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New CDO Damita Davis has vision for change


By Ellen Paddock / News Editor

SUNY Brockport’s new Chief Diversity Officer, Damita Davis, is the first woman in her family to earn a college degree.

Although Davis did not set out to be an inspiration, it was inevitable as she progressed through her academic and professional career. Davis grew up in Providence, Rhode Island in a neighborhood where few people attended college. 

After becoming the first woman in her family to earn a college degree, Davis noticed her brothers and cousins began paying close attention to what she said and did. The same happens in a professional setting when she interacts with students of similar backgrounds. 

“I know for some students my physical presence and the position I’m in is going to be inspiring, and so I try to make sure I conduct myself in a manner that those who are watching me can see themselves or see part of who they are manifested in a different way,” Davis said. 

Her interest in multicultural studies began at the University of Rhode Island (URI). The semester before Davis’s freshman year, URI students protested racial profiling by campus police, poor treatment of students of color and lack of diversity in faculty and staff. 

As protests continued in the following semester, Davis saw that racism and discrimination made it difficult to have a positive college experience. As an 18-year-old, she asked herself a question that later became a theme in her professional career.  

 “I asked how I can have a better college experience for myself and my friends,” Davis said. “As I went through undergrad and returned to URI for my graduate degree, I continued in that vein of how to enhance, and make these experiences better for those who are underrepresented or marginalized at the university.”  

Starting July 1, Davis will continue her mission of an improved college experience at SUNY Brockport. She will fill the role of former CDO, Cephas Archie Ph.D., whose firing prompted student protests, media backlash and speculations of racism.  

Davis said a community effort is required for the changes that need to be made on campus, and that she cannot create the change alone. She plans to invite the community, students, faculty and staff alongside her.   

“People need to see themselves sharing this responsibility and not necessarily see me as a person that comes in and fixes everything. That’s not realistic,” Davis said. “When you are talking about shifting culture, you have to bring people along with you, and they have to be on board with shifting that culture.”   

Davis will start by implementing a new plan of equity, diversity and inclusion. She wants to have as many people engaged with the plan and as many voices heard in the discussions surrounding it as possible. Additionally, she hopes Brockport will see her as a resource and a trusted community member.  

Davis plans to initiate difficult conversations. She will challenge and support the community in conversations of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“I am serious about the commitment that I made to Brockport and doing the work that I’ve been asked to do on behalf of the college and for the community and really trying to continue to move the institution forward in the goal that they have shared with me,” Davis said.

Davis spent the last seven years in the Office for Institutional Diversity at Boston College, where she organized training programs for the university’s diverse workforce. She coordinated the Cultural Competence Engagement Modules, the University Affiliates Program and implemented department level workshops.

Before Boston College, Davis was the Director of Multicultural Programs at Emmanuel College, where she demonstrated skilled program design and implementation. Responsible for the development of diversity education programs and initiatives for students on campus, Davis coordinated a diversity lecture series, developed the college’s Bias Incident and Hate Crime Policy and organized a service-learning trip to South Africa.

Davis earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Rhode Island. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate in the higher education program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is researching leadership approaches to Black women as presidents at predominantly white institutions for her advanced degree thesis.

Considering heightened racial tensions on campus, President Macpherson said Davis will help work to ensure the issues are addressed proactively. As CDO, Davis will provide strategic leadership in the prioritization of SUNY Brockport’s five-year Strategic Plan for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

In an email announcement from, Davis offered a statement- “I am truly honored to have been selected as the next CDO officer for SUNY Brockport. I want to thank Dr. Macpherson, Dr. Acker and all the members of the search committee for affording me the opportunity to serve the Brockport community in supporting, fostering and guiding our efforts in becoming a more equitable, diverse and inclusive institution. I look forward to joining you this summer to continue the great work that has already been done and to foster a path for even greater things to come.”

Macpherson is certain Davis is the right person to lead the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and is excited to learn from and with her.


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