University readies new home for Rider’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion

The location, in the heart of campus, underscores Rider’s commitment to fostering an inclusive community
Diane Cornell

A new space dedicated to Rider's Center for Diversity and Inclusion is currently under construction in the Bart Luedeke Center.

Begun in May, the construction of the suite of offices and meeting rooms will give the Center for Diversity and Inclusion a welcoming, centrally located area that will serve as a prominent spot for the University’s multicultural student clubs and organizations to gather and for all members of the campus community to engage in vital dialogue around issues of social justice, equity and inclusion.

The Center will occupy the area on the ground floor of The Bart Luedeke Center recently vacated by the University's radio station, 107.7 The Bronc, which is now operating out of its new home on the second floor of the Fine Arts Center. It is expected to be open for the beginning of the fall semester and will be located next to the new Student Navigation Office outside of Cranberry’s.

The creation of this new physical space underscores Rider’s commitment to fostering an inclusive living and learning community for all who study and work at the University.

That commitment was reinforced last year with the unveiling of the University’s Inclusive Excellence Plan, which set forth explicit goals around institutional inclusion, including improving the diversity of employees and enhancing support for underrepresented students, among others. The plan was an outgrowth of work completed by the President's Council on Inclusion, which was charged with recommending how to promote the University's values around equity and inclusion.

"Every student at Rider University should feel our commitment to inclusion at the core of their experience, and placing the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in the heart of the student center reinforces its value to our community and allows students ready access to its programs and services,” says Rider’s president, Gregory G. Dell’Omo.

The Center works with faculty, staff, alumni and peer mentors to foster an understanding and appreciation of different cultures and identities in order to support student engagement, retention and persistence to graduation. In the space, artwork representing diverse cultures and identities will be used to create an atmosphere designed to make all students feel welcomed and appreciated.

“We have engaged over 100 students, staff, faculty, and alumni in conversations to envision a space that will support multicultural clubs and student organizations, foster a sense of belonging for underrepresented, marginalized and/or under-resourced students, and promote education and encourage dialogue around issues of inclusion for all members of the community,” says Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg. “We hope the space will be a symbol of inclusion and the location engages the community and promotes awareness of equity and inclusion issues and the value of such discussion.”

A recent program offered on June 3 by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, Tension in America: An Open Discussion, is an example of the type of programming it will continue to make available to students, alumni and the broader Rider community. More than 200 people participated in the virtual program that offered an opportunity for open discussion on racism and acts of violence.

University Advancement is currently raising funds in support of the Center and its programming.

The diversification of the University's student body has been growing over the past several years. Last year’s freshman class was the most diverse in Rider history with 49% reporting as underrepresented (students of color and/or Hispanic). The class also included a number of students who identified as first-generation, of differing abilities and/or LGBTQ+, among other identities.

Rider has a long-standing commitment to issues of equity and inclusion. The University admitted its first international and female students in 1866, the year after Rider was founded. The University’s first Black student was admitted in 1894. Rider also offers many programs, resources and services that currently support inclusion efforts in addition to the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. These include the Educational Opportunity Program, TRIO programs, Veterans Affairs, and Student Accessibility and Support Programs, as well as many multicultural student organizations.

“Our goal is to affirm identity, build community and cultivate leaders while remaining mindful and respectful of individual needs,” says Pamela Pruitt, executive director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “It is only then that we can dismantle barriers to success. In light of recent protests and concerns about police violence against individuals of color, we’re particularly pleased to have the Center available to our students in September.”

To make a gift in support of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, please contact Denise Pinney, associate vice president of campaign operations and director of corporate and foundation relations, at 908-400-3859.