5 Questions with Cumberland County College President Dr. Yves Salomon-Fernandez

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Dr Yves CCC

Cumberland County College’s president has just been named one of the Top 25 women in higher education by a national magazine. 

VINELAND, NJ — It has been a little more than two years since Dr. Yves Salomon-Fernandez was chosen as the seventh president of Cumberland County College (CCC). 

And it is closing in on the one-year anniversary of when she was officially inducted as the new head of the school in a gorgeous and emotional ceremony that took place in the Luciano Theater at the Guaracini Fine & Performing Arts Center on May 5, 2017. 

As one would expect, there have been a few changes plus numerous new plans and programs that have been implemented during Salomon-Fernandez’s brief tenure at the school.

One aspect of Dr. Yves’ presidency that hasn’t been altered, however, is her desire to continue “CCC’s legacy of propelling people forward.”

Many people have taken notice of her efforts to achieve that laudable goal across the county, across South Jersey, and beyond.

Related: Sexual Assault Awareness Week Begins at Cumberland County College

In the March 22, 2018 edition of the well-respected, academia magazine Diverse Issues In Higher Education, Salomon-Fernandez was featured as one of its Top 25 Women in Higher Education. 

According to the magazine, this award is given as an opportunity for “Honoring 25 women in the academy who are making a difference.” 

SNJ Today had the chance to speak to Dr. Salomon-Fernandez about her latest accolade and the significance of people embracing diversity not only in the educational sphere, but in life as well.

Congratulations on being selected as one of the Top 25 Women in Higher Education in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. You must feel extremely honored. Can you tell our readers what Diverse Issues in Higher Education is and their mission?

I was honored by the award. I was pleasantly surprised by the honor; it was unexpected. In many ways, I consider it a recognition of the great people in my life who have helped me to choose and succeed in a career where I get to make a difference everyday and have fun doing that. I am grateful to the students who attend Cumberland County College and who have attended the other colleges and universities where I have previously worked. It’s an honor to be part of their journeys.

I was pleasantly surprised by the honor; it was unexpected.

Diverse Issues In Higher Education is one of the preeminent publications in our field that covers not just issues of diversity and multiculturalism, but also a range of current events and hot topics with broad implications for higher education and the public. The organization has evolved since its inception and embraces broad topics around leadership, management, pedagogy, compensation, and student success, among other topics. Diverse magazine covers issues that affect Asian Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, American Indians, people with disabilities, seniors, LGBTQIA, veterans and other underrepresented groups in higher education.

What is LGBTQIA?

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex and Asexual.

Are you acquainted or friends with any of the other winners and do you personally know Joy Reid (the host of AM Joy on MSNBC and another winner of this distinguished award)?

I know some of the prior recipients of the award. Unfortunately, I do not know Joy Reid. [However], I do know Dr. Karen Stout. She is an amazing leader. We are fortunate to benefit directly from her leadership as an Achieving the Dream Leader College.

There are always discussions in academia about diversity. Why is that important?

Issues of diversity and inclusion are important for us for multiple reasons. We want to see equity in access to opportunities for students to excel in and outside of the classroom as much as we want to see equity in their levels of achievement. You can’t have equity in academic attainment without equity of access to the resources and opportunities to learn and excel. We also want students who see role models who can inspire them, folks who look like them and to whose experiences they can relate. 

One of the things that we have to be conscious about is not to be exclusionary when we talk and implement diversity and equity initiatives. There is room for everyone and if we look hard enough, we will find that we have more that we have in common — like our humanity — than we have that divides us. So, when we start any discourse on campus or on the national stage, it’s always best to start with what unites us then move on to acknowledging the deeply rooted, multi-generational inequities and biases.

What are the dimensions of diversity that you see as being important today?

In higher ed, it always behooves us to go beyond race, gender, and ethnicity. We aim to provide an inclusive environment for students to learn about themselves and others, and to appreciate the value of difference. 

We see ideological and epistemological differences in the scholarly work that our faculty produce and their teaching. It’s important to embrace and be conscious of the implications of other dimensions of diversity like class, first-generation status, creed/religion, sexual orientation, disability, age, and lived experiences. These are the ones that I can think of at the top of my head. There are so many dimensions to diversity.  

(Photo: Steve Defelice)

Related: Vineland Schools Ask Community to Help Make Prom Perfect for All Students

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