Office for Diversity and Inclusion

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is committed to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion at all levels of the college. 


A Message from the Associate Dean


Fatima Johnson Canisius

Canisius University is an educational community comprised of students and employees with varied backgrounds and life experiences. Together, we can help make diversity and inclusion a priority in our daily work and interactions. While my role as associate dean for diversity and inclusion may serve as a focal point for this work, the responsibility for putting our values into action belongs to each of us. 
The goal is to work collaboratively toward a truly inclusive experience throughout all aspects of campus life. Together, we can help each member of the college community understand and appreciate how diversity and inclusion on campus strengthens all of us.

Canisius is a special place and I am honored to be a part of this important work. I would like to thank the students, staff, faculty, administrators, alumni and community members who have laid the foundation for promoting diversity and inclusion at Canisius.

Fatima Rodriguez Johnson, MS ‘98, ACTLD
Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

Ms. Johnson provides leadership, coordination and strategic planning for all campus-wide initiatives to advance diversity, equity and inclusion. She has two decades of experience working in higher education and previously served as the associate dean of students for multicultural programs and services at the State University of New York at Geneseo. A native of Buffalo, she earned her bachelor of arts in sociology from the State University of New York at Fredonia and her master of science in higher education administration from Canisius University. In 2017 she was honored with the INSIGHT into Diversity Giving Back Award.

Statement on Diversity and Inclusion at Canisius

Consistent with our Catholic Jesuit mission and identity, we stand in solidarity with and advocate for everyone of all abilities, identities, life experiences, and perspectives.

As a campus located in a diverse Buffalo community, we are committed to:  

  • Creating a culture of acceptance, awareness, learning, respect, and understanding inside and outside of the classroom
  • Pursuing academic excellence through a curriculum of diverse ideas and vibrant interpersonal classroom experiences that challenge individuals to grow
  • Promoting a safe and welcoming experience that encourages questioning and discussion
  • Advancing equity by removing institutional barriers to success for all members of the community
  • Developing lifelong learners who contribute to an increasingly diverse and global society

Unveiled in 2020, the statement reflects the work of a subcommittee led by the associate dean and made up of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, student affairs and facilities management staff, as well as neighbors from the Hamlin Park Taxpayer Association. 

Stephanie Barber Geter, president, Hamlin Park Community & Taxpayers Association
Sierra M. Bonerb, associate director, Support Services-Accessibility Support & Veterans
Paola C. Fajardo-Heyward, PhD, associate professor, Political Science/Faculty-Student Liaison, Faculty Senate
Deanna Garwol, student, Campus Ministry Intern
Susan C. Gruttadauria, administrative associate, Computer Science, Math, Physics and Core
Donald Hamilton, staff, Facilities Management
Mylan Hawkins, student, ULLC
Abby Hughes, student, 2019-2020 USA President
Jabril Moore, graduate student, HESA
Lizzy Nankumba, student, ULLC
Rodrigo Ortiz, student, Executive Board LASAF
Brian Smith, director, International Students & Study Abroad
Malini C. Suchak, PhD, associate professor, ABEC

Racial Equity Plan

For approximately five years, Canisius University has sought to identify and understand issues impacting students of color.  In the spring of 2014, a campus climate committee chaired by Matthew Hertz, PhD, Director of Research and Institutional Effectiveness, and Craig Rogers, PhD, Associate Professor of Economics and Finance, was formed with representation from students, staff, faculty, and administrators.  
The committee was charged with developing and distributing a survey focused on the issues and concerns of ALANA (African American, Latino/a/x American, Asian, and Native American) students.  The study found that ALANA students were experiencing social and academic isolation, and alienation due to microaggressions. The committee also found that ALANA students had less opportunities to hold leadership positions.   
In response to the 2014 campus climate survey results, the committee made the following recommendations:
Continue to work with offices and departments that serve ALANA students  and integrate them fully into the fabric of the college;
Develop programs that increase faculty advisors’ awareness of, and sensitivity to, issues impacting ALANA students and their academic performance;
Given continued problems keeping low population ALANA student clubs active, create parallel ad hoc student committees to ensure that cultural heritage programming continues (e.g. Native American Student Circle);
Bring in big-name outside speaker(s) to facilitate campus-wide town-hall discussions on race (the participation of a popular speaker should create high interest);
Include all faculty (not just advisors) in training centered on ALANA student issues and how to support them;
Develop creative approaches to helping all students understand issues in culturally, racially, and ethnically diverse populations;
Identify outside resources that can provide additional funds for programs focused on these issues; and
Create tools for ALANA student clubs (and others) to improve communication and collaboration among groups, encourage co-sponsorship of events, and promote practices that improve event turnout. 
While the work of the committee was telling and efforts were made to implement the recommendations, in November 2015, a student leader, Joy McBride, President of the Afro American Society, remarked that, “Canisius sucks when it comes to diversity.” John J. Hurley, President of Canisius University, followed up with the student and in 2016, he met with the Afro American Society. More than forty members shared their experiences and called for more intentional efforts to address race and racism within the institution.
In a memo to the college community, President Hurley called for the creation of a campus task force to focus on addressing race.  The work of the campus-wide diversity task force inspired a Student Racial Diversity Team, which led to the development of a second campus climate study.  This survey was administered in the spring of 2018, with approximately 800 respondents.  Unlike the 2014 study, the 2018 study included the experiences of faculty and staff.   Many of the issues and concerns expressed by students in 2014 held true for the survey conducted in 2018. 
In the spring of 2019, college wide campus climate presentations were held to share the results and to garner campus stakeholder feedback.  The feedback was analyzed by the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, which was formed by Dr. Margaret McCarthy, Vice President for Academic Affairs at that time.  Six (6) areas of focus were identified, and the framework of Inclusive Excellence was utilized to guide the development of the campus climate on race strategic plan.  
Areas of Focus:
Curriculum/Academic Initiatives
Educational Programs
Intersectional Work
Recruitment & Retention
Training & Skill Building

Inclusive Excellence 

The Association of American Colleges & Universities (Committing to Equity and Inclusive Excellence, 2015) offers a model for engaging in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion.  Inclusive Excellence encourages institutions of higher education to make a pervasive commitment to equity and inclusion.
Inclusive Excellence challenges colleges and universities to understand who its students are and what they each need to be successful. Different students need different kinds of support for their learning. Our charge is to cultivate an environment where all students can be successful by providing access to high-quality learning opportunities that: 
Are focused on student intellectual and social development by offering the best possible course of study for the context in which the education is offered.
Purposefully develop and utilize organizational resources to enhance student learning by establishing an environment that challenges each student to achieve academically at high levels and each member of the campus to contribute to learning and knowledge development.
Give attention to the cultural differences learners bring to the educational experience and that enhance the enterprise. 
Are provided within a welcoming community that engages all of its diversity in the service of student and organizational learning.
Our efforts to improve campus climate for all members of Canisius University is consistent with the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus, 2019-2029.  Arturo Sosa, SJI, Superior General (February, 2019) states that we must go out to the human peripheries and to the margins of society, and follow a path that promotes social justice and the change of economic, political, and social structures that generate injustice. This is also the work that we are called to do as we strive to become a more diverse and inclusive institution.