

mariama chamblissMariama Chambliss, administrative support

Chambliss received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ithaca College in Public Health, a Baccalaureate of Secondary Education in Nursing from Zinder, Niger, and a Diploma of Higher Technician from the Institute of Public Health, in Niamey, Niger.  Chambliss worked tirelessly for the past two years as both an intake assistant and a site supervisor in the Cornell surveillance program collections sites across campus. She has also completed internships with various local and international public health agencies. 

Victoria EshunVictoria Eshun, student intern

Originally from Ghana, Eshun is a junior majoring in Information Science with a minor in Communication at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. With concentrations in UX Design and Interactive Technologies, Eshun is working towards becoming a product designer after graduating from Cornell.

Daniel MenendezDaniel Menendez, academic excellence coordinator

Menendez has worked as a tutor and academic advisor and most recently served the Cornell community at the Survey Research Institute. In collaboration with college and university partners, Menendez is responsible for the coordination, development, and implementation of academic success and enrichment programs in the CVM.

Shasta SavageShasta Savage, DE&I associate

Savage takes an intersectional approach to DE&I to support comprehensive well-being at the individual, group, and organizational levels. Shasta applies strengths and evidence-based approaches in all her efforts. Her most recent work has been in the areas of self-regulation, resilience, and post-traumatic growth. As DE&I Associate, Savage will in collaboration with college and university partners be responsible for the coordination development, and implementation of the CVM’s DE&I initiatives as part of the University’s Belonging at Cornell Framework.

Kristen VoorheesKristen Voorhees, assistant to the assistant dean for inclusion and academic excellence

Voorhees, joined the team with eleven years of experience working alongside executive-level administrators in higher education. In her role, Voorhees ensures efficient operations of the office and provides invaluable support to the successful implementation and coordination of DE&I initiatives as they relate to Cornell University’s Belonging at Cornell framework.

Current and future projects

This team is now tackling several important projects, including the official launch of the Dean’s Leaders Program on June 6. The program will support newly admitted D.V.M. students in a comprehensive cohort model. They also now host the Many Voices, One College initiative, and are hosting their second annual DE&I leadership retreat in partnership with Cornell’s Organizational Development and Effectiveness. Most recently, the team has partnered with local firm MindWell, to provide well-being support to students and faculty, particularly those that are underrepresented at CVM.

As the team looks to the future, they hope to expand their offerings and support to faculty, as well as develop and curate in-house certificates and training that provide real skills in DE&I. While these are big tasks for a small team, Ragin is confident that they’re up for the challenge. “Starting something from a blank slate isn’t for everyone, but I have enjoyed the challenge of creating a new office and infrastructure with so many different people who are invested in this change,” she says. “For me, it is so much more than being the leader of the team, it’s about the change it represents and being able to do it with a group of people as dedicated as I am to this work and change.”

Written by Lauren Cahoon Roberts