Cornell's Diversity Timeline

Alpha Phi Alpha, the first black fraternity, celebrates their centennial with a silent march

Cornell's Diversity Timeline


Africana Ph.D. program is launched by Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences

University Diversity Council inaugurates Toward New Destinations grant competition designed to support the expansion of successful Toward New Destinations Annual Initiatives, extend initiatives limited in scope or size, or provide for new initiatives or opportunities beyond a college or unit’s designated Toward New Destinations Annual Initiatives


Cornell is awarded the McNair Scholars Program—a federal grant-sponsored program that prepares underrepresented juniors and seniors for doctoral study—and the POSSE Scholars Program, through which cohorts of ten dynamic Chicago students are admitted to Cornell

The Intergroup Dialogue Project starts as a peer-facilitated course that raises the awareness of social justice issues

Cornell establishes the Toward New Destinations” institutional diversity planning initiative

Cornell establishes the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity


OMEA evolves into the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives (OADI) and the Center for Intercultural Dialogue (6-2-6)

Cornell’s Diversity Programs in Engineering are presented with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring at a White House Ceremony

Cornell estrablishes the Center for Intercultural Dialogue

Cornell establishes the Graduate School Office of Professional Development and Inclusion


Asian & Asian American Center (A3C) is founded to support students of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage

The Cornell University Comprehensive Strategic Framework for Disability Access Management for Ithaca Campus Faculty, Staff, and Students is created. In 2010, it is referred to as “Commitment to Disability Access For for Ithaca Campus Faculty, Staff, and Students” and in 2011, the name of the framework is changed to "Cornell University Disability Access Management Strategic Plan.”


The Business Leadership Network of Central/Western NY is inaugurated at Cornell University with support of 10 local business representatives

Cornell University is recognized by seven organizations for its "best employer" workplace programs

Cornell establishes the Cornell Faculty Institute for Diversity


The Executive Disability Steering Committee designates a university ADA Coordination Team - comprised of the associate vice president of the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity, the director of Student Disability Services, and the ADA Coordinator of Facilities - and charges them with implementing the university’s annual disability access strategic plan

Cornell establishes new financial aid initiative eliminating need-based loans for undergraduate students from families with incomes under $60,000 and caps them annually for those with incomes up to $120,000. Over the next five years, the financial aid budget doubles and Cornell becomes one of the top ten most economically diverse research universities.

Cornell is one of five organizations, nationwide, recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor for its compliance efforts


The university establishes the position of ADA Coordinator for Facilities in Maintenance Management

Cornell is awarded a $3.3 million award from the National Science Foundation ADVANCE directorate to increase the proportion of women faculty in the sciences and engineering


China and Asia-Pacific Studies (CAPS) is created

Latina/Latino Student Success Office is established as a joint effort of the Latino Studies Program (LSP) and the College of Arts &Sciences Admissions and Advising Office


The university begins efforts to holistically address the needs of individuals with disabilities at Cornell as part of a broader diversity effort

WDELQ (Workforce Diversity, Equity, & Life Quality) maintains Human Resources’ Career and Organizational Effectiveness, with responsibility for EEO compliance, including handling all complaints of discrimination based on protected status, including disability


Women’s Studies Program evolves into Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies


Cornell establishes its first university diversity council


Robert L. Harris Jr., a professor of History and former director of the Africana Studies and Research Center is is appointed as Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development


Student Disability Services is created as an office within the Center for Learning and Teaching, with the objective of providing adequate resources to address the growing number of students with disabilities (becomes its own separate entity in 2008)


Women’s Resource Center is officially established


Lesbian, Bisexual & Gay Studies established (becomes Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Studies in 2009)


Akwe:kon Residence  Hall opens, becoming the first university residence of its kind in the U.S. purposely built to celebrate American Indian heritage

Cornell establishes an ADA Steering Committee, headed by the Associate Vice President for Human Relations, to establish a facility barrier-removal program.


Multicultural Living Learning Unit, designed to create opportunities for its residents to explore cultural differences, is established


The Human Relations Training Program evolves into the Peer Educators in Human Relations Program directed by Ross Haarstad, under the leadership of Asssociate VP for Human Relations, Joycelyn Hart


Cornell becomes one of eight universities to be awarded the inaugural Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows Program, which prepares underrepresented students in the humanities, arts and social sciences for doctoral study in order to increase diversity in the professoriate

Latinas Promoviendo Comunidad/Lambda Pi Chi Sorority, Inc. becomes the first Latina focused sorority in the Ivy League


Asian American Studies and Latino Studies Programs are founded

Joycelyn Hart, an African American woman, is appointed Associate Vice President for Human Relations, Chief Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunities Officer, reporting to the President and the Provost


American Indian Program is established


La Unidad Latina, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity, Inc. becomes the first Latino focused fraternity in the Ivy League 


Cornell’s Human Relations Training Group is formed by students, faculty, and staff. Thirty five trained discussion facilitators conduct workshops and discussions with a variety of student groups and departments to provide opportunities for members of the Cornell community to discuss attitudes and perceptions of racism and sexism in a supportive environment.


