Leadership Updates

Leadership Updates

At John Jay College, an institution focused on exploring justice in all its many dimensions, we aim to create an atmosphere where every member of our community feels informed, respected, and empowered. To increase campus awareness of our leadership’s goals and concerns, we are sharing an overview of topics presented and discussed at the regular meetings of the Leadership Council, a group of leaders and informal advisors to the President from departments and offices across campus.

November 2019: Strategic Plan, Climate Review and Fundraising Updates

The November meeting of the President’s Leadership Council was held right after the Annual Day of Giving on Nov. 20, as well as after two of the four Strategic Plan Community Conversations were hosted to solicit feedback. The Climate Review report and recommendations had been received and shared with the community at the end of October. The topics for the Council meeting included an update on the Annual Day of Giving, discussion of the planning process for the 2020 strategic plan, and an update on the Climate Review and next steps.

John Jay’s Annual Day of Giving, an all-College fundraising campaign engaging the entire John Jay community of administrators, faculty, staff, alumni, and students, was held on Nov. 20. VP of Institutional Advancement Robin Merle reported that over $112,000 had been raised to date to support he Student Emergency Fund, with more gifts coming in until Dec. 6. (The current total is nearly $160,000). She also reported that the College received additional funds for the Immigrant Student Success Center, which will be named after the generous donor Nasser Kazeminy.

Associate Provost Allison Pease, designated chair of the Strategic Planning Subcommittee (SPS), outlined the process to date for developing the College’s Strategic Plan for 2020-2025. In Phase 1, the SPS charged 11 cross-campus research groups to explore the current trends and best practices in higher education, and consider what the opportunities and challenges are for John Jay. Their reports are in the Briefing Book on the Strategic Plan website. From this research, the SPS proposed the following priorities for consideration by the members of the Leadership Council and the entire campus community:

  1. Advance undergraduate and graduate student success through a holistic, student-centered educational model.
  2. Promote diversity, inclusion, equity, access, and cultural competence in the classroom, across the campus, and in post-graduate contexts.
  3. Build financial stability and sustainability including a focus on enrollment, the environment, and space.
  4. Be a leader in justice education, research, and public engagement.
  5. Improve organizational capacity, effectiveness, and excellence by investing in staff, faculty and infrastructure.

These draft goals were discussed at the meeting and she encouraged further feedback via the online feedback form. Based on the collective feedback, the next step in Phase II will be for SPS to recommend a list of priorities to the President.

VP Laura Ginns shared the President’s message about the Climate Review undertaken with our external partners from Working IDEAL and their final report and recommendations. She also shared the Implementation Plan outlining next steps. Some of the recommendations have already been addressed, and work is under way on others. Some additional recommendations can be implemented in the near term, while others will require a longer term, and still others will need further study and consultation with our community.

One of the recommendations was to develop a shared values statement for the College. A subcommittee of members of the Leadership Council created a preliminary draft of the Values Statement, which was shared and discussed at the meeting. The next step will be to garner additional feedback from the campus community.

Previous Updates

September and October 2019: Diversity Training

The Point Made Learning (PML) group facilitated sessions for a multi-part diversity training program for the Council that is focused on understanding the importance of equity and inclusion in our daily interactions with students and colleagues. PML’s approach is to educate people through “storytelling, interactive learning, and practical experience with uncomfortable dialogue.”

The fiof the training unfolded in the format of a board game called The American Dream, which is “designed to get players physically, intellectually and emotionally engaged in current issues of inclusion and equity.” This interactive game allowed each participant to play a character whose identity was different from their own. Through a series of situations outlined on “chance cards,” during which they face microaggressions and discrimination, they either advance or fall back in terms of success.

The goal of the game was to help participants become aware of people’s varying experiences, based on race, gender, class, religion, and other factors. The game also helped reveal an individual’s existing blind spots and implicit biases that shape how the participant interacted with others.

PML’s Barb Lee and Lenny Walker led the participants through the series of role-playing experiences to increase awareness and improve understanding of people with identities different than their own. Some of the participants expressed how they had been surprised by some of the experiences, and many felt that the training program gave them a better understanding of societal norms and cultural perspectives.

The second part of the training focused on what happens when someone has misspoken or said something problematic. PML’s workshop “Was It Something I Said?” explored feelings of hurt when someone says something offensive. The goal was to give participants practical tools they can use to make difficult conversations easier, as well as techniques that can be applied to every relationship. It was a difficult discussion for the participants and it became evident that a further session would be needed.

August 2019: Climate Review

The main focus for the August 2019 Leadership Council meeting was to review the draft recommendations from external experts at Working IDEAL. The recommendations will be part of the Climate Review report from Working IDEAL that will be released this fall, and which was developed over the spring semester.  The Report aims to make assessments of what they understand to be our challenges, and give us recommendations for how John Jay can seize opportunities to further strengthen our climate.

 There were seven major themes of the recommendations:

  • Shared Values and Belonging
  • Respectful Learning and Working Environments
  • Expanding and Coordinating Resources for Reporting & Response
  • Communication and Transparency
  • Leadership Development
  • Strategic Capacity and Support
  • Training and Other Resources for Holistic Prevention.


The John Jay community will need to have a lot of discussion about which of these recommendations resonate and which of the things are doable in this year, in three years, in five years.

President Mason introduced Barb Lee and Lenny Walker from Point Made Learning (PML), a group that will be facilitating diversity training for the Council this fall.  In line with the recommendations in the Climate Review Report, PML will also be assisting the College on a pro bono basis to create a common values statement and implementation approach.

“We’re not going to recreate the wheel,” said President Mason. “We already have a strong sense of what our values are. We just need to figure out how to articulate them in a way that’s crystallized, so that we can talk from a common language.”