Dr. Warren Anderson is Harrisburg Area Community College’s new addition as Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer. He travels between all five HACC campuses, and with his gentle voice, easy laugh and comfortable manner, students talk Dr. Anderson as if they have known him for years.
The role of Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, is new for HACC and Dr. John Sygielski, also known as Dr. Ski, the president of HACC, says that Anderson stood out as especially qualified for the development of this new position.
“He came across as really the leader, heads and shoulders above others. One because of his experience, two because of his intellect, three because of his heart,” said Ski.
Ski explained that the goal of the college’s strategic plan is: “instill inclusivity,” and this led him and the college in developing the new role.
“We are becoming a very diverse educational institution and we are operating in a growingly diverse area,” said Ski. “It’s really important that we have somebody of Dr. Anderson’s capabilities and experiences to be with us to navigate these waters as our world inside and outside changes.”
Anderson was hired in July and said he is excited about the chance to work with Dr. Ski to develop the inclusion and diversity role and for the opportunity to “create the kind of culture that is really going to support inclusive excellence for years to come.”
Anderson defines diversity as the way the college looks and its ability to attract and support minorities. Inclusion is making sure that after students are enrolled at HACC they feel included in each part of their own academic success and that they have a voice in the overall institution.
“I want to make sure in my role that we push the concepts around diversity and inclusion. That we challenge every member of the college to be an active and engaged participant,” said Anderson.
“A lot of people have the notion that because I’m the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer, that I’m the only one responsible for diversity and inclusion and that is simply not true,” said Anderson and added that just because there are differences between people, that does not mean they cannot become each other’s biggest supporters for success.
After earning his doctorate in higher education from Widener University, Anderson has been employed by several different colleges beginning with Mansfield University. He has worked in student affairs and with minorities and diversity initiatives, but said that HACC will be a different challenge because it is a community college with five different campuses and five different populations. Anderson sees his role as not only involving the faculty and student body at HACC, but also reaching out into the larger community.
“My ultimate goal, as a community college, is increasing our role as the community’s college in central Pennsylvania,” said Anderson. He said he wants to put plans into place that help HACC become a catalyst for statewide change. This includes partnering with transfer schools, community organizations, local legislators and corporate partners, and providing resources for HACC students as they go back into the community.
HACC has the capacity, Anderson said, “to be the best, most progressive, forward thinking institution around inclusion and diversity in higher education.”
Anderson, originally from Philadelphia, loves being from an urban city, and is an Eagles fan, “even though it can be difficult at times,” he joked. He comes from a big family with four younger sisters and currently lives with his fiancée in Harrisburg. In his free time, he said he likes to get rid of stress by having fun, cooking, or watching Netflix.
HACC is planning upcoming events that focus on diversity and inclusion. Anderson led one forum on diversity at each campus so far, and mentioned ideas for symposia on race, gender and age. His current goal, according to Dr. Ski, is to listen to the college for the first six months. This will enable him to have qualitative data to begin assessing a strategic plan for the college, based on HACC’s goal to instill inclusivity.
“This is the most interesting time in my life,” Anderson said, but added that the types of conversations he is trying to cultivate can be difficult to have. But, “I genuinely love coming to work,” he said and you will find him willing to engage, answer questions or listen to anyone.”