Educator, Author, Humanitarian Johnnetta Cole to Keynote RIT Diversity Day

Campus address to focus on engagement and retention of under-represented groups

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JBC Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute

Johnnetta Cole

Spelman College in Atlanta had been in existence for more than 100 years, but it wasn’t until 1987 that it had its first female president when Johnnetta Cole was appointed to the position.

Rochester Institute of Technology will welcome Cole as the keynote speaker for the fourth annual RIT Board of Trustees Diversity Day program. The address takes place at 9 a.m. on April 1 in Ingle Auditorium in the Student Alumni Union. Cole will discuss the concept of engagement as a tool for retention, with a special focus on underrepresented groups.

Cole is an anthropologist, author, university professor and board chairperson of the Johnnetta Cole Global Diversity and Inclusion Institute, founded at Bennett College for Women in North Carolina. She is best known as the first African American female president of Spelman College, serving for more than 10 years. She was also the president of Bennett College from 2002 to 2007.

Cole was recently named director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. Prior to this appointment she was part of the Scholarly Advisory Board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The theme for the 2009 Diversity Day is Engagement as a Vehicle for Retention: Fostering Passionate, Committed and Successful Faculty, Staff, Students and Alumni. The focus will be on how leaders in higher education can effectively retain qualified and talented students as well as employees in the faculty and staff ranks by examining the key drivers of an engaged culture; how higher education can improve the level of engagement across constituencies, particularly among under-represented groups; and the effect faculty and staff engagement has on students.

The Diversity Day program is free and open to the public. Contact Sandra Whitmore at to register for the event. Seating is limited.

NOTE: PHOTO available by contacting

WHAT: RIT Board of Trustees Diversity Day Program featuring Johnnetta Cole

WHEN: 9 a.m. – 11:30 a.m., April 1, 2009

WHERE: Rochester Institute of Technology, Ingle Auditorium, Student Alumni Union

COST: Free, but registration is required

CONTACT: For information and registration, contact Sandra Whitmore, executive assistant to the chief diversity officer or (585) 475-5453