President David R. Harris honored for his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion

Publication Date

The American Association of Colleges and Universities and education technology company Cengage have honored President David R. Harris with a 2022 AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship.

The scholarship recognizes college and university presidents whose outstanding leadership to advance liberal education has reduced equity gaps, improved inclusion and belonging for minoritized students, and promoted diversity in hiring practices.

David R. Harris, Ph.D.

The honor was announced at the recent AAC&U Presidents’ Trust Symposium, part of the AAC&U Annual Meeting. The other recipients are Miguel Martinez-Saenz, president of St. Francis College, and Claudia Schrader, president of Kingsborough Community College.

“AAC&U is proud to recognize and support these exceptional leaders in their efforts to advance equity and quality as hallmarks of a liberal education across a diverse range of campuses and student populations,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella.

Since becoming president of Union in July 2018, Harris has made a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion a focal point of his presidency.

He created the Making U Possible: The Presidential Initiative for Scholarship and Immersive Excellence, which ensures that talented students from all backgrounds not only can afford a Union education but also are able to take full advantage of opportunities in and out of the classroom. This includes providing financial assistance to participate in terms abroad, mini-terms, internships and pre-orientation programs.

After George Floyd was murdered, he shared his own experiences as an African American, and created the Presidential Initiative on Race, Power and Privilege. The 40-member working group of students, faculty, staff and alumni made recommendations to create and maintain an environment that values and respects all members.

To provide a broad-based approach to fostering diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), Harris appointed a four-member team of chief diversity officers. He also moderates the Forum on Constructive Engagement, a series of events aimed at enhancing an appreciation of other perspectives.

Recently, the College announced a partnership with the Schuler Education Foundation to invest $42 million to enroll significantly more low-income students.

Union is among the first five schools selected to participate in the Schuler Access Initiative, which aims to make the nation's top liberal arts colleges more accessible to deserving students.

Union originally planned to raise $20 million over five years, but reached its goal in less than a year. With a $22 million match from the Schuler Foundation, the College will have $42 million in scholarship grant funding to significantly increase the number of Pell-eligible students it serves. Most Pell Grants are awarded to students with a total family annual income below $20,000.

A former Pell Grant recipient, Harris prioritized the Schuler initiative to attract top students with the greatest need.

Recipients of the AAC&U-Cengage Inclusion Scholarship each receive a one-year, complimentary AAC&U campus membership and a one-year complimentary membership in the AAC&U Presidents’ Trust, a network of education CEOs.

“I am honored and deeply humbled to be recognized with this award,” said Harris. “It reinforces Union’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging as we continue to build a community where all feel welcome and all can achieve to their full potential.”