|Griselda Gonzalez, Office of the President, Co-chair of the Diversity Council
Griselda has been at FIT since November 1995. She was appointed as the Affirmative Action Officer in January 2008. She served as the Recording Secretary on the former College-wide Committee on Diversity for many years. During her tenure, she gained great knowledge of diversity and its importance at FIT.
Diversity is not a stand-alone function but a unifying thread woven into the fabric of everything we do as individuals and as entities. Only with a greater understanding of how to leverage the differences that diversity offers, embrace the opportunities that diversity generates, and overcome the fears that preserve the status quo, can we truly function in a state of excellence.
|Michael Cokkinos, Advertising and Marketing Communications, Co-chair of the Diversity Council
Michael Cokkinos is an associate professor in the Advertising and Marketing Department at FIT. He teaches a variety of Advertising and Communication courses, including television production and computer applications. He holds a BA and an MA in Film and Media from Hunter College. Michael celebrates diversity as advisor to WFIT and the Culinary Arts Club. In his role as advisor to WFIT, he encourages students to explore every genre of music and culture. Michael is also director of World Music and has served as a judge for the New Age Voice World Music Awards in 2007 and 2008. He also hosts a show "FITINSIDEOUT," which examines the cultures and influences that make FIT the vibrant place that it is. As advisor to the FIT Culinary Arts Club, Michael teaches students to prepare diverse ethnic cuisines and to explore the vital connections of food and culture in our global society.
|Robyn Baxter, student, Fine Arts Department
Robyn Baxter (“Be”) is a visual artist, poet artist and entrepreneur. At FIT, she is a student in the Fine Arts Department. She is founder and CEO of RSB Expressions, an arts and entertainment company (www.RSBExpressions.tumblr.com), and she has produced two exhibitions. “Maasai and I," a visual arts exhibition aimed to raise awareness and funds for the Maasai tribe; and “Daddies & Daughters,”an annual art project that disproves the myth that men of color are not good fathers. She is a member of the Unveiled Unlocked Project / Bare Head Beauty Collective, which brings social understanding of what it means to be a bare-headed woman. She co-hosts an open mic show in Harlem called "The Bomb Shelter," which showcases young performers of the New Harlem Renaissance. Born to ethnic diversity before it became part of the national agenda, she has a keen appreciation for differences and individuality: “To exclude either side of diversity is like walking around with one contact lens. You can’t see the whole picture.”
Deborah Beard, Technical Design
Deborah Beard is the acting associate chair and assistant professor of FIT's Technical Design Department. She promotes diversity and inclusion in the classroom by mixing up her students for group projects so that they can interact with one another and learn about the rich cultural diversity at FIT. "I feel that the best way for people to truly understand diversity is to participate in it," said Professor Beard. "We shouldn't be afraid of difference. Education is the only way that people will understand and accept why people are the way they are."
|Kurt Bell, Advertising and Marketing Communications major
Kurt Bell is a student in FIT’s Advertising and Marketing Communications department. He works as a principal administrative associate for New York City’s Human Resources Administration Office of Domestic Violence and Emergency Intervention Services (ODVEIS). Kurt was born, raised and still resides in what he likes to call “the melting pot” of Harlem.
For many years, Mr. Bell has been a member of both the FIT Theatre Ensemble and the FIT Gospel Choir under Musical Director Donnell Parson’s baton. He is proud of being part of FIT Choir, which he sees as a catalyst for FIT’s diverse talents brought together in their love of Gospel music. Singing with students from all over the world has inspired Mr. Bell’s own belief that we must “come together to learn to become one,” a message that he is passionate about spreading.
|Dr. Susan Breton, Counseling Center
Dr. Breton is a Clinical Psychologist who over the last 20 years has specialized in child, adolescent and young adult mental health. Her career includes work with inner-city youth in New York, New Haven, and Melbourne, Australia. At the FIT Counseling Center, in addition to providing individual and group psychotherapy to students, Dr. Breton develops and facilitates campus initiatives that promote diversity and help students acclimatize to their changing roles at college.
She has helped created group programs for the college’s international student population and an ongoing Diversity Awareness Workshop that raises awareness of our biases. Dr. Breton has facilitated the LGBT & Friends Chat Group and worked with the FIT-ABLE Office to develop Project THRIVE, a program that helps students with non-verbal learning disorders. “I believe that through the creation of multiple opportunities that explore differences in cultural customs and the similarities that underscore our humanity, we can help our students become the global citizens that they need to be.”
|Mario Cabrera, Security
Mario Cabrera has demonstrated his commitment to leading change in diversity and inclusion throughout his career. As deputy director of Campus Security at FIT, he strives to keep the composition of his 120-member staff as diverse as the population it serves. Before coming to FIT, Mr. Cabrera was the administrative director of Brooklyn College’s Emergency Medical Squad, where he trained and expanded the student-operated staff to reflect the college’s multicultural population. As an active member of the Safe Zones initiative at Kingsborough Community College, he offered training to faculty and staff on how to address reports or incidents involving bias against gay, lesbian, and transgendered community. “FIT has given me amazing opportunities to address diversity and issues of inclusion,” Mr. Cabrera said.
|Deanna Clark, International Trade and Marketing
Deanna Clark, Esq. is an adjunct professor at FIT, where she teaches International Business Law. She is also an International Trade and Fashion Compliance attorney at Shayne Law Group in NYC.
She hosts “Fashion Compliance” an educational program on fashion law, and writes a blog on “International Trade for Everyday People.” In 2012 she received a Junior Faculty award from the International Foundation of Fashion Technology Institutes for her essay on the impact of the African Growth and Opportunity Act trade agreement on the African fashion industry.
She serves as vice president of the New York Chapter of the Organization of Women in International Trade and as an advisory board member of Africa Fashion Week. Deanna aims to increase the representation of minorities in fashion and the law, whether it is through hands-on experience, mentoring, or otherwise.
Deanna received her JD from Tulane Law School, an MA in Diplomatic Studies from the University of Malta’s Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies, and her BA in Peace & Conflict Studies from UC Berkeley. You can follow her on Twitter @fashcompliance.
|Marc De Jong, Social Sciences
Marc De Jong has been teaching Introductory Sociology classes at FIT since 2009. His doctorate in Sociology is from the University of Southern California. At USC, he chaired the Graduate Student Diversity Committee, which encourages socially disadvantaged students from Los Angeles to pursue the university's PhD program in Sociology. Prior to FIT, Professor De Jong was a senior research analyst at the Risk Advisory Group in London, where he served on the Fairness Review Board. He has studied the marginalization of lesbians and gay men in Dutch, British, and U.S. societies, and the Dutch gay community’s role in supporting the rise of a recent anti-immigrant populist movement. He has examined the rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, sexism, and homophobia against the backdrop of the controversial Clash of Civilizations theory.
“As a teacher and sociologist, I believe that the creation of an inclusive, diverse academic and social environment can only be achieved by engaging in open, honest, inclusive, and respectful debate on challenging social and cultural issues,” said Professor De Jong.
|Patrice Goumba, Financial Aid
Associate Professor Patrice Goumba has worked in the financial aid field for nearly 17 years, with only a brief interruption in 2000, when he joined a research and financial analysis firm as an analyst. In 2003 he was appointed counselor at FIT’s Financial Aid Office. Mr. Goumba is a true product of diversity having lived and studied on three continents—Africa, Europe, and North America. He received his BS and MS degrees in Finance and Banking from Adelphi University and a master’s degree in Project Management from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management. He is fluent in both French and English.
Professor Goumba views workplace diversity as an asset that holds tremendous potential for personal growth. “I think of diversity in terms of synergy, where the uniqueness of each individual when combined can be a source of great effectiveness on all levels.”
|Jean Jacullo, Fashion Merchandising Management
Jean Jacullo is an assistant professor in the Fashion Merchandising Management (FMM) Department. She serves on the Search and Screen Committee and the Alumni Advisory Board in the FMM Department. Professor Jacullo also serves on the Faculty Senate committee (CEAP). She holds a Master of Professional Studies degree in Fashion Management from FIT and a BS from the University of Delaware. Her international academic experience includes teaching a seminar in Strategic Brand Management at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, and a seminar course for FIT graduate students in Global Fashion Management in Hong Kong and China. Before entering academia, Ms. Jacullo was a senior vice president at the Macy’s Product Development office and a director of Accessories, Shoes and Handbags at QVC.
Professor Jacullo has incorporated projects into the curriculum that promote globalism, tolerance and an appreciation of other cultures. “I take pleasure in seeing how the students learn from each other and the respect they gain for their fellow classmates,” she said.
|Stephan Kanlian, Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing and Management
Professor Stephan Kanlian developed and serves as chairperson of FIT’s unique master’s degree program for emerging leaders in the cosmetics and fragrance sector, which is recognized as the industry’s American think tank. Each year he leads field studies for students to Europe and Asia, and mentors them in their Capstone research projects, which are presented to more than 700 attendees from industry. An industry expert, he has held marketing and business development positions in the corporate, public, and nonprofit sectors. He serves on the board of directors of the Personal Care Products Council, the industry’s regulatory and advocacy arm in Washington, D.C., and for many years as judge for the Fragrance Foundation’s annual Fragrance Awards. In 2008 he was a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.
