B. Afeni McNeely Cobham appointed first associate vice chancellor and vice provost for equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging at UNCSA

B. Afeni McNeely Cobham has been named the first associate vice chancellor and vice provost for equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) at UNCSA, Chancellor Brian Cole has announced. She will join the university on April 3.

B. Afeni McNeely Cobham

B. Afeni McNeely Cobham

A native of East New York, Brooklyn, McNeely Cobham has served in higher education for 31 years as a senior administrator, faculty member, curator and consultant. As a practitioner-scholar-activist, she has seen her work benefit student engagement units in academic advising, residential life, judicial affairs, campus activities, career services, enrollment management, multicultural affairs and more. Last year, she launched J.E.D.I. TIP (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion), a consultant group that offers contemporary and authentic approaches to diversity, equity and inclusion practices that sustain organizational growth.

“I am thrilled to welcome Afeni as our university’s first-ever associate vice chancellor and vice provost for EDIB,” said Chancellor Cole. “We are very fortunate that such a highly qualified and enthusiastic leader is joining our team. Afeni’s experience and success in moving institutions forward in EDIB is exactly what we need at UNCSA.

“While we realize that the work of EDIB cannot fall to one person alone, Afeni will work alongside senior leadership and community members who are energized to invest the resources, time and energy needed to address EDIB issues at the university and within the arts.”

The new position was identified as a key component of EDIB efforts at UNCSA as part of a framework developed in 2020 that outlines the explicit and continual process of identifying and dismantling systems and practices of bias, exclusion and oppression. EDIB is also now a pillar of UNCSA Forward: Our 2022-27 Strategic Plan.

McNeely Cobham was identified after a nationwide search and was one of three finalists chosen to present to the campus earlier this month. She will report to Chancellor Cole.

McNeely Cobham was the inaugural chief equity and inclusion officer at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), serving from 2018-22. She was instrumental in moving the institution toward an overhaul of its strategic plan, centering principles of equity through the core pillars. She also developed the purpose, vision and values for the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in partnership with campus and community stakeholders.

Also at GRCC, McNeely Cobham curated and launched programming and training initiatives such as the Cultural Competence Institute, J.E.D.I. Series and the Feminist Colloquia; developed a Social Justice and Equity Resources list to reinforce training and professional development sessions; and galvanized faculty, staff and students to launch the LGBTQ+ Think Tank, a brave space that promotes awareness, agency and advocacy.

Under her leadership, some of the world’s most influential leaders were featured during events sponsored by her office. They include: Jordan Marie Brings Three White Horses Daniel, an activist for Indigenous rights and representation; Austin Channing Brown, author of “I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness”; Nikole Hannah-Jones, the creator of The 1619 Project; John Leguizamo, Tony Award recipient and cultural critic; and Bun B, hip-hop artist and entrepreneur and faculty member at Rice University.

Michigan’s first community college, GRCC enrolls more than 12,000 students annually.

Prior to GRCC, McNeely Cobham served as an associate dean at Connecticut College, associate provost of student life and affiliate faculty at the University of Denver, and assistant dean at Brown University. She also taught at Salem State University in Massachusetts, Metropolitan State University (MSU) of Denver, and Indiana University, among others.

In 2010, she was the first faculty member at the University of Denver to teach a course on hip-hop culture titled “The 21st Century Minstrel Showdown: Hip Hop Culture vs. Rap Music and the Commodification of Social Identities.” That same year, she transitioned to the Department of African American Studies at MSU Denver to amplify the work of the course by curating the Sankofa Lecture Series, a hip-hop cultural literacy conference.

“The synergy between my student affairs work, faculty experience, and interdisciplinary scholarship provided an opportunity to transition into a senior leadership position at GRCC,” said McNeely Cobham. “I have the experience and acumen to support the leadership team in developing and facilitating EDIB initiatives that shape the culture and impact of UNCSA. I look forward to joining the Fighting Pickle family!”

McNeely Cobham is a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority, the Order of the Eastern Star (Lone Star Chapter No. 1), and several academic honor societies. Her honors include being chosen as a member of the “Inner Circle,” West Michigan’s Most Accomplished and Admired Women, while her Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was presented with the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses Collaboration Award for its work with MuseGR, an urban art gallery and community incubator for social justice through artistic expression, and was a finalist for the Ally to Accomplice Award at the inaugural Prism Awards presented by the Grand Rapids Pride Center, all in 2022.

McNeely Cobham has a Bachelor of Arts from Marist College, a Master of Education from the University of Georgia and a Doctor of Philosophy in higher education administration from Indiana University. In 2000, she made history there by becoming the first recipient of the Master of Arts in African American and African Diaspora Studies.

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February 02, 2023