Sherman Cowan recently joined Anna Maria College as Director of Diversity and Inclusion. In this role, he is responsible for leading informative cultural awareness programs that educate and engage the campus and prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion across all College initiatives. At present, Anna Maria College’s student population is 48% non-white.
Welcome Sherman! Before we get to our three questions, can you share a little bit about your career journey?
Sure thing. Prior to joining Anna Maria College, I was the Community Director and Conflict Resolution/Mediation Specialist at Wellesley College. In that role I worked closely with student leaders, campus police, campus counseling services and other university units to facilitate student well-being and persistence as well as meaningful and productive dialogue around a variety of complex community issues.
I also spent a total of 31 combined years in military service which included almost 20 years in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, and prior to that, 11 years in the Army Reserves. In the Air National Guard, I was the Inspector General, 104th Fighter Wing, until 2016. I was the first African American Inspector General at Barnes Air National Guard Base. As Inspector General, I provided a neutral, confidential, formal, and informal space for base members to file high-level complaints and provided mediation and dialogue to base members to assist with resolving conflicts. Prior to that I served as Chief of Military Equal Opportunity for several years where I addressed discrimination and sexual harassment complaints from Air National Guard members.
I have a BA in history and Psychology as well as a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology from the State University of New York at Oswego. I also hold a Certificate in Diversity & Inclusion from Cornell University. It’s great to now be at Anna Maria College.
- What attracted you to this role at Anna Maria College?
Well, I just retired from the Air National Guard (ANG) five years ago, and for my last 12 years in the ANG, I was working in, or closely with, the office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Even though I continued my work in college administration after I retired, it wasn’t in DEI, so I have been missing this type of work and decided to return.
2. Based on your experience, what’s the state of Diversity and Inclusion at Anna Maria?
I think that my predecessor left the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in a good place. Right away I was able to see that it is a supportive office with a lot of different and important functions. I am looking forward to following through with some of the things that she initiated, and to building even more developmental growth for the office. Our students have some definite ideas about programs and opportunities designed to create a culture of belonging and I’m looking forward to working closely with them to explore those ideas together.
3. What’s your biggest piece of advice for building a strong D&I culture at a college or company?
My best advice for building a strong D&I culture would be to listen to the needs of the community that you serve. Every college or company is different, and with these differences, there are different needs. You may never find out the needs of the community unless you are truly listening to what people have to say. And as you listen, you have to have the courage to make changes, if needed.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is located in the Campus Center, in the Student Life office suite. Sherman Cowan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 508/849-3396.