$1 Million Gift Seeks to Make Transformational Social Change, Support DEI Institute
A new institute dedicated to diversity, equity, inclusion and transformative practice at SUNY Oswego is receiving an infusion of resources, thanks to a $1.075 million gift from Jim Triandiflou ’88 of Cary, N.C.
The non-endowed gift, announced in May, is making an immediate impact and is helping the university implement the inclusive vision of what is now called the James A. Triandiflou ’88 Institute for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Transformative Practice for a five-year term in recognition of his gift. Specifically, the funding is providing current-use support for the institute’s director position and intergroup dialogue training facilitation for five years.
“We’re incredibly grateful to have such a committed partner in Jim Triandiflou, who shares our vision to become a campus whose members approach situations from an inclusive, equitable and human-first mindset,” said SUNY Oswego Officer in Charge Mary C. Toale, who was part of the team that envisioned and created the institute, which was officially announced in August 2021.
“His transformational leadership gift comes at a crucial moment as we launch this institute, and these deep resources will help us develop important communication and intergroup dialogue skills and instill an inclusive mindset in our campus community, especially in our students who will be the next generation of leaders in society,” Toale said.
Expanding the Impact of the Institute
The institute works to foster an environment that respects, embraces and promotes cultural humility, civil discourse and active engagement in developing an
inclusive and vibrant community of transformational agents committed to positive change in the world. The institute will elevate the great work of our current
faculty and staff who are instrumental in creating and maintaining an inclusive, equitable community of students and scholars where all stakeholders thrive and experience belonging.
“What Jim is really providing is the opportunity and means for Oswego to undergo a cultural transformation,” said Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Kendra Cadogan. “Having someone with Jim’s rich experience lean into this area of diversity, equity and inclusion speaks to the importance and transformative nature
of this work. The impact of this gift will be far-reaching, and will help identify Oswego as a leader in DEI on the national stage.”
Triandiflou’s gift will help SUNY Oswego attract and retain a strong director who is a skilled community builder, inspirational leader, open-minded thinker and organized connector. The director, essential to the success of the institute, will lead the implementation of the vision, mission and goals of the institute, and will advance the work of the institute on campus and in the broader community.
His gift will also support an intergroup dialogue training program whose goal is to develop interpersonal communication skills throughout all aspects of the campus community, and moving forward, all new students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to receive training in this area as they join the campus. Additionally, the university will illuminate the work of current and future campus leaders who will be able to share their knowledge and expertise in diversity, equity, inclusion and transformative practice with local and regional organizations and businesses. SUNY Oswego will become a resource for the entire region in this important area.
Supporting his Passions
For Triandiflou, the gift acknowledges his life-changing college experience at Oswego and affirms his belief in providing equal opportunities to all people. He hopes the gift also provides SUNY Oswego with the resources to educate current and future students and campus and broader community members on how to effectively communicate with each other and to approach others, especially those whose experiences differ from one’s own, with an open and empathetic mindset.
“Equality is a foundational tenet of America. Yet, we haven’t always lived up to our words,” said Triandiflou, CEO of insightsoftware in Raleigh, N.C. “Providing
equal opportunity is the human thing to do. It’s also in our self-interest … having all people achieve their full potential is a win for everyone!”
In his previous role as CEO of Relias Learning, Triandiflou led a company that consciously worked to ensure that the top 50 leaders were balanced and diverse
and that pay was equal, despite gender or other demographic factors.
“DEI is a tricky issue,” he said. “The inertia of a mostly white, mostly male business takes effort to change. You have to go beyond your circle and reach out to diverse communities.
“We won awards for being a great place for LBGTQ people to work,” he said. “We proactively marketed ourselves to a diverse population for recruiting. And
the diversity of our workforce helped us achieve market leadership and world-class financial results for our investors.”
Elevating his Alma Mater
Triandiflou has been a steadfast supporter and an active member of the SUNY Oswego community since 1984 when he was a student majoring in marketing. He was a member of the Oswego chapter of the American Marketing Association and vice president of the Student Association, and he was selected as the student speaker for his Commencement ceremony.
As an alumnus, he serves as a mentor through the university’s Alumni Sharing Knowledge program, has returned to campus to speak with students through
the Alumni-In-Residence program, shared his experience via the Oswego Alumni Podcast and has served on the Rich Hall Campaign Committee and the Class of 1988’s 25th Reunion Giving Committee, among other roles.
“I probably grew as much in my four years at Oswego as any period of my life,” said Triandiflou, who remains close friends with Lakers who lived on the fourth floor of Oneida Hall. “I wasn’t what you’d call ’a model student,’ but I was heavily involved and made lifelong friends. The Student Association and professors like Dr. Jim Molinari ‘75 (marketing) gave me direction and confidence. I give back to Oz in hopes other kids have a similar experience.”
A Pell grant recipient, he has a deep appreciation for the opportunities he was afforded by SUNY Oswego, and he credits the institution for helping to launch his career.
“Jim’s most recent gift will deliver the funding to elevate this important institutional priority—diversity, equity, inclusion and transformative practice—and provide the needed resources to ensure this area remains one of SUNY Oswego’s pillars of excellence,” Toale said. “We are truly grateful for his support.”
“Social change can be slow, but it does happen,” Triandiflou said. “I’m hopeful the institute becomes a catalyst for education, discussion and bringing people together in the name of equality. When people talk, they often realize how much we all have in common … our desire for belonging, acceptance and love. We want our kids to be healthy and happy. We want the world to be safe. These things are universal. Hopefully, the institute moves us closer to equality.”
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