By Nick Cernera
Ivonne Cruz has been promoted to the newly-appointed Acting Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, which was created by the administration in response to the fall semester’s incidents of racial bias.
She has been a familiar name at the College for years, and her work as the director for the Educational Opportunity Fund and the Center for Student Success shows her passion and commitment toward the College community.
Cruz intends on creating new initiatives to address racial tensions on campus. She is taking part in developing the Bias Response Team with Director of Diversity and Inclusion Don Trahan and other administrators. The team was created to collect data from personal reports of bias on campus. This includes anything from micro-aggressions to incidents of discrimination and harassment.
Cruz is also working on bringing in an independent, unbiased consultant who will run focus groups in order to get a better idea of the College’s culture and community.
“TCNJ has been a part of over half my life and this is very personal to me,” Cruz said. “TCNJ is my home.”
Cruz has been a part of the College’s community since the early 1990s where she studied deaf and hard of hearing education during her undergraduate career.
As a first-generation college student, Cruz understood the value of her experiences at Trenton State College. She joined Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority Inc. and the Minority Mentoring Program.
Later in her career, Cruz would eventually become the advisor to both Union Latina and Lambda Theta Alpha, as well as a program assistant for the the Minority Mentoring Program and supervisor for the coordinator of the PRIDE Mentoring Program at the College.
Prior to working at the College, Cruz was a teacher in the West-Windsor and Plainsboro school district, where she gained a “love for the art of teaching” but still yearned for something different in her life.
In 1995, Cruz accepted a temporary job in admissions at the College, which soon turned into a long-term role. Through these roles, Cruz began to discover her passion for advising students. Although it was not an official part of her responsibilities, Cruz would offer advice to students every chance she got. She even exchanged letters with them during her breaks.
During her time in these positions, Cruz developed a true understanding of the College. It was after a brief maternity leave that she would land into a position that truly utilized her passions, experiences, and distinct skill set. She would become the counselor for the Educational Opportunity Fund Program. Through the support of her co-workers, she balanced her new position not only with motherhood, but also as a returning student getting her master’s degree at the College.
It was at this point in her career that Cruz truly began to “bleed blue and gold.” She co-created and eventually became the director of the CSS program, which she dubbed as another challenging experience in her career but an experience that marks an important milestone for her and the College.
As the director of CSS, Cruz was again able to pursue her passion for helping others. Working nights and weekends completely to her own accord, she aided countless students on their roads to success.
However, Cruz’s drive for helping students did not stop there. Last year, Cruz added another position to her duties when she became the new director for the EOF program. With the assistance of her team, she now had to balance multiple institutional budgets and state grants, as well as oversee two departments.
It’s Cruz’s work ethic and dedication to the College that led her to become the new Acting Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion while a search committee conducts a national search for a permanent Vice President. Working alongside Dr. Don Trahan and Kerri Tillett, Cruz plans on doing her best to set the foundation for this position.
“(Diversity and inclusion are) recognizing and celebrating all the ways peoples/groups are different, treating them with fairness and justice and providing them with an environment that makes all feel welcomed, supported and safe,” Cruz said.