The College of Human Ecology has a long history as a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion through our academic, research and outreach programs. To align the College's ongoing efforts with the objectives outlined in Belonging at Cornell and racial justice work, the College collectively develops initiatives and assesses and evaluates the impact of its activity. By doing so, it aims to better engage the College community and improve its impact in this area.

Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' Land Acknowledgment for the Ithaca Campus

Cornell University is located on the traditional homelands of the Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' (the Cayuga Nation). The Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' are members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land. The Confederacy precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York state, and the United States of America. We acknowledge the painful history of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' dispossession, and honor the ongoing connection of Gayogo̱hó꞉nǫ' people, past and present, to these lands and waters. Learn more about this land acknowledgment through the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program.

Racial Justice

The College is undertaking a series of action steps as part of a comprehensive plan to work against systemic racism and structural inequality and to promote diversity, equity and inclusion. More information is detailed below in Dean Dunifon's July 20, 2020, message to the College community.

Dear College of Human Ecology community,

The jurors in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, announced their verdict yesterday. I write in support of President Martha Pollack’s statement, while specifically addressing our community. 

For me, this trial elevated many issues, including the importance of bearing witness to and speaking out against injustice. Were it not for the courage of a young woman who captured the Floyd murder on video and shared it with the world, were it not for activism in many forms, justice may not have been served. This is a testament to the role that we all can play in calling out injustice and working to address it.

The university has offered opportunities to come together during this time, to listen to and learn from each other. For example, one of our newly hired assistant professors, Jamein Cunningham, will share his expertise in an upcoming university-organized roundtable discussion about the Chauvin verdict (see below). 

As we move forward this week and beyond, please be mindful of how your colleagues and friends may be processing this verdict and the many other stressors we face. For many, this trial has reawakened and compounded pain, anger and trauma. I encourage us to respect one another and to understand that each of us has our own experiences, identities and relationships to power and privilege.

It is our responsibility to acknowledge these realities and to be mindful and caring in our responses. It is equally our responsibility to stay committed to our mission of racial and social justice – the work we are doing and will need to do – and our shared values as a College. We are dedicated to acknowledging and dismantling injustice and to cultivating diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in our community. We have some tools for this work, and we are collectively developing new insights and actions. 

As many have expressed, the verdict in the murder of George Floyd illuminates that we have progressed in some ways and that we have a long way to go. I am honored to be part of a community committed to tackling the social challenges that we face, and to be here with you.

Rachel Dunifon
The Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean

Now That We Have a Verdict, What Next?
Tuesday, April 27, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. (Zoom details will be sent to the community)
This roundtable discussion will examine key aspects of the Derek Chauvin trial; what the verdict means for the evolution of race in the law; and the role of organizations as catalysts for policy change and social impact in general.

The roundtable will be led by Sherry Colb, C.S. Wong Professor of Law; Ravi Kanbur, T.H. Lee Professor of World Affairs, International Professor of Applied Economics and Management; Joe Margulies, Professor of Practice, Law and Government; Aziz Rana, Richard and Lois Cole Professor of Law; and Jamein Cunningham, incoming Assistant Professor, College of Human Ecology. Jamie Joshua, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, will moderate.

To College of Human Ecology faculty, staff and students:

The College of Human Ecology has a proud tradition of education focused on improving social systems to increase human health and well-being. Founded as a college providing a science-based education to women, we have a longstanding commitment to educating those often marginalized in society. As a Land Grant Institution at an Ivy League University, we draw upon cutting-edge research to address the most pressing human issues faced by society.

Recent examples of longstanding racialized violence throughout our country make clear that we need to do much more. The College of Human Ecology does not stand silent in the face of racial and social injustice; we must be part of the solution. An ongoing commitment and accountability is critical in light of the ongoing public health crisis of violence and oppression against Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Recognizing that systemic racial and social injustice requires systematic approaches to dismantle, here I provide some initial action steps the College of Human Ecology will take in the coming weeks and months. These initial steps are part of a comprehensive plan to work more actively against systemic racism and structural inequality and to promote diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging and support the commitment articulated by President Pollack. The engagement and input of faculty, staff and students will be integral and critical to these efforts. We are committed to providing opportunities and safe spaces for all to be part of this work.

Awareness, dialogue and training:

  • All faculty, staff and students have been provided access to Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be an Anti-Racist.” The College will lead a series of community-wide discussions of this book this summer and fall.
  • Results from the recent Belonging at Cornell Survey will be shared with our community. We will also gather more detailed information regarding racial and social justice and equity in the college to inform our work.
  • The College leadership team will take part in ongoing education and dialogue to continuously broaden our perspectives and inform the way we lead and approach racial and social justice and equity.
  • We will provide and encourage college-wide conversation, education and training around anti-racism and equity starting this fall.

College structures and programming:

  • I will appoint a Dean’s Fellow for Social Justice and Equity. This faculty member will report to me, will lead faculty-driven efforts in the area and will be part of the Dean’s leadership team. A position description and call for interest will be sent to faculty soon.
  • I will form a Social Justice and Equity leadership team consisting of staff, faculty and students. This team will be empowered to engage our community in identifying meaningful action, developing action steps, evaluating our progress and tailoring our plans accordingly. I will meet regularly with this team.  
  • I will work with colleagues to enhance our curriculum and out-of-classroom experiences to incorporate racial and social justice and equity. In doing so, we will build upon our history of community engaged learning to provide students the opportunity to put their education into action to create social change.
  • The College will continue to seek and provide support that makes both in-classroom and out-of-classroom experiences accessible for all students regardless of circumstance. 
  • The College will seek to develop graduate fellowships that enhance the diversity of our graduate programs and the pipeline in academia. 
  • Through awards, grants and other mechanisms, the College will recognize and support faculty, staff and students whose work enhances racial and social justice and equity.
  • I will launch a college-wide strategic planning process that has diversity, equity, racial and social justice, and belonging as an essential component to our vision, goals, and plans, drawing upon the specific strengths and perspectives that Human Ecology contributes in this area.


  • To the extent possible given the current financial situation, I will work with departments to prioritize faculty searches that have the potential to enhance faculty diversity.
  • We will work to increase the diversity of our student body and the leadership of student organizations, as well as develop new student organizations that enhance racial and social justice and equity and provide opportunities to create supportive communities.

I look forward to working with all of you on these critical topics over the coming years.

Rachel Dunifon
The Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean