College hires chief equity and inclusion officer


B. Afeni McNeely Cobham. Courtesy GRCC

A local college has named the person taking the new role of chief equity and inclusion officer.

Grand Rapids Community College said it hired B. Afeni McNeely Cobham for the position.

Leading the Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Center for Equity and Inclusion, McNeely Cobham’s position is an expansion of that role, which will now also include further developing a strategy for highlighting equity and inclusion as essential in the GRCC community.

GRCC President Bill Pink said the new role will report directly to him.

“This work makes our college stronger and our community stronger as well,” Pink said. “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." 

McNeely Cobham has more than 26 years of professional experience in higher education as a faculty member, administrator and consultant.

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

The Brooklyn, New York native has also 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.  

She holds a bachelor’s degree from Marist College, a master’s degree from the University of Georgia and a doctorate from Indiana University, where she was the first recipient of an M.A. in African American and African Diaspora Studies.

Her research interests examine several topics: 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. 

“The CEIO will play an important role toward embedding principles of diversity and social justice into the bedrock of the institution,” McNeely Cobham said. “I plan to come alongside President Pink in carrying out this work.”

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