Office of Multicultural Programs

The Office of Multicultural Programs seeks to create a more inclusive campus environment designed to educate the community about the knowledge, skills, and attitude that make for a culturally vibrant Institute. We also support the various underrepresented and under-resourced student groups to help them succeed and thrive at Rensselaer.

Our goal is to create a new kind of scholar, leader, and professional that has the capacity to engage with people from all races, classes, creeds, and nationalities in a meaningful way. When we hear each other’s stories, learn the nuances of the various identities, and begin to imagine a new world where all individuals are cherished and all humanity is valued, we truly start changing the world.

In collaboration with a variety of campuswide strategic partners, the Office of Multicultural Programs is spearheading efforts to create a more inclusive campus community to serve our student body.


Resources for Underrepresented Students

There are several strategic partners who are dedicated to supporting the success of our underrepresented students.

Student Life Strategic Partners

Dr. La Tasha Brown
Office of Multicultural Programs

Mark Gilbride
Head Coach, Men's Basketball
NCAA Athletics Diversity and Inclusion Designee (ADID)

Jayne Godette
Assistant Director, Student Activities
Campus Experience - Student Union

Ethan Stubbs
Associate Dean, Fraternity and Sorority Commons
Campus Experience - Student Living and Learning

Shelby Robinson
Associate Dean, Residential Commons
Campus Experience - Student Living and Learning

Lydie Kengne
Assistant Dean, Student Success for Underrepresented Minority Students
Student Success

Rawdon Marroquin
Career Counselor
Student Transitions - Center for Career and Professional Development

Amy Youmans
Associate Director and Lecturer
Student Success - Archer Center for Student Leadership Development

RPI Funding Opportunities

Garnet D. Baltimore Endowed Scholarship
Established in response to the need for scholarships for students from underrepresented groups—including African American students and women— for generations to come.

Garnet Baltimore Research and Entrepreneurial Scholars Program
Connects Rensselaer undergraduates with research and entrepreneurial experiences.


Groundbreaking Visionaries

Garnet Douglass Baltimore, Class of 1881


A distinguished civil engineer and landscape designer, Garnet D. Baltimore was the first African-American to earn a bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer. He was the grandson of a Revolutionary War soldier and slave who settled in Troy.

Baltimore participated in the design and building of bridges, railroads, canals, and waterways around New York state, including supervising the extension of the notoriously difficult “mud lock” on the Oswego Canal. Designer of many cemeteries, Baltimore found his true calling as a landscape engineer.

He made his most notable and longstanding contribution to Troy in 1903 when he designed the once-private lands of Mount Ida into the popular Prospect Park, one of Troy’s greatest assets.

Baltimore was active in civic activities and alumni affairs at Rensselaer and served as secretary of the alumni association’s 50-Year Club until his death.

The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

A theoretical physicist, Dr. Jackson has had a distinguished career that includes senior leadership positions in academia, government, industry, and research. She holds an S.B. in Physics, and a Ph.D. in Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics — both from MIT. She is the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from MIT — in any field — and has been a trailblazer throughout her career, including as the first African-American woman to lead a top-ranked research university.

Click to learn more about Dr. Jackson.

Paul B. Zuber, Civil Rights Attorney


Paul B. Zuber, was the first African American tenured professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Paul B. Zuber was a prominent attorney in the state of New York who was instrumental in the de-segregation of several area school systems. He joined the Rensselaer community in 1972 as the Director of the Center for Urban Environmental Studies.

The Paul B. Zuber and Barbara J. Zuber Award for Underrepresented Students was established by Mrs. Zuber in 1990 to recognize the impact her husband had on underrepresented minority students during his tenure at Rensselaer. The award recognizes the academic merit and the contributions of Black, Latinx, and Native American underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students to the institution and to their communities.


Ongoing Projects and Initiatives

DEI In-Service Training for the Division of Student Life

An overview of the socio-political history of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) in higher education, specifically underscoring some of the initiatives available to the Institute’s staff members in Student Life to build a supportive and welcoming campus culture.

Presented by:
Dr. La Tasha A. Brown, Director of the Office of Multicultural Programs
Amy Youmans, Associate Director/Lecturer
Aaron Youmans, Associate Dean, Intervention Support

Click to view the PowerPoint presentation.

