By Donald Halsing
Constanza “Connie” Cabello, FSU’s 4rst vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community
engagement (DICE), departed the University for a new role at State Street Corporation, according to an email from President F. Javier Cevallos July 30.
Her responsibilities as vice president have temporarily been distributed among other individuals at the University, according to Cevallos.
Cabello served in her role as vice president for two years. Before Academic Year (AY) 2019-20, Henry Whittemore Library Dean Millie González served in a similar role as chief officer of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement.
At State Street, Cabello has joined the global inclusion, diversity, and equity team as vice president of equity programs, according to the July 30 email.
Biology Professor Cara Pina and elected student Gabriela Mendez-Acevedo have been appointed co-chairs of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) until an election is held to determine AY 2021-22 co-chairs.
David Baldwin, associate dean of students, and Kim Dexter, interim assistant vice president of human resources and equal opportunity, are now co-chairing the Bias Education Response Team (BERT) which reports to the Dean of Students Office.
Dexter is also chairing the Institutional Inclusive Excellence Committee.
Dean of Enrollment Management Jeremy Spencer is chairing the Hispanic Serving Institute Task Force temporarily.
Cevallos said the search for a new vice president of DICE will begin later this fall because candidates for the next University president should have a voice in the search.
“It’s very important for the vice presidents to work with the president,” he said. “I don’t want to appoint somebody that the next president may not agree with. So, I want to involve that person in the search process.”
He said hopefully the position will be filled early in the spring semester.
Cevallos added, “I am really sad to see her go because she was doing such a wonderful job for the institution. She brought so many ideas and so much energy to the position. She’s going to be hard to replace.”
He said he’s also happy for Cabello because she will have the opportunity to impact diversity and inclusion at a gigantic corporation on a global scale. “I think Connie is certainly a wonderful person, and she will have a brilliant career.”
Cevallos said he expects FSU’s DICE division will continue to expand and grow over the next few years.
He added, “In an ideal world, we wouldn’t need to have a program for diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism because we wouldn’t have those issues. But we do have them. So we have to continue to make progress and to move forward.”
Mirari Elcoro, a psychology professor, said the opportunity Cabello accepted “is going to be good for her,” and during her short time as vice president, she “accomplished quite a bit.
“I felt like her leadership style facilitated communication across sections of the University that may be pretty fragmented,” she said. “Her work in educating and establishing conversations across higher administration, faculty, and staff was very important.”
She added Cabello helped her and Psychology PProfessor Jen Lin establish a diversity committee for the department of psychology and philosophy. Cabello also shared departmental guides each semester containing resources and activities to develop conversations about diversity.
Elcoro said she “felt at ease” because she could reach out to a Latina in a position of leadership for advice and help. She trusted Cabello, and felt comfortable meeting with her to discuss “navigating microaggressions” and “resistance in conversations about diversity and inclusion that involve changing the curriculum.”
Everton Vargas da Costa, a Spanish and Portuguese professor, said he is happy about Cabello’s opportunity to join the team at State Street.
He said it was “very important” when Cevallos issued a statement about the University’s commitment to anti-racism in June 2020. The statement was co-written by Cabello, along with former Assistant Director of the Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, Scholarship and Service Lina Rincón, who also departed the University during the summer.
He said the statement “changed a lot of our practices” and had a “real effect” on the FSU community.
Vargas da Costa also said following the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, processing spaces arranged by DICE “were very important to bring us together.”
He said Cabello visited the Spanish Language Table during University events, sharing her own experience and speaking Spanish with the students.
Vargas da Costa said he is worried about the future of the discussion on diversity and inclusion at FSU because two diversity and inclusion leadership positions are un4lled. “Now I’m concerned, because how can we continue that work?”
Susan Dargan, dean of education and social & behavioral sciences, said she is happy about Cabello’s opportunity to join the team at State Street, but is “sad to see her go because I didn’t want us to lose momentum.
