Riverland president honored with diversity award

Published 8:11 am Thursday, November 9, 2017

Riverland Community College president Dr. Adenuga Atewologun recently received the inaugural Distinguished Diversity Leadership Award, presented at the Minnesota State Academic and Student Affairs conference at Breezy Point in October.

The new award honors individuals with a demonstrated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion of underrepresented groups, according to a news release.

The recipients are intended to be leaders who should exhibit commitment to equity, inclusion, and incorporate those values and principles into their daily work.

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According to the award presentation, Atewologun co-led the development of Riverland’s Equity and Inclusion Plan and serves as co-chair of the Equity and Inclusion Committee at the college. Under his leadership, the plan addresses all college stakeholders, including students and community members. Upon submission, Riverland’s plan was selected by Minnesota State as one of four exemplary plans statewide. As a result, Riverland was asked to present to the Board of Trustees in June 2016 on the plan, and also to present at the Academic and Student Affairs Leadership Conference last fall.

Atewologun’s leadership and commitment to making Riverland a welcoming, safe campus is evident throughout all aspects of the college. According to the release, students are attracted to the positive environment at Riverland, and Atewologun models the behavior that makes Riverland a great place to learn and work; as a result, Atewologun is developing strong leaders at Riverland who will carry forward the messages of equity and inclusion.

Atewologun encourages Riverland to be “Best in Class” and actively seeks outside funding to help Riverland serve students who face economic and other barriers to college access and success.

Riverland received a $1.2 million TRIO grant in 2015 to serve underrepresented students; $400,000 in funds from the Otto Bremer Foundation in 2015-2017 to serve low-income students; $190,000 for the Equity in Employment and Job Connection grant from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education in 2016-2019 to support students of color; and in May 2017 supported and helped lead an initiative which resulted in $693,000 in funding from the Office of Higher Education to serve low-income student parents at nine colleges and universities throughout Minnesota for fiscal year 2018.

Atewologun is leading Riverland into becoming a global presence. Last year Riverland hosted faculty from China in a cultural and academic exchange. This year, he and several faculty members will travel to China to further develop an academic program based on one year of studies in English as a Second Language, plus an associate degree in business, plus transfer to one of the college’s four-year university partners for the bachelor’s degree in business. The “1 + 2 + 2” is an innovative approach to creating access for Chinese students who need ESL prior to enrolling in their degree path. Atewologun is also working with a delegation from Mexico who visited Riverland in the summer of 2016. That visit has resulted in Riverland developing a student exchange for students in the college’s agriculture majors.

“Dr. Atewologun has inspired Riverland faculty, staff, and students plus the greater communities in which our campuses are located, to dream big,” said Danielle Heiny, chief diversity officer and institutional effectiveness for RCC. “He is challenging all of us to make Riverland ‘Best in Class’ and to embrace the concept that diversity creates better decisions, a better learning environment, and a better world. He understands the value proposition of equity and inclusion and he leads the college from this viewpoint.”

In addition to creating a vision and mission statement through the college’s strategic planning process, Atewologun also inspired the college to develop a “Heart” statement to complement the vision and mission. The “Heart” of the college states: “Riverland Community College is dedicated to our students, our mission, and our communities.”

“It is very apparent that his vision for the college is support and opportunity for diversity and inclusion. What stands out the most for me is his genuine interest in our international students,” said Melody Morem, RCC’s international student adviser. “His ease and welcoming nature is apparent. Each semester he opens his office, sits down and talks with each student individually; he wants to know their story and relates to each student and their unique experience.

“He strives to break down walls and barriers and he is a broad thinker. His bodacious ideas, his push to recruit faculty and staff of diverse backgrounds, and his support of international partnerships such as the new China partnership and the Mexican exchange program with our agricultural program to name a few.”