GRCC announces B. Afeni McNeely Cobham as chief equity and inclusion officer

Oct. 30, 2018 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. B. Afeni McNeely Cobham, an expert in race, identity, and culture in American higher education, has been selected to serve as Grand Rapids Community College’s chief equity and inclusion officer.

“We’re proud to have Dr. McNeely Cobham on our team to help us address the challenges locally, as well as regionally, around disparities in education and workforce,” GRCC President Bill Pink said. 

“We are committed to being proactive in providing a high-quality education helping our students be successful in earning a degree, transferring to a four-year school or gaining career skills. This work makes our college stronger, and our community stronger as well. We’ve made great strides, but there is more to do. Dr. McNeely Cobham’s expertise and passion will be invaluable as we move forward." 

Pink reframed an existing position to serve as chief equity and inclusion officer. McNeely Cobham is asked to build on the college's existing and successful efforts and develop a strategy championing equity and inclusion as an essential means to foster student success, employee well-being, and community vibrancy and growth.

Selected after a national search, McNeely Cobham will work with stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, and community members – to ensure that GRCC is a leader in equity and inclusion. 

McNeely Cobham also will oversee the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion, which focuses on educating and honoring the dignity of all people through opportunities such as the Institute for Healing Racism, student workshops, and the Latino Youth Conference and celebrations such as the Giants Awards.

Pink said McNeely Cobham will report directly to him, a reflection of the importance of the post’s mission and his personal experience working on equity and inclusion issues. Among the other efforts in his career, Pink was asked by Mayor Rosalynn Bliss last year to join her in co-chairing the Grand Rapids Racial Equity Initiative.

“I will be focused on building upon and expanding GRCC’s successful efforts in championing equity and inclusion,” McNeely Cobham said. “The CEIO will play an important role toward embedding principles of diversity and social justice into the bedrock of the institution. I plan to come alongside President Pink in carrying out this work through support and advocacy, assessment and strategic planning, recruitment and retention, and training and development.”

McNeely Cobham has more than 26 years in higher education as a faculty member, administrator and consultant. Her research interests examine race, identity, and culture in American higher education, identity development of college students, and the influence of hip hop culture and music in socio-political thought. 

Her most recent study, “Sisters Rap the Blues: Examining the Perceived Impact of Rap Music on Black Women College Students,” addresses the impact of popular culture on the day-to-day academic experiences of students that center their worldview through concepts of rap music. 

She is visiting associate professor at Salem State University in Massachusetts and previously was an associate dean at Connecticut College, overseeing prioritized hiring, supervision, training, and evaluation of professional staff and spearheaded an overhaul of discrimination policies and procedures.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native also has served in academic and leadership roles at Brown University, Metropolitan State University of Denver, University of Denver, Indiana University, Western Connecticut State University, Community College of Rhode Island, Brooklyn College, University of Georgia and Marist College.  

McNeely Cobham earned a bachelor’s degree from Marist College, a master’s degree from the University of Georgia, and a doctorate from Indiana University – where she made history as the first recipient of the Master of Arts in African American and African Diaspora Studies.

GRCC is one of West Michigan's most diverse college campuses, with more Latino students than any public college or university in the state, according to an Excelencia in Education analysis, and the most African-American students on a campus in West Michigan, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Grand Rapids Community College has been offering educational opportunities in West Michigan for more than 100 years. Established in 1914, the college offers degree courses, certification and training programs, and workshops and personal enrichment classes. Offerings are held on GRCC’s downtown Grand Rapids campus, and at several locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties, as well as through distance learning.

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