Keesha Burke-Henderson’s work never ends. In fact, it’s only just begun. As chief diversity officer for Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., and director of the college’s Office of Identity, Culture, and Inclusion, Burke-Henderson’s mission is to facilitate a culture of community among the student body, employees, and everyone involved in the school and confront the impact of equity disparities within an educational setting.
A first-generation student, Burke-Henderson graduated with a B.F.A. and M.A. from the College of Arts and Sciences at New York Tech. She believes if the past year, and uprising of racial injustice, has revealed anything, it’s that there is still more work to be done. Randolph, which was traditionally an all-women’s college until it shifted to “co-educational” in 2007, has a more diverse student body than ever before and is shaping a culture to match the students it serves.
“Within our institution last year, we had 40 percent of our students who were of color. Our incoming class now will be 50 percent students of color, and we need full-time faculty of color here. That’s one of the major things that I would like to get accomplished during my tenure here, to get more faculty of color or help to create a network to bring in candidates and diversify,” says Burke-Henderson.
In the meantime, Burke-Henderson is designing means for students to have more access to scholars and intellectual ideas exploring African, Indigenous/Native American, Latino, and other diasporas. Recently, an African American Studies minor was approved for the upcoming school year, which she is also scheduled to teach.
Starting her college career at the University of Maryland on a track scholarship, Burke-Henderson moved to New York Tech after spraining her ankle freshman year and shifting her focus to communications. Upon graduation, she moved to Atlanta briefly, working at a marketing and advertising firm, nonprofits, and teaching— eventually settling at Morehouse for 10 years—all while starting a family and working on her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia. She transitioned to Kennesaw State for its international conflict management program, spent some time in Iowa at Mount Mercy University, and later into her role at Randolph in February 2021.
Still working on her comprehensive diversity plan at Randolph, Burke-Henderson hopes she can make a difference with her JEDI plan, which stands for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. “This comprehensive plan will tell us where we are, how we’re going to move forward, and ensure that everyone is held accountable for where we’re going. And recognizing that there is racism, which is important,” says Burke-Henderson.
This profile originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of New York Institute of Technology Magazine.