By Jesse Stiller
James Felton III, the current Chief Diversity Officer at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Cortland, has been appointed by the College to become the inaugural Vice President for Equity and Inclusion.
President Kathryn Foster announced the news in a campus-wide email on Dec. 13, praising Felton’s work at SUNY Cortland and his accomplishments during his tenure there.
“In his current role, Mr. Felton is responsible for the campus’ inclusive excellence framework, its diversity and inclusion strategic plan, and working with campus constituents to identify, establish, assess and update goals, objectives and initiatives for diversity and inclusion,” Foster wrote.
The email also highlighted his recent accolade as Top Chief Diversity Officer of the Year from the International Association of Top Professionals. His establishment of a bias response team at the campus and other programs included a recruitment strategy for SUNY Cortland to increase the number of underrepresented faculty and staff.
Foster also wrote that Felton was a great choice from an otherwise “outstanding pool” of candidates during the selection process. The search committee named Felton a finalist in November, along with Holy University Associate Vice President of Diversity Nicole Stokes and SUNY Brockport Chief Diversity Officer Cephas Archie.
“We are fortunate that Mr. Felton has agreed to add his tremendous talents to the college’s leadership team in this critical role,” Foster wrote in the email, while also praising the search committee’s and the community’s feedback during the process.
Felton will begin his new position at the College on March 2.
Alex Holzman, an administrative assistant at the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, feels confident in Felton’s new role.
“James was selected from a very strong pool of candidates and stood out for his candor, experience, and evident passion for the work of DEI,” Holzman said. “His vision for TCNJ is firmly in line with the principles of transparency, accessibility and authenticity established by Drs. Don Trahan and Damon Williams, as well as the day-to-day practices and procedures developed by Ivonne Cruz, Kerri Thompson-Tillett and myself.”
Holzman is confident that Felton would provide the campus with “strategic leadership that both the office and campus community has sought and planned for since the establishment of OIDEI,” and is eager to work with him.
Before being considered for the position at the College, Felton, whose career in diversity and inclusion spans over two decades, had also been under consideration for a position at SUNY Plattsburgh in April. News of Felton’s hiring at the College was also featured in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, a publication dedicated to publishing statistics and updates on racial integration and inclusion on college campuses.
On top of his work in diversity at various college campuses, Felton is also a member of the National Advisory Council of the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity (NCORE), and serves on the editorial board for INSIGHT Into Diversity, an online magazine that focuses on diversity and inclusion at colleges across the country.
The Signal reached out to Felton for an interview. While he expressed optimism about the community and position, he said he could not be quoted due to his current employment at SUNY Cortland, but is interested in sitting down with a reporter when he begins his role.