COSEP evolves into Office of Minority Educational Affairs (OMEA)


Jewish Studies Program is founded

Office for Equal Opportunity is created to provide services for students and employees with disabilities 


Ujamaa Residential College established

Women’s Studies Program is founded 


Willard Straight Hall Takeover draws national attention, engages the community in broad discussion about race relations and educational matters, and concludes peacefully

Africana Studies & Research Center is established


Employment & Disability Institute is created

Wari House Cooperative is established to house women of the African diaspora

Cornell becomes one of the first eight universities to become sites for the New York State Education Opportunity Program after the pilot year at the University of Buffalo. This program supports low income, first generation, and under-represented students in their admission, financial aid, and academic success.


Elmwood House is established to house men of the African diaspora


Near Eastern Studies created at Cornell


Originally convened in 1963, the Committee on Special Educational Projects (COSEP) is officially launched by Dr. James Perkins, seventh president of Cornell.  The first program of its kind at a major American university, it is designed to increase enrollment of African American students at Cornell and to provide them with support services. The number of Black students enrolled will increase from 8 to over 250 during his presidency.

Cornell boasts the privilege of being one of the institutions to host the first version of the Upward Bound program, launched in 1964 by President Johnson


After having earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cornell in 1938 and 1942, respectively, Solomon Cook (Akwesasne) becomes the first Native American student to earn a Ph.D. at Cornell

East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia Studies Programs are founded at Cornell



Flemmie Kittrell becomes the first African American woman to receive a Ph.D. in nutrition

International Students & Scholars Office is created to support international students, foreign academic staff, and their families  


Cornell United Religious Work established to support students of various faith traditions 


Elbert Cox graduates from Cornell, becoming the first Black person in the world to receive a PhD in mathematics, just 39 years after Cornell awarded its first Ph.D. in Mathematics (1886)


Mary Honor Donlon becomes first woman editor-in-chief of any law review in the U.S. and edits three issues of the Cornell Law Quarterly: November 1919, January 1920, and March 1920


Rho Psi Society, the first Asian American based student society and the first club with Greek letters for Asian and Asian American students in the Ivy League, is established at Cornell. Rho Psi would became national in 1925 and international in 1929.


Cornell chapter of NAACP established


Tomás Bautista Mapúa is the first Filipino to earn a degree in Architecture in the United States and the first registered architect in the Philippines


Marvin Jack (Tuscarora) becomes Cornell’s first Native American student to earn a bachelor’s degree


Alpha Phi Alpha, the first Black Greek-lettered fraternity in the nation, is founded at Cornell University


The Cosmopolitan Club is founded.  The first international students’ organization in this country, it gives many foreign students a home at the university.


Sao-Ke Alfred Sze, Cornell’s first Chinese student, graduates. He will later become the longest-term Chinese minister, China's first ambassador to the U.S., and a founding member of the World Bank.


Charles Chauveau Cook and Jane Eleanor Datcher become the first African Americans to graduate from Cornell after a four year course of study

George Washington Fields, a former slave, becomes the first African American graduate of Cornell Law School and one of the first law school graduates of color


Latin American students from Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Honduras and Brazil create Alpha Zeta, a “foreigner’s fraternity” 


Suffragist May Gorslin Preston Slosson earns her Ph.D. in Philosophy at Cornell, becoming the first woman in the U.S. to do so and Cornell’s first female Ph.D.


Francisco de Paula Rodríguez y Valdés from Cuba becomes the first North American Latino student to graduate from Cornell University


Ryokichi Yatabe becomes the first Japanese student to graduate from Cornell University


Elias Fausto Pacheco Jordão, from Brazil, becomes Cornell’s first South American student to graduate and the first Brazilian to earn a degree in America

Sage College opens to house undergraduate women


Andrew Dickson White, co-founder, responds to C.H. McCormick of Newburgh, Indiana in a letter regarding the university’s admission of African American students, starting that the university would be “very glad to receive any who are prepared to enter, […] even if all our 500 white students were to ask for dismissal on that account.”


Emma Sheffield Eastman becomes Cornell’s first female graduate

Dr. Estevan Fuertes, originally from Puerto Rico, becomes Cornell’s first dean and professor of civil engineering. He leads the construction of Cornell’s first observatory (located on the Arts Quad) and is the namesake of the current (and fourth) Fuertes Observatory built in 1917 on North Campus.

Club Brasileiro, Cornell’s earliest known student cultural organization, is founded by Brazilian students. Comprised of over 20 members, the organization publishes a monthly newsletter in Portuguese. 



Cornell begins offering Chinese and Japanese language courses

Cornell admits Jennie Spencer, becoming the first co-educational school in the Ivy League

Kanaye Nagasawa becomes the first Japanese student to enroll at Cornell


William Bowler, from Haiti, becomes Cornell’s first student of African descent 


Ezra Cornell states that he wants to "have girls educated in the university as well as boys so that they may have the same opportunity [sic] to become wise and useful to society that the boys are [sic]."


Cornell University is founded