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Griselda Gonzalez, Office of the President, co-chair of the Diversity Council

Griselda has been at FIT since November 1995. She was appointed as the Affirmative Action Officer in January 2008. She served as the Recording Secretary on the former College-wide Committee on Diversity for many years. During her tenure, she gained great knowledge of diversity and its importance at FIT.

Diversity is not a stand-alone function but a unifying thread woven into the fabric of everything we do as individuals and as entities. Only with a greater understanding of how to leverage the differences that diversity offers, embrace the opportunities that diversity generates, and overcome the fears that preserve the status quo, can we truly function in a state of excellence.
Michael Cokkinos Michael Cokkinos, Advertising and Marketing Communications, co-chair of the Diversity Council

Michael Cokkinos is an associate professor in the Advertising and Marketing Department at FIT. He teaches a variety of Advertising and Communication courses, including television production and computer applications. He holds a BA and an MA in Film and Media from Hunter College. Michael celebrates diversity as advisor to WFIT and the Culinary Arts Club. In his role as advisor to WFIT, he encourages students to explore every genre of music and culture. Michael is also director of World Music and has served as a judge for the New Age Voice World Music Awards in 2007 and 2008. He also hosts a show "FITINSIDEOUT," which examines the cultures and influences that make FIT the vibrant place that it is. As advisor to the FIT Culinary Arts Club, Michael teaches students to prepare diverse ethnic cuisines and to explore the vital connections of food and culture in our global society.

Jean Amato is associate professor of English and Speech, as well as the coordinator for the Asian and Latin American concentration

Professor Amato received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Oregon. Jean has also studied and conducted graduate research in Mainland China and Taiwan for over six years. Working in Chinese and English, her research centers on theories of nationalism, gender and the ancestral homeland in Twentieth Century Chinese, Diasporic and Asian American Literature and Film. Jean is an Associate Professor in the English and Speech Department and the Asian and Latin American Concentration Coordinator. Much of her focus at FIT is on interdisciplinary, cross-college, collaborative projects centered on diversity, student empowerment, community building, and cross-cultural exchange.

“I feel privileged to teach in the creative and diverse campus environment of FIT where I consider the promotion of diversity, inclusion, and cross-cultural exchange top priorities. I strive to build on the already open-minded curiosity about the world our students bring with them by helping them grow in their understanding of the global context of their local lives.”

Robyn Baxter, student, Fine Arts Department

Robyn Baxter (“Be”) is a visual artist, poet artist and entrepreneur. At FIT, she is a student in the Fine Arts Department. She is founder and CEO of RSB Expressions, an arts and entertainment company (, and she has produced two exhibitions. “Maasai and I," a visual arts exhibition aimed to raise awareness and funds for the Maasai tribe; and “Daddies & Daughters,”an annual art project that disproves the myth that men of color are not good fathers. She is a member of the Unveiled Unlocked Project / Bare Head Beauty Collective, which brings social understanding of what it means to be a bare-headed woman. She co-hosts an open mic show in Harlem called "The Bomb Shelter," which showcases young performers of the New Harlem Renaissance. Born to ethnic diversity before it became part of the national agenda, she has a keen appreciation for differences and individuality: “To exclude either side of diversity is like walking around with one contact lens. You can’t see the whole picture.”

Deborah Beard, Technical Design

Deborah Beard is the acting associate chair and assistant professor of FIT's Technical Design Department. She promotes diversity and inclusion in the classroom by mixing up her students for group projects so that they can interact with one another and learn about the rich cultural diversity at FIT. "I feel that the best way for people to truly understand diversity is to participate in it," said Professor Beard. "We shouldn't be afraid of difference. Education is the only way that people will understand and accept why people are the way they are."

Dr. Susan Breton, Counseling Center

Dr. Breton is a Clinical Psychologist who over the last 20 years has specialized in child, adolescent and young adult mental health. Her career includes work with inner-city youth in New York, New Haven, and Melbourne, Australia. At the FIT Counseling Center, in addition to providing individual and group psychotherapy to students, Dr. Breton develops and facilitates campus initiatives that promote diversity and help students acclimatize to their changing roles at college.

She has helped created group programs for the college’s international student population and an ongoing Diversity Awareness Workshop that raises awareness of our biases. Dr. Breton has facilitated the LGBT & Friends Chat Group and worked with the FIT-ABLE Office to develop Project THRIVE, a program that helps students with non-verbal learning disorders. “I believe that through the creation of multiple opportunities that explore differences in cultural customs and the similarities that underscore our humanity, we can help our students become the global citizens that they need to be.”

Robert Brown is an HR generalist with FIT Human Resources Management & Labor Relations. He is a strong proponent of diversity and has led different initiatives in his career to celebrate diversity and multiculturalism. Before coming to FIT he worked at NJ Transit as manager of Employee Relations for more than 20 years and led diversity events. His career began in finance. His work in human relations enables him to provide education on the value that diversity brings to an organization. He believes that every organization benefits from learning about diversity and embracing it as part of its culture. At FIT, he is interested in being involved in the planning of campus initiatives. He envisions organizing a Martin Luther King Day of Service, in which FIT students and staff participate in activities to improve their community.

