From the Midwest to Mid State: Encouraging Open Conversations of Diversity and Inclusion

This past week, Colgate was host to various celebrations honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK). The hard work of dedicated students and staff resulted in events that were inclusive and accessible to the whole community. Renee Madison, Colgate’s vice president for equity and inclusion, spoke at the opening ceremony to express the importance of open conversations and participation by all members of the community.

Growing up in the midwest, Madison’s passion for curiosity and education was fostered by her small family. She later earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. She continued her education by earning a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. Before joining the Colgate family, Madison spent much of her adult life working for the city of Indianapolis. After realizing her passion for higher education, Madison started her search for a position on a college campus and found her way to Colgate. In fall of 2021, Madison started her role as the vice president for equity and inclusion to work towards a more inclusive Colgate. 

“The Colgate community, from our students, staff and faculty have an incredible drive to excel. I connect with this drive and passion. The wonderful thing about the work I do, is that it intersects with everyone. I feel strongly that each person ought to be able to bring their authentic self to our community, and their experiences and authenticity should be valued and respected,” Madison said. 

Madison commented on the importance of self-expression and acceptance to having a healthy sense of belonging. She argues that these are essential for attaining a satisfying educational experience. 

“Conversations about identity feel very personal, because they are. Recognizing that the personal nature of who we are, sometimes makes it hard for people to hear about an experience that they haven’t had or haven’t seen. We see this on a daily basis in the news or our social media feeds,” Madison explained.

Although Madison acknowledges the level of discomfort that comes with recognizing implicit bias and hearing the challenges peers have faced, she knows it is an important step in providing an environment conducive to growth, learning and happiness.

“My hopes and goals are that Colgate can excel and be an example for the nation. An example about how to recognize historical oppression and marginalization, how to act and make change and how to engage in these conversations with empathy, compassion and critical thinking,” Madison said. 

By working with both the students and staff across campus, Madison hopes the Colgate community will recognize the need to create a space that is comfortable for all of its members.

Madison extends her gratitude to Esther Rosbrook, director of the ALANA Cultural Center, and all of the other ALANA staff and students for their hard work in organizing the MLK Week celebrations. It was through their devotion that a successful week of events promoting awareness of diversity and inclusion in homage to MLK was accomplished. Madison’s duties for the week included her speech at the MLK Week opening ceremony, during which she encouraged all students and staff to participate in the upcoming events to promote belonging on campus.

“I encourage all students to connect with ALANA and attend the events that they host. There are many opportunities throughout the entire academic year,” Madison said. Information about upcoming events can be found in upcoming events emails and on the Colgate website. 

Outside of work, Madison spends most of her time raising her children. While she is still exploring different hobbies in Hamilton, N.Y., she is particularly excited to try more snow sports, such as skiing and snowmobiling.