CDI dedicates center to alumni, investors and faculty

By Amethyst Martinez

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) hosted a postponed dedication ceremony for its new home in the Bart Luedeke Center that completed construction in Aug. 2020.

The center was dedicated to alumni associations, investors and Rider faculty on Oct. 16. The event was delayed for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speakers for the event included Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo, Executive Director for the CDI Pamela Pruitt, Rider alumna Aileen Merino-Lazo, Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg, Rider trustee and alumnus Terry McEwen and students involved with the center.

“The creation of our Center for Diversity and Inclusion is just one part of a larger, comprehensive effort to ensure that our students thrive by feeling a part of this institution [and] by feeling at home at Rider. This is their home away from home,” said Pruitt.

According to the Rider website, “The Center for Diversity and Inclusion at Rider University supports the university’s efforts to reach and foster the understanding and appreciation of different cultures and ways of life that are shared by diverse groups of people through programming, policies and best practices.”

Dell’Omo said, “We were hoping to have this event about a year ago, but with the pandemic, that could not happen. But, better late than never, and it’s probably more powerful now than it was even if we were able to do it a year ago. Among Rider’s community values is that… we commit ourselves as caring individuals to celebrate our differences, for they are our strengths.”

Merino-Lazo delivered a powerful speech on how CDI changed her time at Rider.

“My college experience was extremely difficult. I felt like quitting several times,” said Merino-Lazo “Although I was a full-time college student, I was also a full-time mom to my brothers. I had a horrible relationship with both of my parents, and I constantly worried about how I was going to pay for the next semester, which led me to getting a job as a student worker for Dr. Pamela Pruitt. Both Dr. Pruitt and I knew that my story wasn’t unique. In fact, there were and are many untold stories similar to mine here at Rider.”

Those acknowledged during the dedication ceremony included Pruitt, Fenneberg, the Minority Alumni Coalition and Investors Bank.

Dell’Omo said, “The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is one piece of an even larger, comprehensive plan to affect change at this university. In 2019, the president’s council on inclusion facilitated a process, a process that resulted in the creation of our university-wide, inclusive excellence plan… the very first goal is to improve recruitment, retention and graduation rates of students whose identities are underrepresented, marginalized and under-resourced in higher education.”

The goal of the center is to bring more inclusivity to Rider’s campus.

Merino-Lazo emotionally said, “I’m absolutely proud of all the effort Rider has made to properly welcome and help acclimate our diverse Broncs onto campus. The Center for Diversity and Inclusion is more than a center. It represents a community of alumni, students and staff who felt unseen and are now encouraged to break down barriers. Working with Dr. Pruitt and being engaged in our research to create the center, I no longer felt alone. I felt empowered, supported and free.”

Fenneberg ended the ceremony with a speech about the center.

Fenneberg said, “We are a world of diverse people and the complexities and the urgency on issues of equity and justice permeate. As a microcosm of the broader world, Rider has the opportunity and the responsibility to help students from marginalized backgrounds flourish, and to advance the understanding of each member of our community to contribute to a world that is more humane, and more just.

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