November 26, 2019

SUNY Empire State College Receives SUNY PRODiG Funding to Enhance Diversity Among Faculty

College Launches Presidential Task Force to Drive Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives


(SARATOGA SPRINGS, New York – Nov. 26, 2019) SUNY Empire State College has been awarded funding through SUNY’s PRODiG (Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth) initiative to support the work and recruitment of faculty from historically underrepresented communities.

The funding will be used to support the work of Assistant Professor of Information Technology Lila Rajabion and to hire up to five new faculty members from underrepresented communities in the coming year. As part of the initiative, Rajabion will attend the PRODiG Cohort Institute in Albany on Dec. 3 during the 2019 SUNY Diversity Conference.

The PRODiG initiative was launched this past spring by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to increase the representation of historically underrepresented faculty throughout SUNY, including women faculty of all races in STEM fields. The initiative aims to help close the gap between the racial/ethnic diversity of SUNY faculty members (8.6 percent) as compared to the diversity of the students they instruct (28.5 percent as of fall 2018).

“We are grateful to Governor Cuomo and SUNY for launching this initiative and look forward to expanding our efforts to better serve our diverse student population,” said SUNY Empire President Jim Malatras. “I want to congratulate Lila and look forward to working closely with her this year. This initiative dovetails with SUNY Empire’s broader effort to confront issues of intolerance and inequity head-on to create a stronger, more innovative, and more inclusive college community. Correcting historical imbalances requires open and sometimes difficult conversations followed by sincere action. I look forward to getting to work.”

“I would like to thank the SUNY Empire Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council as well as the college's PRODiG Initiative Steering Committee for their hard work at securing this funding from SUNY,” said SUNY Empire Chief Diversity Officer for Institutional Equity and Inclusion Elliott Dawes. “On behalf of our DEI Council and our PRODiG Initiative Steering Committee, we are deeply grateful for the significant support that we have received from the SUNY Empire community as we continue our PRODiG work.”

In response to recent incidents of hate on college campuses across the nation — based on race, religion, and gender — as well as feedback from the college community, SUNY Empire State College is creating a presidential task force charged with developing an action plan to enhance diversity and inclusion at the college. Specifically, the task force will recommend ways to: 

  • expand opportunities for underrepresented groups among students, faculty, and staff; 
  • coordinate initiatives to increase diversity among faculty and staff; 
  • enhance academic support for students from underrepresented populations/communities;
  • expand public policy research on issues of equity, tolerance, and inclusion, and; 
  • recommend measures to cultivate an inclusive culture at SUNY Empire.  

The presidential task force will include the college’s Chief Diversity Officer, representatives from the college’s Racialized Faculty group, Women’s Leadership Council, the LGBTQ community, religious groups, the intellectual and developmental differences community, and members of the president’s office. It will present actions to the college community on a rolling basis and as issues emerge.

SUNY received nearly 100 requests for PRODiG faculty support from 42 SUNY campuses in this initial year. Increasing faculty diversity is key to “preparing all students to live and work in an increasingly global, diverse, and interconnected world by exposing students to a wide array of ideas, experiences, cultures, and individuals,” according to SUNY.

To learn more about SUNY’s PRODiG initiative, visit



PRODiG ("Promoting Recruitment, Opportunity, Diversity, Inclusion and Growth") aims to increase the representation of historically underrepresented faculty at SUNY including underrepresented minority ("URM") faculty in general, women faculty of all races in STEM fields (“WSTEM”). This is consistent with SUNY’s role in creating pathways to social and economic opportunity for all our students, as well as personal and intellectual fulfilment. Each of these underrepresented groups face persistent barriers to social and economic mobility both as students and after graduation. Increasing the representation of faculty members who understand, and have overcome, race- and gender-based barriers and biases is important to the success and well-being of our students. And where other groups are underrepresented in a field due to the persistence of barriers to social and economic mobility, efforts to address this underrepresentation will receive consideration for PRODiG funding as well.

About SUNY Empire

SUNY Empire State College educates students at any stage of life with a personalized learning experience delivered online, in person, or a blend of both. Since 1971, SUNY Empire has empowered students to earn an accredited degree around the demands of a busy lifestyle to advance their personal and professional goals. With world-class faculty, more than 1,300 dedicated mentors to help students tailor their degree programs, and cutting-edge distance learning technology, SUNY Empire delivers a trusted and flexible online college experience grounded in more than 30 New York state locations and seven international sites where students can learn and collaborate in person. Our nearly 50 years as a leader in awarding credit for prior learning and life experience helps students earn a degree faster and at lower cost. To learn more, visit and follow @SUNYEmpire.