April 12, 2022

Garnet D. Baltimore Students of Color Graduation and Reception

Established in honor of Garnet D. Baltimore, a member of the Class of 1881—a distinguished civil and landscape engineer—and the first African American to graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The event is held to honor the accomplishments of all the African Diaspora, Latinx/a/o, and Indigenous students who are graduating from Rensselaer.

A Leadership Brunch was held the following day to provide an opportunity for attendees to engage and network with individuals from various professional industries to support their educational and professional development.

May 13, 2022
Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC)

Introductory remarks:
The Honorable Shirley Ann Jackson, 18th President of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Keynote Speaker:
Dr. Basil Smikle Jr., distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Public Policy Program and the Roosevelt House Institute for Public Policy at Hunter College

Leadership Brunch
Provided an opportunity for attendees to engage and network with individuals from various professional industries to support their educational and professional development.

Saturday, May 14
CBIS, Bruggeman Room

Dr. Basil Smikle Jr., distinguished Lecturer and Director of the Public Policy Program and the Roosevelt House Institute for Public Policy at Hunter College

Rensselaer Diversity and Inclusion Speaker Series

In collaboration with campuswide strategic partners, the Rensselaer Diversity and Inclusion Speaker Series was established to bring distinguished scholars, leaders, and artists to the Institute whose careers in education, government, business, public service, or community activism demonstrate the commitment to fostering intellectual growth, cultural enrichment, and economic prosperity of all members of the global community.

Speaker Series Events:

Spring 2023
The academic engagements centered on critical discussions on race relations and equity in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in higher education featuring Dr. Antar Tichavakunda, Assistant Professor of Race and Higher Education at the University of California Santa Barbara, on his book Black Campus Life: The Worlds Black Students Make at a Historically White Institution.
Click to download Black Campus Life.
Click to view the Reading Guide.

Friday, February 3
Meet and Greet
Dr. Antar Tichavakunda met with select Ph.D. students from The Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D. Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Student Seminar
URM students in conversation with Dr. Antar Tichavakunda
CBIS, Auditorium

  • Lydie Kengne, Assistant Dean of Student Success, URM
  • Rawdon Marroquin, Career Counselor for the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social 
  • Sciences, Center for Career and Professional Development 

Saturday, February 4
Black Families Technology Awareness Day - "Diversity in STEM"
Darrin Communications Center, Room 337

The student panel focused on the academic journey of several Rensselaer students and how their experiences intersected with Dr. Antar Tichavakunda's book Black Campus Life: The Worlds Black Students Make at a Historically White Institution (SUNY Press, 2021).

Dr. Antar Tichavakunda, Assistant Professor of Race and Higher Education
University of California Santa Barbara

Student panelists:
Sarah Mirekua (Undergraduate Student) 
Game Design and Electronic Arts (Dual major), Class of 2023

Xiomara Jean-Louis (Undergraduate Student)
Sustainability Studies & Economics, Class of 2024

Faren Thompson (Undergraduate Student)
Computer Science and Cognitive Science, Class of 2026

Nampoina Randrianarivelo (Undergraduate Student)
Mechanical Engineering and Design, Innovation & Society, Class of 2023
President '22-'23 | National Society of Black Engineers | RPI Chapter

Monday, February 6

Included key members of the RPI Leadership Team
Samuel F. Heffner Jr. '56 Alumni House, Great Room 

Let’s Talk About It: Conversation with Dr. Antar Tichavakunda – Unpacking the System of Racial Inequity Within STEM Fields

Tuesday, February 7

Faculty Roundtable
Discussion with Dr. Antar Tichavakunda

Acting Provost Mary Simoni

Professor Billur Aksoy
Specializes in discrimination research as it relates to gender and economics
Christopher Jeansonne
An expert in training and pedagogical experience around Intergroup Dialogue
Shayla Sawyer
Specializes in inclusive design engineering for different abilities

Campus Talk:
Centering Black Life to Support Black STEM Students, Dr. Antar Tichavakunda

Fall 2022
Seminar with Dr. Shakti Butler, founder and president of World Trust Educational Services and producer and director of World Trust films. Dr. Butler shared her holistic framework for conveying the interconnection between internal and external or structural components of racial inequity and revealing how self-perpetuating systems reinforce disparities in institutions. Dr. Butler's award-winning documentary – CRACKING THE CODES: The System of Racial Inequity was screened over two days to first-year students and followed by a discussion. The object of the two-day engagement was to expose new students to the pillars of multicultural sophistication and a global view right from the collegiate experience at the Institute. 