“We can’t lose ground,” she added. “For all of our students, it’s important that they understand equity, diversity, and social justice.”
Dargan said Cabello steered every department onto a path to intentionally reflect on “policies and practices that may have unintended, negative, disproportionate impacts on our students of color.”
She said addressing anti-racism initiatives is a “very important” part of her job. “It’s hard to move things forward when you don’t have leadership, and Connie provided the leadership.”
Dargan said she is worried because under Cabello’s leadership, diversity and inclusion work was “centralized.” Without a vice president, this work “feels somewhat decentralized.
“I am hoping that we get some great candidates from the search that’s happening,” she added.
Marc Cote, dean of arts and humanities, said Cabello’s accomplishments during her relatively short time at FSU were “remarkable.”
He said Cabello was the leading force in establishing FSU’s commitment to anti-racism initiatives as a “method of operation, where units across the University began to elevate the consideration of racial equity in recruitment, retention, hiring, curriculum, and policy.
“Her efforts to infuse diversity and inclusion deeply into our strategic planning leave a legacy of initiatives that will continue past her departure,” Cote added. “Her impact was felt from faculty and staff, to students, and even as high as the Board of Trustees.”
Cabello said diversity and inclusion work is “core to [her] existence” because she identifies as an immigrant, first-generation college graduate, and a woman of color. “That’s what I live and breathe on a daily basis, which is why I really do feel like my life’s mission is to advance diversity and inclusion.”
She said her goal was to leave FSU better than she found it. While compiling the University’s 2020-21 Divisional Anti-Racism Efforts Report, she was “really proud that the entire University came together to do that.”
Cabello said working through the University’s current strategic plan allowed diversity and inclusion work to become institutionalized across every department. “In our strategic plan, under goal four, we added elements of anti-racism, training, education, and commitment, which really helped us focus more on our efforts.”
As one of her 4nal projects, DICE hosted a Racial Equity Policy Review Institute Aug. 3 and 4.
“We had gotten about $60,000 for this review, and used a lot of money to hire an external team to lead us through that review,” she said. The institute included coaching sessions for department leaders and policy assessment through the lens of looking at “race in our policies and the impacts on students.”
Reflecting back on her time at FSU, Cabello said one of her first objectives as vice president of DICE was to refine the BERT protocols, ensuring “we were really transparent with what we were doing around bias incidents, who was on the team, and how we responded.”
Cabello said the work she was most proud of was how the University responded following the murder of George Floyd. “A lot of places will just say things and not do anything,” she said. “It was just really rewarding to say we believe Black Lives Matter and to put words to those actions.”
She also said she is proud of the University’s recommitment to becoming an anti-racist institution as well as “making sure that equity was at the center of our entire COVID-19 response.”
Cabello said she was drawn to FSU because working “with the communities, students, and families that public education serves was really important.” She added access to education has the power to transform the lives of first-generation students and immigrant families.
She hopes the work of DICE continues to be “part of everything that happens” at FSU. “I hope that the staff continues to grow so that they can do more partnership work.”
When asked about what projects she would like to see her successor continue, Cabello said “taking a critical look at our policies and how they impact students” is half the battle.
She also asked, “How do we support folks who are experiencing racial trauma?” She noted with many people coming back to campus after experiencing isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible to “do some healing work together.”
Cabello said she felt “cheated” by the pandemic. “I wish that there was more opportunity to bring students into conversations, to do more with students in person.”
However, she said one of the greatest indications of a person’s success is that their work continues even after they leave an organization. In regard to her work, she said, “I’m positive that that will happen.”
After joining the Global Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Team at State Street, Cabello said her work in programming, training, and policy review have proven to be helpful in her new role.
“I’m taking all the lessons learned with me and wishing the FSU community continued success and momentum,” she added. “I am so thankful for the opportunity I had at FSU to do the work with colleagues and students who are deeply committed.”