“I believe diversity is important because it enriches the educational experience by learning from those whose experience, beliefs, and experiences are different from our own,” said Mr. Brown. “Diversity challenges stereotypical preconceptions; it encourages critical thinking; and it helps students, faculty and staff learn to communicate effectively with people of varied backgrounds.”

Renée Cooper is a 2013 Fulbright Scholar. She taught in Cophenhagen this past spring. She is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Faculty.

She joined Fashion Merchandising Marketing in 2000. As acting chairperson from 2008 to 2010, she helped launch the department's fully online degree program. Cooper teaches Contemporary Retail Management and Leadership Devleopment for Retailing. 

Cooper was a buyer and sourcing manager for major companies in the industry. She continues to be FIT's liaison with the National Retail Foundation. She is co-advisor of the National Retail Federation Student Association and serves on the Board of Directors of the Black Retail Action Group.

Cooper earned a BS in Business Administration from Morgan State University and a Master's of Professional Studies in Global Fashion Management from FIT.

"Diversity is not just about ethnicity," said Cooper. "It's about inclusion of women leaders and multicultures into our mission to educate young people. The FIT mission is to educate young people. The FIT envrionment mirrors the diverse multicultural world of today. To me this is exciting and I love being a part of our vibrant community."


Patrice George is assistant professor in the Textile Development and Technology Department. Her BA in History of Art is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is also a degree candidate in FIT’s graduate program for Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice.


In her career as a textile design consultant, she worked with many European and Asian textile producers. She also managed special textile projects in Jamaica, Laos, and Mexico, which were sponsored by the United Nations and other international development agencies. She received a Fulbright fellowship to teach computer-aided textile design at the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, Finland in 1994.


After years of working abroad, she recognizes how the stranger-in-a-strange-land feeling can affect students. "The Diversity Council offers all students inclusion insurance, through its programs and events," said Professor George. "It is a joy to participate in the Council’s mission to expand awareness of cultural and social diversity on campus."

Patrice Goumba, Financial Aid

Associate Professor Patrice Goumba has worked in the financial aid field for nearly 17 years, with only a brief interruption in 2000, when he joined a research and financial analysis firm as an analyst. In 2003 he was appointed counselor at FIT’s Financial Aid Office. Mr. Goumba is a true product of diversity having lived and studied on three continents—Africa, Europe, and North America. He received his BS and MS degrees in Finance and Banking from Adelphi University and a master’s degree in Project Management from DeVry University’s Keller Graduate School of Management. He is fluent in both French and English.

Professor Goumba views workplace diversity as an asset that holds tremendous potential for personal growth. “I think of diversity in terms of synergy, where the uniqueness of each individual when combined can be a source of great effectiveness on all levels.”
Elvin Elias Lee Kince, Graphic Design

Eli Kince is the curriculum chairperson for Graphic Design, and he has been developing the Graphic Design program for nearly 28 years. He earned his master’s degree from Yale University. He is the author of the books, Visual Puns in Design and I Remember Daddy: A True Fiction, and many articles. His consultation projects include the corporate image for Chase Manhattan Bank. He believes in mentoring young designers as they start their careers. His proudest project is Newwork Magazine, an award-winning publication started in 2007 by students from Graphic Design. Professor Kince has exhibited his artwork around the world for four decades. In 1995 he completed a one-man exhibition in Moscow. In 2006 he participated in the New York Historical Society’s “Legacies: Contemporary Artist Reflect on Slavery” exhibition. In 1987 he established an art gallery in Harlem.

“Diversity is understanding that the human experience has a lot in common, in spite of our perceived differences, and as we increase our exposure to each other we also expand our knowledge about ourselves.”

Melissa Melodia is a recent FIT graduate; she holds a Bachelors of Science in International Trade and Marketing. In her senior year, she served as president of the International Trade Student Association (ITSA), a student club on campus. During that time, she organized a campus event called Global Sourcing Today, where students were invited to learn about various international trading methods and different outlets for sourcing products from industry leaders. She also worked with other ITSA members and faculty on ITM departmental events. Melissa is currently working in Product Development in Little Me and Offspring, a leading childrenswear firm. She hopes to obtain an MBA in International Business in the near future.

“Diversity to me is the foundation of our nation,” said Melissa. “Whether it is individual cultural, belief, or lifestyle diversities; being diverse spurs a broad range of ideas, opinions, and innovation. It gives us the opportunity to combine infinite viewpoints with the goal of the best possible outcome for every situation.”

Jennifer Miller has been with FIT since 2001 and is currently an associate professor and counselor in the Career and Internship Center. In addition to counseling she teaches internship courses. She has been on the executive board of MNYCCPOA, a professional organization for college career counselors for the past eight years in various roles and is currently president. She holds an MSED from Hunter College and an MBA from Binghamton University. She is the co-author of a textbook, Creating Career Success: A Flexible Plan for the World of Work,which  includes the article, “Embracing Differences,” addressing such diversity topics as cultural values, diversity in the workplace, disclosing a disability, cultural differences in job search, discrimination and affirmative action, and harassment in the workplace.

“The diversity at FIT is truly inspiring,” said Professor Miller. “We have the opportunity to work with students from around the globe. Everyone is diverse in one way or another and that is why I endeavor to treat all students, staff and faculty with respect and understanding.”

Dr. Eleanor DiPalma owes her personal and professional growth as well as the success of her teaching career at FIT to one of her core values…and that is, a deep respect for diversity. She is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Dance at FIT. Her Ph.D. is in dance/movement analysis and psychotherapy from New York University. Dr. DiPalma has a training background in cross-cultural dances and has researched intercultural communications for her work as a dance movement psychotherapist, educator and training consultant.

Her lifelong passion for dance and movement has led her afar off to Alaska, China, West Africa, and Finland for study and teachings. She continues to fully support the value of diversity in the design and delivery of course curriculums as well as in her FIT communications and events planning.

“I am honored to serve on the Diversity Council to further the mission of FIT as it reinforces and promotes ‘differences’ and ‘inclusion,’ the core values that guide everything we do!”

Jean-Marc Rejaud, Advertising and Marketing Communications

Jean-Marc Rejaud is a professor in the Advertising and Marketing Communications Department. An expatriate from France, he brings a “diverse” mindset to the Diversity Council. “I will make sure that we look at diversity with a diverse eye, rather than an American eye,” he said, “and that we dry-run our assumptions to avoid stereotyping in our decision-making.”

Professor Rejaud has extensive international experience, having lived and worked abroad since he left France in 1994, and includes a two-year sojourn in the UK before coming to the U.S. The experience of working with individuals from diverse national backgrounds has taught him that we are at once very similar and very different. The ability to negotiate these differences, especially as a manger, requires knowing when we are in a “sharing” mode or a “difference” mode and responding appropriately.

“By understanding and embracing diversity, not only do you become a better human being and create a happier environment, but a better manager as well,” Professor Rejaud said.
  Elena Romero is adjunct assistant professor in the Advertising and Marketing Communication Department. She has been with FIT since 2002 and teaches a variety of advertising and communication courses, including Mass Communication, Advertising and Promotion, Introduction to Journalism, Fashion Journalism, and Magazine Journalism.


Elena is the author of  Free Stylin’: How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry (Praeger). She holds a BA in Journalism and Mass Communication and an MS in Publishing, both from New York University.

Prior to entering academia, Elena was associate editor of DNR (defunct) and contributing editor to WWD. Her body of journalistic work has covered fashion, music, and culture. Her work has appeared in Honey (defunct), Savoy (defunct), Vibe, Latina, Urban Latino, Sportswear International, and USA Today 

Elena is also adjunct assistant professor at The City College of New York. At CCNY, she is a member of the Divisional Committee on Inclusive Excellence.

"Diversity is being proactive in educating ourselves about the beauty and complexity of our differences," said Professor Romero.

Professor Sanchez-Fong is an associate professor in the Interior Design Department. Educated in architecture, she has a combination of academic credentials and field experiences with a deep grounding in both the theory and practice of interior design and facilities management. She first taught in New York City at Baruch College, from 1990-1994, and at FIT since 1996.

Professor Sanchez-Fong is the mentor and coordinator of the 2013 “Interior Design Relief Project,”created to help the families of Long Beach devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The project won the 2013 Art & Design Interdisciplinary Grant. This summer, through the Hope for New York project and in collaboration with professor Nicole Migeon, she coordinated the service-learning renovation of the laundry room at the Bowery Mission Women’s Shelter where students not only prepared the design solutions and associated working drawings, but also performed the work.

"Diversity is the civil rights movement of the 21st century," said Professor Sanchez-Fong."The challenge is to profoundly embrace our differences, celebrate their beauty, and understand its strengths."

Melissa Tombro is an associate professor in the English and Speech Department where she teaches writing and theatre classes. She received her MA from the University of Chicago and her PhD from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in teaching and was awarded a full year sabbatical for work on her memoir in 2013 – 2014. Melissa’s research focuses on the use of writing for social justice and how performance studies can broaden the audience for active, political writing. She has led initiatives to make writing more present at FIT, co-hosting the SUNY Coucil on Writing conference in Spring 2012, creating an award series for English Composition students, a reading series for faculty writers, bringing in community artists to work with students and introducing writing courses in ethnography and performance studies. She serves as a workshop leader for the New York Writer’s Coalition, which leads writing programs for at-risk and underserved populations in NYC.


“For me, diversity is an ever-evolving term that attempts to encompass an idea where people from all walks of life can come together to create something meaningful and inclusive for the greater good of all.”

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