Inclusion Council

The Inclusion Council serves as a lead voice in identifying, recommending, and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for the strategic growth and development of the institution.

About the Inclusion Council

The Inclusion Council consists of 20 members representing constituents throughout the University community. The Council, chaired by the senior diversity officer, serves as an advisory body to the senior diversity officer, as well as the University’s president, cabinet, and senior staff and will align its work to the University’s Strategic Plan with a particular emphasis on its Pillar Four focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. This Pillar states ‘St. John Fisher University will cultivate an equitable, inclusive learning and working environment that attracts, retains, and supports a diverse community of lifelong learners to positively impact today’s complex, global world.’ The Council advises the senior diversity officer in planning, coordinating, and implementing inclusive structural change.

Inclusion Council Priorities

The Inclusion Council will bring to fruition the goals of the University’s Strategic Plan by addressing three major priorities identified by University leadership. The Council will divide its work into the three sub-groups focused on these priorities, and each will have co-chairs.

Priority 1: Inclusive Talent Management

Inclusive Talent Management Co-Chairs
  • Valerie Benjamin
  • Megen Jankowski (not a member of the Inclusion Council)

Priority 2: Program and Community Outreach

Program and Community Outreach Co-Chairs
  • Chris Biehn
  • Chris Rush

Priority 3: Student Success

Student Success Co-Chairs
  • Dr. Michelle Erklenz-Watts
  • Derick Wigle

Inclusion Council Responsibilities

  • Assist in building a strong sense of belonging and a hospitable culture associated with helping campus constituents develop relationships that engage across differences;
  • Assist in the implementation of the University’s strategic plan for DEI aligned with the framework of the Council of Independent Colleges’ (CIC) Belong Community;
  • Recommend and assist with DEI initiatives that enrich, educate, and develop DEI knowledge and skills among students, employees, alumni, and trustees;
  • Collaborate with sub-group leaders and members in identifying and recommending processes and plans that support systems for attracting, retaining, and creating a more diverse and equity-minded faculty, staff, and student body;
  • Assist with special initiatives and projects/events, as requested;
  • Participate in quarterly meetings and potential subcommittee meetings for Inclusion Council members as organized by the senior diversity officer and/or the sub-group co-chair.

Inclusion Council Members

Noveera Ahmed
Associate Professor and Academic Division Chair, Life Sciences
Val Benjamin
Assistant Vice President for Human Resources
Chris Biehn
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
Undergraduate Student, Political Science
Marie Cianca
Associate Professor
Gabriela Cipriano
Associate Professor, Pharmacy Practice and Administration
William Clark
Former President and Chief Executive Officer, Urban League of Rochester, NY, Inc.
Damien Duchamp
Assistant Dean for Online Education
Graduate Student, Pharmacy
Michelle Erklenz-Watts
Associate Professor Interdisciplinary Studies
Undergraduate Student, Finance
Undergraduate Student, Public Relations
Nikki Leifker
Associate Professor
Executive Director, Rochester-Monroe County Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI)
Founder and Board President of the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), Rochester Chapter
Executive Director, Champion Academy
Derek Wigle
Director of Residential Life
Special Needs Service Supervisor, Child Care Council, Inc., Rochester, NY