I’m very excited to be here as Cornell’s Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students. My primary responsibility as Dean of Students is to be a highly engaged and visible advocate for undergraduate and graduate/professional students alike. At the core of my role is a commitment to work broadly on aspects of access, equity, and social justice at Cornell. With that comes a commitment to building a sense of community among students and to creating opportunities for students to explore the intersectionality of identity development. I’m also charged with leadership and guidance on crisis response campus-wide and with connecting academics with co-curricular activities.
Philosophically, I believe that higher education is a key tool for strengthening our American civic democracy. Cornell University is a place where we have the opportunity to equip emerging adults with the tools to engage in rigorous debate, evaluate multiple perspectives, form their own truths based on facts and lived experience, and respect the viewpoints of others, even when they disagree. This project is at the heart of diversity and inclusion work and I am thrilled to lead on these issues at a time when our nation is asking deep, existential questions about what it means to reconcile difference in the 21st century. From its inception, Cornell University has also wrestled with these concerns, from the importance of “Any person, Any study” in an ever-evolving sociohistorical context, to what “Freedom and Responsibility” look like in the rapidly changing landscape of social media and campus climate.
Before coming to Cornell, I served as Associate Vice President for Student Affairs at California State University – Fullerton (CSUF), where I led a large portfolio of units including the Career Center, Student Health Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, the Veterans Resource Center, Disability Student Services, EOP, the University Learning Center, Athletic Academic Advising, and more. While at CSUF, I created elements of the institutional strategic plan, with special focus on the equity and graduation goals for our low-income college students, first generation students, and students of color. Prior to CSUF, I led a department at DePaul University dedicated to promoting student success for higher-risk and underserved college students, with special emphasis on graduates of the Chicago Public School system. I started my higher education career at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, my alma mater, where I worked full-time as a diversity and social justice educator while running a new Multicultural Student Center focused on serving first year college students.
In addition to being an experienced practitioner in student affairs administration, I am also a scholar of diversity and inclusion work. For a sample of my scholarly publications, I invite you to explore the book I recently edited, Closing the Opportunity Gap: Identity-Conscious Strategies for Retention and Student Success. I’ve also published chapters and articles in New Directions in Higher Education: Reclaiming Higher Education’s Purpose in Leadership Development, Leadership Theory: A Facilitator’s Guide for Cultivating Critical Perspectives, Diversity & Democracy, The Leadership Exchange, as well as chapters in several books focused on Asian American college students.
I currently serve on the institute teaching faculty of the Center for Race and Equity at the University of Southern California and as a faculty member for the “High Impact Practices Institute” through the American Association of Colleges and Universities. I am currently serving on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Working Group on Diversity, which advises the Director of the NIH on inclusion and equity strategy in the field of biomedical research.
Outside of work, I enjoy spending quality time exploring the Finger Lakes region with my wife, Katie, and my daughters Mira and Savi. I love hiking, playing guitar, and reading fantasy novels. The Lord of the Rings movies are a dream come true for me!
I encourage you to partake in all of Cornell’s robust curricular and co-curricular opportunities, including working towards making our campus safe and inclusive for all students. My office staff are ready and able to help you find the answers you need, so stop in or give us a call.
Vijay Pendakur, Ed.D.
Robert W. and Elizabeth C. Staley Dean of Students