Leading DEI Efforts at NYU’s Silver School

Winter 2024

Richeleen Dashield ’88 provides strategic leadership to support the development of DEI at NYU’s school of social work. 

Illustration by Bruce Morser ’76

Richeleen Dashield ’88 says she’s always been a “builder.”

Throughout the past 35 years, Dashield has worked in multiple departments of higher education administration — including student life, human resources, social equity, service learning, and multicultural affairs. Through these experiences, Dashield developed a philosophy of leading from a place of joy, empowering those around her to lead, and advancing inclusive excellence in higher education institutions through diversity accountability.

Dashield now serves as the director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and chief diversity officer at the New York University (NYU) Silver School of Social Work, a position she inaugurated in January 2020. Her work involves providing strategic leadership to support the continued development of DEI in all aspects of teaching, research, practicum experience, scholarship, and learning at Silver.

“Having that broad overview of how systems are connected, how relationships are built, and how to build sustainable programs for students, faculty, and staff has served me well working at NYU,” she says.

NYU Silver School of Social Work established its DEI office in 2020 to elevate its ongoing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Its importance can’t be understated, she says: “DEI centers the dignity and worth of all individuals through the critical examination of humanity in policies, practices, and organization structures,” Dashield told PoliticsNY. She was chosen over 184 other applicants for the directorship.

Despite the relative newness of the office, Dashield says it’s a logical extension of the school’s mission and professional code of ethics, which have long valued social justice and related principles.

“Here the capacity to support the work of DEI has been phenomenal, both individually and departmentally,” she says, “and has led to some transformational changes.”

Dashield has overseen several new initiatives there, including a restorative justice training program for students, faculty, and staff that aims to strengthen relationships, repair harm, and foster a more inclusive community. In addition to co-leading the Social Justice Praxis Committee, she leads the Silver Climate Support Team, which monitors bias in the school community, provides community care, and ensures that individuals who have experienced harm are seen, heard, and supported.

Advocating for inclusive policies and practices, and cultivating an environment where all individuals can flourish with dignity, respect, and equity remain long-term goals for Dashield. The directorship opens opportunities to share her expertise around the world as well. In the summer of 2023, for example, she spoke on diversity accountability in higher education at a conference in India and afterward received a gift of appreciation from Ram Nath Kovind, former president of the country.

While her interest in diversity developed well before she attended Colgate as a sociology and anthropology (SOAN) major, Dashield gained formative student leadership experience at the University.

“As president of the Black Student Union, resident of the Harlem Renaissance Center, and student assistant for the cultural center, I was asked to join a subcommittee for the Middle States accreditation,” she says. “At the time, as part of my research project in a SOAN course, my findings on Black students’ belonging and inclusion at Colgate were shared with the committee.”

Those early leadership experiences eventually steered Dashield toward administrative and advisory roles where she could directly inform higher education policies and practices — particularly ones impacting historically marginalized students, faculty, and staff. Prior to her role at NYU, she held senior leadership posts at Kean University, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and Raritan Valley Community College.

“When I entered the field, it was about affirmative action, compliance, and moves toward valuing diversity,” Dashield says. “Now, I believe it is centering on DEI engagement and community care, which we’ve taken the opportunity to build here at Silver through our restorative justice practices and programs. It’s about strengthening relationships, which is the essence of what DEI is in 2023.”

Dashield holds an MBA in human resources from Rutgers and an EdD in educational services and leadership from Rowan University.