Saturday, August 27 & Sunday, August 28
Campus Talk
Film screening of Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity and discussion with the film director Dr. Shakti Butler

Click to view the film, Cracking the Codes.
Click to view the film guide.

Friday, August 26
Let's Talk About It: Conversation with Dr. Shakti Butler - Unpacking the System of Racial Inequity

Juneteenth Celebrations

President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into federal law on June 17, 2021, honoring the end of slavery in the United States, also known as Emancipation Day, Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Juneteenth Independence Day, and Black Independence Day.

RPI Juneteenth Celebrations

The Life and Legacy of Garnet D. Baltimore: Oakwood Cemetery Tour
Celebrating Troy, New York's proud history of abolition and activism
Oakwood Cemetery, 50 101st Street, Troy, NY 12180

Garnet D. Baltimore, a member of the Class of 1881—a distinguished civil and landscape engineer—and the first African American to graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has a special connection to Oakwood. He was the landscape engineer of parts of the cemetery and this is the final resting place of him and his family. Baltimore's life, family, and career were the center of the tour, along with important stops that highlight African Americans, RPI, and Troy's history. Lunch was provided by Minority and/or Women-owned Business Enterprises (MWBE) in downtown Troy: Street Taco VII and Sunhee’s Farm and Kitchen.

Event Facilitators:
Suzanne Spellen, Architectural Historian
Professor Chris Letchford, Department Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Dr. La Tasha A. Brown, Director of the Office of Multicultural Programs

Nearly half of states now recognize Juneteenth as an official holiday
Juneteenth: Fact Sheet

RPI Faculty and Staff of Color Alliance

Launching Fall 2023

A voluntary empowerment and advocacy group of faculty and staff from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups within the campus community that supports, encourages, and advances the interests and aspirations of underrepresented students. As role models and advocates, members work to address issues of systemic inequality in an effort to support the retention and success of underrepresented faculty, staff, and students. Ultimately, the group aims to collaborate with campus administration to strengthen institutional efforts toward creating systems and spaces that are diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

Cultural Nexus
A networking program that aims to bring together students of color with faculty and staff of color and their allies to support and build community while working towards building a more multiculturally sophisticated RPI community. The event takes place during the Fall and Spring semesters.

Past Events:
Spring 2022 - Heffner Alumni House
Fall 2021 - Troy Kitchen
Spring 2019 - Pat's Barn

Garnet D. Baltimore Memorial Lecture Series 

Relaunching Fall 2023

Established in 1991, the series was established in honor of Garnet D. Baltimore, a member of the Class of 1881—a distinguished civil and landscape engineer—and the first African American to graduate from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Baltimore was the embodiment of a Rensselaer graduate working on designing and constructing parks, cemeteries, and canals. His professional legacy includes Troy’s Prospect Park and Oakwood Cemetery, the resting place of Samuel Wilson, ‘Uncle Sam.’ Intensely proud of his Rensselaer education, Baltimore remained active in civic activities and alumni affairs and was inducted into the Rensselaer Alumni Hall of Fame in 2005. 

The series will continue to highlight distinguished leaders in science, technology, arts, cultural innovation, education, government, business, and public service to foster intellectual growth and cultural enrichment to promote the advancement of science, engineering, and innovation globally.

Johnetta Cole, President, Spelman College

H. Patrick Swygert, President, University at Albany, SUNY

Sharon E. Sutton, Associate Professor, University of Michigan

Col. Charles Bolden, Astronaut, NASA

Freeman Hrabowski, President, University of Maryland

H. Carl McCall, New York State Comptroller

Shirley Ann Jackson, Chair, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Yvonne D. Cagle, Astronaut, NASA

Glegg L. Watson, Xerox Corp

Shirley Malcom, Directorate for Education and Human Resources Program of the AAAS

Neil de Grasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director, Hayden Planetarium, American Museum of Natural History

Eugene M. DeLoatch, Dean, School of Engineering, Morgan State University

Morris H. Morgan III, Dean, School of Engineering & Technology, Hampton University

