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Our History

Gloria Joseph, Cornell University’s first director of COSEP speaking from a podium at the Africana Center Multipurpose Room on Cornell University’s campus at the 50th anniversary of COSEP celebration

Cornell University has a long history and commitment to diversity and support of a diverse student body. There are some key dates in that history shared as part of Cornell’s story. The current Office of Academic Diversity (OADI) stems back to a 1963 when Cornell President, Dr. James Perkins, convened the Committee on Special Education Projects (COSEP). COSEP was the first of its kind at a major American University designed to increase the enrollment of African American students at Cornell providing them with supportive services.Over time, COSEP was reorganized into the Office of Minority Educational Affairs (OMEA). Through COSEP and OMEA, a network of resources was created to organize and provide support to the diverse student population at Cornell. The staff of the office provided a community and support to students and multicultural student organizations, organized events and workshops, created traditions and a space for students from diverse backgrounds to find a home and community on campus.

In 2011, OMEA was again reorganized to provided additional support to the diverse student body by creating two offices:

  • The Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) to support the academic and professional goals of Cornell’s diverse student body; and
  • The Center of Intercultural Dialogue (6-2-6) in the Dean of Student’s Office to support the personal and community building of Cornell’s diverse student body.

Both offices work collaboratively together on several events and efforts as students are more than a singular focus and together, we can support the entire student experience.

Group of faculty, staff, students, and alumni with Gloria Joseph sitting on a chair in the middle at the Africana Center Multipurpose Room/Cornell at the 50th anniversary of COSEP celebration

OADI mission continues to be focused on providing access and opportunities to a diverse student body and creating a space for students to engage in all that Cornell offers academically, professional, and personally for students. OADI students represent the widest ranges of backgrounds including students of color, students that identify as the first in their family to achieve a 4-year degree (first gen students), students who are traditional under-represented in their fields, students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, non-traditional students, veteran military students, and other students that find community in our space.

Through the history of COSEP, OMEA, and OADI, multiple signature programs have found their home supporting these communities including: