Center for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging staff Biama Charles, Alicia Richardson, Samantha Lara

From left: Biama Charles, Alicia Richardson, and Samantha Lara

By Libby Cudmore


A New Legacy begins in the Center for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

For Biama Charles, director of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, creating the Center for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in Yager Hall – in a space that, in recent years, served as the presidential suite – was a new chapter in an honored legacy.

“This used to be Harry Bradshaw Matthews’ office when he was the associate dean of intercultural affairs,” she said. “When we met with President Darren Reisberg, he told us he was going to give us back this space because this is where we belong.” 

Matthews, who retired from the College in 2020, was also the founding president of the United States Colored Troops Institute for Local History and Family Research, helping Hartwick students trace their roots to the men who served in the United States Colored Troops.

“In the short time that I have been a member of the Hartwick Community, I have heard the name “Harry Matthews” in so many conversations that I began to wonder if, in fact, Harry had retired,” said Alicia Richardson, college diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEIB) officer. “I expected to run into him on campus, in the commons at lunchtime, or in Anderson at an event. And now, with this space, he is always here, and his name will be said often.”

The new center also brings Charles together with Richardson and Samantha Lara, assistant director of diversity, inclusion and belonging, allowing the three to more fully collaborate on making Hartwick a more equitable campus.

“Because we’ve come together, we can now be more strategic about the work we do across campus,” said Richardson. “It’s exciting to be able to work together and have community conversations, rather than just faculty or just students. The more we come together, the greater the impact.”

The center is designed to host their offices and be a welcoming space for the Hartwick community to come together and share ideas about creating a more inclusive campus. 

“We want to believe that every space we enter on campus is a safe space, but we know that isn’t always the case,” said Charles. “There are some conversations you can’t have in the Commons or the hallway, and we are intentionally creating an environment where the community can have those conversations.”

Richardson reflected on the Office of DIB’s work to make students feel safe in their former space in Dewar Hall.“This is an expansion of that,” she said. “This is a space to be brave, safe and honest without judgment.”

That could present as movie nights, a student-led lecture series, discussion groups, or a place for students to relax and do homework in a welcoming environment. 

“It’s their space,” said Richardson. “If you give people the tools and the space to have tough conversations, then it makes it easier to have those conversations outside the space.”

And the Hartwick community has rallied around them to collaborate on what the center will look like. “Sam got a focus group of students together and asked what they’d like to see,” said Charles. “They told us they want it to be colorful and positive, with lights, murals and greenery.”

“Quentin Lewis, curator of the Yager Museum, reached out to discuss some photos and artwork they’d be willing to share to liven up the space,” said Richardson. 

The center had an opening ceremony during True Blue Weekend in early fall, at which Matthews was recognized and honored for his contributions to Hartwick. 

“Your heritage allows you to compare your journey with someone else in search of common ground and new opportunities,” Matthews said in his remarks during the event. 

It’s powerful to be here. We’re women of color, founders of this inaugural DEIB Center and part of the Hartwick legacy. I’m excited about what that means.

Alicia Richardson

college diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEIB) officer

November 15, 2023
DEIB, From The Wick Magazine, Wick Mag Fall 2023

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