President Matonak’s welcome to the community

President Matonak aims to assure the incoming class that Hudson Valley is largely inclusive nature.Courtesy of Times Union

President Matonak aims to assure the incoming class that Hudson Valley is largely inclusive nature.

Welcome (or welcome back!) to Hudson Valley Community College for the start of the Fall 2017 semester. I always appreciate the Hudsonian’s offer to write a short column for its first edition of the year, and today I’d like to focus on an issue that’s been widely discussed recently.

The ideas of acceptance, tolerance, inclusion and diversity have taken center stage in our nation’s media and political landscape over the past several weeks, and I want to take this opportunity to reiterate that those values are a core element of our campus culture.

One of the greatest strengths of Hudson Valley Community College is its diversity and its ability to inform, educate and enrich all of us: students, faculty and staff. We are both first generation college students and lifelong learners.

We are from places like Clifton Park or Troy and also from China or Nigeria. We may be refugees fleeing a crisis in our home country or have deep roots right here in the Capital Region.

No matter where we come from, we come together—more than 12,000 individuals from all walks of life and with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences—to make Hudson Valley a place where we can learn not only in the classroom, but from the people around us every day.

We are a community comprised of many differences for sure, but we share a common purpose and commitment to learn, teach and improve within an environment of mutual respect and acceptance. We have a great deal to learn from each other, and our diversity does not divide us. In fact, it can be one of our greatest teachers, if we let it.

As we get our semester started, I’d like all of us to reflect on how we can learn from our varied and unique backgrounds, perspectives and beliefs. I encourage everyone to be open to people who may at first seem different than you.

If we actively work toward creating a culture of acceptance and inclusion, we will discover that, despite perceived or surface differences, our diversity makes us a stronger community.

The State University of New York’s Chancellor, Dr. Nancy Zimpher, and the SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall put out a joint statement earlier this month that bears repeating. Here’s an excerpt:

“As the largest system of public higher education serving New York State, we have the capacity—and what’s more, we have a responsibility—to serve as a model community, one that ensures acceptance in all forms. Guided by our founding principles and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Policy, we must continue our work to ensure these commitments are upheld and that all feel safe and welcome within SUNY, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity. SUNY’s commitment to sustaining a safe and welcoming climate for all of our constituencies has never been stronger.”

Those words hold true here at Hudson Valley. I encourage you to take them to heart, and if you have any ideas on the topic, I invite you to share them with me and our new Chief Diversity Officer, Ainsley Thomas. We are always striving to make Hudson Valley a welcoming community where everyone can thrive.

Once again, welcome to the Fall 2017 semester, and welcome to the Hudson Valley family!

– Drew

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