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Gift From SU Trustee Launches Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Training

February 10, 2021

Larsen AnnouncementA generous gift from SU Trustee Christine Larsen and Vincent Dopulos will support diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training for graduate students at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs over the next five years—a key initial step toward realizing the school’s renewed vision for developing leaders and educators who are committed to improving outcomes for all peoples. 

The training framework comes from a collaborative initiative by Syracuse University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and InterFaith Works’ El-Hindi Center for Dialogue in the City of Syracuse. Through the lens of lived experiences of people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, these dialogue circles teach participants methods of constructive engagement across their differences thereby fostering greater inclusivity. The gift-funded training will allow Maxwell to pilot three race and ethnicity intergroup dialogue circles of 12-14 students each this spring, and train 70 graduate students per year over the next five years. Student participants will prepare to lead future dialogue circles with their peers, thus accelerating the impact of the program. Participants will be empowered to use these tools in personal, academic and professional spaces, strengthening cross-cultural understanding and reducing racial, ethnic and cultural bias within the Maxwell School and into their careers.

“We are grateful for this gift as it enables us to begin making good on our commitment to creating a more diverse School, and to developing more inclusive leaders,” said Gladys McCormick, associate professor of history and Maxwell’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion. “We hope this gift and others will galvanize the Maxwell community to engage with us in this important work, which is central to our mission as an educational institution grounded in the social sciences and committed to improving the public good.”

In June 2020, McCormick, who holds the Jay and Debe Moskowitz Endowed Chair in Mexico-U.S. Relations, was appointed to lead efforts around the creation of a school-wide plan for catalyzing awareness and institutional change around biases and structures affecting under-represented peoples within Maxwell and beyond. In the fall of 2020, a draft of the preamble, vision and pillars of a strategic plan was published articulating key elements in development. Stakeholder input and community feedback—including from new affinity groups of graduate students of color and international students, as well as the existing faculty of color affinity group co-directed by McCormick—are ongoing.

In the first three years of the plan’s implementation, Maxwell will focus its DEI initiatives on faculty, staff and graduate students. The focus on faculty, teaching and curricula will have a trickle-down effect throughout the School; and undergraduates currently benefit from campus-wide DEI initiatives and programming offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, Student Services, and the University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Training for graduate students is intended to fill an important gap while not duplicating other efforts.

Larsen’s gift demonstrates her longstanding commitment to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion at the Maxwell School. She has generously supported similar Maxwell programs, including a pilot study to assess community needs and assets among immigrants and refugees in the Syracuse area. Larsen is a 1984 graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool), with a master’s degree in library and information science. She is a member of the University’s Board of Trustees, and chair of its Academic Affairs Committee; and serves on the iSchool’s Board of Advisors. 

Registration for the first group of Race and Ethnicity Dialogue Circles with Maxwell graduate students begins on February 15. Interested graduate students should watch for more information forthcoming via email or contact Kyaira Coffin at

To view a draft of the Maxwell School’s DEI plan in development, and news about the School’s investments and milestones related to diversity issues, please visit the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Maxwell webpage.

To learn how you can get involved in Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University, which endeavors to raise $1.5 billion in philanthropic support to enhance academic excellence and the student experience for all, please visit

Published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Maxwell Perspective

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