“The ability to interact with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds in approaching business decisions is a key advantage that we can provide our students—one that will ensure their success as leaders and their empathy as managers and mentors,” said Professor Kanlian.
|Elvin Elias Lee Kince, Graphic Design
Eli Kince is the curriculum chairperson for Graphic Design, and he has been developing the Graphic Design program for nearly 28 years. He earned his master’s degree from Yale University. He is the author of the books, Visual Puns in Design and I Remember Daddy: A True Fiction, and many articles. His consultation projects include the corporate image for Chase Manhattan Bank. He believes in mentoring young designers as they start their careers. His proudest project is Newwork Magazine, an award-winning publication started in 2007 by students from Graphic Design. Professor Kince has exhibited his artwork around the world for four decades. In 1995 he completed a one-man exhibition in Moscow. In 2006 he participated in the New York Historical Society’s “Legacies: Contemporary Artist Reflect on Slavery” exhibition. In 1987 he established an art gallery in Harlem.
“Diversity is understanding that the human experience has a lot in common, in spite of our perceived differences, and as we increase our exposure to each other we also expand our knowledge about ourselves.”
Laura Kraig is research assistant with the FIT Center for Professional Studies. In her five years of working with a diverse student population on campus, she has become increasingly aware of the concerns of non-traditional students. Prior to FIT, she worked in global telecommunications, where she managed remote third-world locations from the Fifth Avenue headquarters. She still enjoys the friendships she made with her former colleagues on almost every continent. Growing up in Washington, DC, she was exposed to the global community from a young age, and she is especially knowledgeable about the plight of veterans returning from Viet Nam, and more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan. Ms. Kraig holds a degree in Business from Radford College in Virginia and has continued her post-graduate education in communications and image. You will not find her without a book or magazine in hand, always investigating innovative ideas or exploring trends. Ms. Kraig is currently at work on her first book, Her True Identity, which explores how we became the people we are today.
“Diversity fosters acceptance of our unique qualities,” said Ms. Kraig. “The willingness of the FIT community to blend their talents into one creative whole is achieved each day as we work together and rise above our individual needs.
Melissa Melodia is a recent FIT graduate; she holds a Bachelors of Science in International Trade and Marketing. In her senior year, she served as president of the International Trade Student Association (ITSA), a student club on campus. During that time, she organized a campus event called Global Sourcing Today, where students were invited to learn about various international trading methods and different outlets for sourcing products from industry leaders. She also worked with other ITSA members and faculty on ITM departmental events. Melissa is currently working in Product Development in Little Me and Offspring, a leading childrenswear firm. She hopes to obtain an MBA in International Business in the near future.
“Diversity to me is the foundation of our nation,” said Melissa. “Whether it is individual cultural, belief, or lifestyle diversities; being diverse spurs a broad range of ideas, opinions, and innovation. It gives us the opportunity to combine infinite viewpoints with the goal of the best possible outcome for every situation.”
Parker McKenzie is a third-semester student at the Fashion Institute of Technology. After moving to New York City from Oklahoma in January 2012, he quickly realized what it meant to be in the center of one of the most diverse cities in the world. He credits his Oklahoma upbringing for making him truly appreciate what the Big City has to offer. In high school, Parker was a member of numerous clubs and organizations that advocated for diversity, which he continues to do at FIT. Post-graduation, Parker vows to promote diversity in his career and apply the principles of acceptance throughout the rest of his life.
“Diversity is the ability to accept the other’s individuality and one’s own, without judgment or dissatisfaction, ” said Parker.
|Esther Oliveras, Faculty Services
Esther Oliveras has worked at FIT for more than 20 years and is currently coordinator of Faculty Services. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Ms. Oliveras enjoys working in higher education and helping all college personnel achieve their goals more efficiently. She believes that one of education’s purposes is to promote diversity and inclusion, and with this purpose in mind she does her part by listening actively and empathetically to everyone who walks into her office. “In my job and in life, I practice tolerance,” Ms. Oliveras said. “I understand that you can only understand and appreciate others when you are able to walk in their shoes.”
Ms. Oliveras has the words “FIT is colorful” printed on her business card to reflect the make-up of the FIT community and because the phrase implies that differences of culture, gender, race and sexual orientation are all beautiful. “We just need to embrace each other’s differences and get moving toward a common goal.”
|Deborah Payton-Jones, Student Life
For the past 20 years, Deborah Payton-Jones has worked in the Department of Student Life. She serves as the Evening Supervisor, Volunteer as well as the Flea market Coordinator and the University's Suny Voter Registration contact. During that time she has served as a Leadership Workshop facilitator, Diversity training facilitator, College-Wide Committee on Diversity member/ Chairperson and club advisor for several clubs, all in a Volunteer capacity. She wants the FIT family to know that she is very dedicated to ensuring that this Council represents all of us.
