September 19, 2016

Elliott Dawes, Named Chief Diversity Officer for Institutional Equity and Inclusion

The Former Civil Rights Lawyer, Professor and Academic/Student Affairs Administrator, Occupies a Newly Created Position

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Sept. 19, 2016) Elliott Dawes, a former civil rights lawyer, professor and academic/student affairs administrator, has been named SUNY Empire State College’s chief diversity officer for institutional equity and inclusion, a newly created position.

Dawes begins at SUNY Empire on Monday, Sept. 19, reports to President Merodie A. Hancock and serves as a member of her leadership council.

Dawes’ deep understanding and appreciation of different cultures and diverse perspectives is reflected in his extensive, multifaceted experience, which includes serving as:

  • university director of The City University of New York’s Black Male Initiative
  • assistant dean for multicultural affairs at Hofstra University School of Law
  • social studies teacher in the New York City public school system
  • associate professor in the Department of African American Studies at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice
  • trial attorney in the Educational Opportunities Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
  • litigation associate at the law firm of Weil, Gotshal and Manges.

“Having Elliott Dawes join SUNY Empire as chief diversity officer represents an important and exciting milestone in the college’s 45-year history,” said Hancock. “Focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion has everything to do with academic and organizational excellence. While the college already has a very strong culture of equity and inclusion, Elliott will collaborate with colleagues across the college to create new avenues that define, assess and promote diverse and inclusive institutional and educational opportunity, as well as cultural proficiency. I am delighted to welcome Elliott to SUNY Empire and look forward to collaborative, collegewide efforts to move us to an even higher level of excellence.”

“I look forward to working closely with my new SUNY Empire State College colleagues, as well as my diversity and inclusion counterparts at other SUNY colleges and universities to enhance diversity, equity, inclusion and opportunity in higher education,” said Dawes. “Because of my deep admiration for SUNY Empire State College’s mission, I am grateful for this professional opportunity and thank President Hancock and the search committee for selecting me as the college’s inaugural chief diversity officer for institutional equity and inclusion.”

Dawes’ appointment at SUNY Empire State College is the result of a national search. The newly created position reaffirms SUNY Empire’s, the SUNY system’s and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusiveness and meets a key goal of the governor’s new diversity policy, which is designed to make SUNY the most inclusive higher education system in the country.

Responsibilities and Duties

As the chief diversity officer, Dawes will strategize and collaborate with the entire college community to ensure SUNY Empire maximizes the potential of its students, faculty and staff through the existence of an inclusive and richly diverse community.

He also will serve as lead administrator for all collegewide affirmative action efforts and work with the president on the appropriate alignment of the college's federal, state and voluntary affirmative action initiatives.

Dawes will be responsible for the college’s reporting and compliance efforts under Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, which states, in part that: “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

His responsibilities will include leading the college in developing, executing and evaluating a comprehensive strategy that supports student success through purposeful educational opportunities, initiatives, practices and programs, and organizational success through employee recruitment, retention and development.

Dawes will serve as an integrating partner with students, faculty, staff, college committees, SUNY and external stakeholders to support and enhance the college values of pluralism, inclusion and respect.

He will be based at 325 Hudson Street, New York City, the college’s Manhattan location.

About Elliott Dawes

Dawes, 50, earned a Master of Law from Columbia Law School in 2015 and a Juris Doctor from New York University School of Law in 1992, where he was a Root-Tilden-Snow Scholar, a Center for International Studies Junior Fellow and an editor of the New York University Review of Law and Social Change.

He is admitted to the New York State Bar, second department.

He completed a Bachelor of Arts in Government and Africana Studies at Cornell University in 1988.

From 2006-14, Dawes was the university director of the 18-campus CUNY system’s Black Male Initiative, which is similar in concept to Empire State College’s Black Male Initiative.

CUNY BMI was designed to increase enrollment, retention and graduation rates of underrepresented students, particularly African, African-American, black, Caribbean and Latino/Hispanic males. Under his leadership, all programs funded by CUNY BMI were open to all academically eligible students, faculty and staff.

Prior to his nearly eight years at CUNY, Dawes served as the assistant dean for multicultural affairs at Hofstra University School of Law.

As a New York City Teaching Fellow, he taught at Thomas Jefferson High School and Franklin K. Lane High School, both located in Brooklyn, and passed the state teacher certification exams, including the liberal arts and sciences and social studies content specialty tests.

From 1998 to 2003, Dawes was an associate professor at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where he taught race and law classes to undergraduates and served as a pre-law advisor.

Prior to his work at John Jay, he was a trial attorney in the Educational Opportunities Litigation Section, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice.

Dawes also worked for the New York City-based law firm of Weil, Gotshal and Manges as a litigation associate and served as a judicial law clerk at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (1992-1994) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

About SUNY Empire State College

Empire State College, the nontraditional, open college of the SUNY system, educates nearly 19,000 students worldwide at eight international sites, more than 35 locations in the state of New York, online, as well as face to face and through a blend of both, at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels.

The average age of an undergraduate student at the college is 35 and graduate students’ average age is 40.

Most Empire State College students are working adults. Many are raising families and meeting civic commitments in the communities where they live, while studying part time.

In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each undergraduate student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career.

Working with their mentors, students design an individual degree program and engage in guided independent study and course work on site, online or through a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to choose where, when and how to learn.

Students have the opportunity to enroll five times during the year.

The college’s 78,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more.

The college was first established in 1971 by the SUNY Board of Trustees with the encouragement of the late Ernest L. Boyer, chancellor of the SUNY system from 1970 to 1977. Boyer also served as United States commissioner of education during the administration of President Jimmy Carter and then as president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

More information about the college is available at