Diversity and HEOP: Director explains how both connect and impact students’ lives

Students Kayonnah Singletary, Yaa Tuffour, Nazjahe Boswell studying in HEOP office.
Students Kayonnah Singletary, Yaa Tuffour, Nazjahe Boswell studying in HEOP office.

By: Katie Johnson

Some may not know that the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) has been a staple in the Daemen community since 1970 when the program was made available to campus life. This brought in so many better opportunities for people in the community being able to go to college and gain that experience.

Tiffany Hamilton is a mother of two, chief diversity officer and director of HEOP, and the founder of the Care Cupboard initiative on campus. Hamilton has background working with the community at M&T bank, students at Medaille College, and working for four years as Daemen’s assistant director of HEOP before being promoted to director. 

“One of the great successes I have and can have, is that the connection and relationship building is so important in connecting students to their college experience; it starts with trust and relationship building,” Hamilton said. 

This is one of the main principles in how they connect and help the students they welcome in their department. Trust with students is built from the start, from when they first apply and interview, to when they are accepted and begin the summer program. 

“We want our students to feel like they belong, that they are worthy of this opportunity just like any Daemen College student, so we rebranded the summer program to the Tri-Scholars Academy because the language really matters,” Hamilton said. 

The importance of the summer program is to make students feel welcome on campus, rather than being referred to as “pre-freshman” making it seem like they are not a student yet. 

The Care Cupboard is another initiative that Hamilton developed, which first started when she found that students often missed the time the cafeteria was open because they either had class, work, or simply could not afford a meal plan and were in need of food. 

This is now a major part of campus life as students often get groceries from the Cupboard, giving them an opportunity to get food if they are unable to during the week. 

“If we can eliminate, if we can alleviate some of the pressure of trying to figure out how they’re going to eat, then I think that will help a student progress on accomplishing their goals,” Hamilton said. 

“HEOP is a part of Daemen. It is really important for us to acknowledge the fact that it’s a program that isn’t separate from the institution but a part of it; it has grown as Daemen has grown,” Hamilton said, wanting the students and all attending Daemen to know HEOP is not just a scholarship program but a program that helps all students on campus. 

Hamilton is student centered; she works hard to build trust between herself and students. 

“Being the chief diversity officer is exciting now because I can reach even more students, which is promising for pushing for some of the initiatives like the Diversity Ambassador program that is becoming more vibrant because we want to represent all of our campus.”

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