Allison Heard has been named vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at SUNY Plattsburgh.
“I feel actually honored and very excited,” Heard told Diverse in an interview this week. “One of the things about me is that I grew up on the south side of Chicago, very much so an inner-city girl. I was also a first-generation college student. I often tell people that my parents didn't attend college because they didn't want to, but it was lack of access and opportunity,"
Heard is currently the director of institutional diversity and Title IX coordinator at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. She begins work in her new job in early October, and she already has big plans.
"I'm just really excited to get to campus to listen to people, to see a little bit of the work that's already been done so that I can see many of those things through to fruition," she said.
Studying racism is a significant part of Heard’s work. She created a speaker, book, and radio series through the Illinois Department of Human Services Healing Illinois grant that focuses on racism and bias. She has also partnered with St. Francis’s Laverne and Dorothy Brown Library to establish a racial healing room and book collection about racism, anti-racism, and lingering trauma.
Heard calls herself a first-generation student of color, and adds that, with the hurdles students have faced due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, today's students represent a way, a new kind of first-generation as well.
"Going to school during a pandemic, where we also had an even higher level of racial tension in this country, was a first for many people," she said. "I think the fact that we saw so many students who were in high school completing their learning at home, in multi-generational households, the fact that much of this learning was occurring on the computer, people were developing new and different techniques for doing this work, some without technology, it made them in many ways first generation for the things that we were experiencing.”
The Chicago native earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Vermont in Burlington. She is currently enrolled in a doctoral program education at St. Francis.