Julian M. Earls, Director, Glenn Research Center, NASA

Sylvester James Gates, Jr., Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Dashboard
Action Implementation
1.  Reform the Rensselaer Handbook of Student Rights & Responsibilities to include “Racism” or “Racist Acts” as grounds for disciplinary action. Designed, developed, and adapted new “Grounds for Disciplinary Action” in August 2020.
2.  Develop and implement comprehensive plans for supporting Black and LatinX students. • Emphasize hallmark programs including Cultural Nexus, Garnett D. Baltimore, and Alumni Weekend events.
• Create a URM/RBLX mentoring program for upper-class students (i.e., juniors and seniors) with Institute Advancement and Alumni/nae (BLAG).
• Enhance the Student Life Diversity website.
• Bring The Steve Fund to campus, the nation’s leading organization focused on the mental health of young people of color; Projected visit fall 2021.
• Conduct faculty and staff climate survey with Institutional  Research; Projected launch summer 2021.
• Conduct student climate survey with  Institutional  Research; Plan to roll out fall  2021.
3.  Include Unconscious Bias Training for First-Year, Transfer, and Greek students; undergrad and graduate students; and staff and faculty training;  • Beginning fall 2020, Percipio module and community conversations were required for all incoming students (first-year and transfers).
• Conducted training for Greek Life chapters.
• Conversations on implementation continue; plan to roll out 2022.
• Trained student leaders (Student Orientation, I-PERSIST, RAs, etc.) during Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond.
• Implicit bias training available to all staff and faculty in Percipio, including Student Life staff and other frontline student-facing units.
4.  Retain existing staff and faculty members essential to the Black and LatinX community. Working with HR on the search process; Appointment of Director of Multicultural Programs expected fall 2021.
5.  Ensure representatives from Black and LatinX student communities will be involved in the hiring process of the Union Multicultural Student Advisory Resource Person (SARP). Search pending.
6.  Hire staff member(s) in the Student Transitions Office to support Black and LatinX students. Search pending.
7.  Launch the Inclusive Excellence Task Force announced by Dr. Jackson in her December 2019 communication. Task Force members identified; projected launch spring 2022.
8.  Create a public and visible dashboard on the Rensselaer webpage that tracks the progress of all the commitments made within this document and others. • Created student diversity and inclusion website committee.
• Researched student diversity web presence from peer institutions.
• Continue to refine interactive content, events, and resources on our student diversity website.
• Created web development timeline through completion of the project, August 31, 2021.
9.  Hire at least one additional Black or LatinX Counselor to fulfill the needs of the Black and LatinX student population, i.e., recurring appointments with a specific Counselor. • Search underway for hiring three new Counselors for the Counseling Center.
• Anticipated work will begin Fall 2021 with the Steve Fund to assist with programs and strategies that build understanding and assist with the mental and emotional health of Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) and LGBTQ students.
10.  Hire more Black and LatinX faculty in all academic schools. • Pre-Doctoral Seminar Program.
• Early identification of potential faculty candidates.
• “Always-on” search process.
11.  Expansion of courses pertaining to African, African-American, Chicanx/LatinX, and Indigenous studies within the School of HASS. • HASS adopted “How To Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi as the community read and secured 150 electronic copies.
• University of Michigan Intergroup Dialog training for faculty and staff.
• Monthly colloquium series on inclusive instruction and pedagogy.
12.  Establish a Black and LatinX Center for Inclusive Excellence in Research, Learning, and Scholarship. The Inclusive Excellence Task Force is projected to launch spring 2022.


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Paul B. and Barbara J. Zuber Award for Underrepresented Students (1990)

The award recognizes the leadership and academic merit of underrepresented graduate or undergraduate students enrolled at Rensselaer. This award is given to one Black, Latinx, Native American (or multi-racial) graduating senior and one continuing student who has exhibited service and leadership to the Institute and their community while maintaining outstanding academic performance.

Self-nominations and referral applications are encouraged. All nominations must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., EDT on March 24, 2023, for full consideration.

Click to learn more about the awards and to place your nomination online.

Past Award Winners:
Samuel Harrison  '22
Austin Charles '22
Kierra Wilk '21
Justina Thompson '20