Julissa Peralta, better known as JuJu, is a Fashion Design major at FIT. When she isn’t doing her fashion homework, she loves to write poetry, paint, dance and watch movies. She is the manager of social activities for the college’s student government, FIT Student Association (FITSA); where she is responsible for planning year-round social events, including the Pajama Party, Comedy Night and Laster Tag. She is also a member of FIT-ABLE, the college’s disability support services. Most people who know JuJu describe her as a social butterfly, full of energy and creative and unique ideas, which she will bring to her new role in the Diversity Council.
|Delica Reduque, Human Resources and Labor Relations
Delica Reduque is an Executive Associate in the Office of Human Resources and Labor Relations. She has been in education for over fourteen years as a teacher and an administrator. She received her BFA from Pratt Institute and her MSEd in Higher Education Administration from Baruch College. Delica has been involved with diversity issues since the beginning of her career, and she is excited to be a member of the new Diversity Council. She believes in diversity because inclusion and equality leads to an expanding world-view and a richer life experience for everyone.
|Jean-Marc Rejaud, Advertising and Marketing Communications
Jean-Marc Rejaud is a professor in the Advertising and Marketing Communications Department. An expatriate from France, he brings a “diverse” mindset to the Diversity Council. “I will make sure that we look at diversity with a diverse eye, rather than an American eye,” he said, “and that we dry-run our assumptions to avoid stereotyping in our decision-making.”
Professor Rejaud has extensive international experience, having lived and worked abroad since he left France in 1994, and includes a two-year sojourn in the UK before coming to the U.S. The experience of working with individuals from diverse national backgrounds has taught him that we are at once very similar and very different. The ability to negotiate these differences, especially as a manger, requires knowing when we are in a “sharing” mode or a “difference” mode and responding appropriately.
“By understanding and embracing diversity, not only do you become a better human being and create a happier environment, but a better manager as well,” Professor Rejaud said.
|Georgette Smith, Career and Internship Center
Georgette Smith holds a BA in Sociology from St. Johns University and a master’s degree in Education from Hunter College. In her studies, Ms. Smith has focused on special education and rehabilitation for people with head and spinal cord injuries who are returning to school or the workplace.
“Diversity for me means fostering accessibility for all people to participate in enriching experiences through the elimination of physical and mental barriers,” Ms. Smith said.
|Dr. Valerie Steele, Museum at FIT
Dr. Valerie Steele’s life and career have been informed by a belief in the importance of a culturally, ethnically, socially, and intellectually diverse environment. As founder and editor of Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture, she rejected the traditional definition of “fashion” as the clothing of elite western women in favor of one that stressed the significance of fashion across cultures. When she taught at FIT (1985-1996), her courses included “World Dress,” and after she became chief curator at the museum she organized exhibitions such as “China Chic: East Meets West” and “Japan Fashion Now” and “A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk.” Under her leadership, The Museum at FIT has made a point of collecting and exhibiting fashions by African, Asian, and Latin designers. The Museum has also collected and exhibited working-class clothing.
“I am acutely conscious that tolerance of diversity is essential for peaceful coexistence,” Dr. Steele said. “I believe that schools and colleges provide an especially nurturing environment for cultivating acceptance and appreciation of difference.”
|Rajasekhar Vangapaty, Registrar
Rajasekhar Vangapaty (Raj) has been working in higher education since 1983 as an administrator and a faculty member. As a recipient of German and French government scholarships, Raj has learned and shared the cultures in Germany, France, England, Holland, Malta, Dubai. He speaks five languages and plays four instruments.
Raj is passionate about education and believes that if anyone thinks of acquiring anything of worth in this world, it should be in the area of education. Raj enjoys advising and counseling the diverse student body in his work as a Registrar. He volunteers in multi-cultural community centers in New York area, as well as conducts academic counseling workshop sessions outside FIT. Raj holds B.Eng. (OU), M. Tech. Eng. (IIT), M.S. Computer Science (Lehman) and Advanced Engineering from Ecole des Min, (France) and is presently pursuing his doctoral studies in Higher Education Technology.
Raj believes that diversity means understanding; that each individual is unique. There is always something to learn from one another and Raj believes everyday is a learning day!
|Mary Wilson, Fashion Design
Mary M. Wilson is an assistant professor in Menswear Design at FIT. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Parsons The New School For Design. Before joining the Menswear faculty at FIT, she worked for more than 25 years as a design director and merchandiser, head designer, and designer in the fashion industry specializing in menswear, juniors, boys and girls fashion. She has also worked and traveled for domestic and international manufacturers, designing and creating presentation boards and digital tech packs for branded and private label sportswear and outerwear production.
Relating to people of different backgrounds and fostering a feeling of inclusion in the classroom comes easily to her. “As a woman of color raised by deaf parents, I can understand the feeling of being “other,” Professor Wilson said. “It’s been my privilege to try to help students hurdle the difficulties of dealing with economic class and cultural differences and to help to ease the shock of their entry into the world of FIT.”