As John Rawlins III prepares to leave his position at Ithaca College after serving eight years as the assistant director for Multicultural Affairs on Sept. 19, he and the students he has worked with reflect on the contributions he has made to the college community.
Rawlins will serve as special assistant to the associate vice provost at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland beginning Oct. 1.
The position of assistant director for Multicultural Affairs will not immediately be filled, Rawlins said. He said the college administration will review the position to deem whether it thinks it is necessary.
“It is my sincerest hope that they replace this position because I think it is a vital position, not just for students of color and not just for this office, but for this campus,” Rawlins said.
Rawlins said throughout the years he has aimed to foster a greater sense of belonging for students of color in the Ithaca community and to ensure that the college, as a whole, values the diversity of the campus population.
Through his work at the Office of Student Engagement and Multicultural Affairs, Rawlins said, he has worked to empower students of color to make their voices heard on campus. Rawlins has worked with the Ithaca Achievement Program, Jumpstart, Martin Luther King Scholars, Festival of Black Gospel, Cross-Cultural Leadership Retreat and the African, Latino, Asian and Native American community, according to the college’s OSEMA website.
Since Rawlins has had a lifelong passion for gospel choir and had participated in gospel choir during his undergraduate experience at Cornell University, he said one of his most meaningful accomplishments was advising the Amani Gospel Singers, a gospel choir at the college, and helping them partner with Cornell University in planning the Festival of Black Gospel each spring.
Senior Adjoa Darien, the current historian of the Amani Gospel Singers, said Rawlins’ contributions to the group as their adviser and a past director has helped shape the choir and helped build her confidence as a leader of the gospel.
“John brings a positive vibe with him wherever he goes, and his support and encouragement have been invaluable to our growth and development as a choir and, for members of the board especially, as leaders,” Darien said in an email.
Rawlins said for him, encouraging individual students and working to create a supportive community was most important.
“My greatest memories are watching students grow and blossom from experiences and being fearless about the things that they do. To see it even when a student doesn’t see it, it’s phenomenal,” Rawlins said.
Rawlins said the IAP is one of his proudest accomplishment as it is a community dedicated to the success of ALANA students both in their academic and personal lives.
Lia Munoz, a junior MLK Scholar and spokesperson for the African Latino Society, said she will miss working with Rawlins, as he has been her mentor for the past three years.
“He was probably one of the most invested administrators I have seen in education, especially when it comes to the ALANA community,” Munoz said. “It will still go on without him, but his personality, his investment and his love for the community, the people that he works with and the students, that’s gonna be hard for me not having him be there.”
Rawlins said the decision to leave the college was difficult after being so committed to bettering the community, but the decision was a necessary step in for the progression of his career.
“OSEMA has meant everything to me,” Rawlins said. “I know that the things I have learned from my colleagues in here, the things I have learned from others across campus and the things I have learned from the students will carry me into what I will be doing at John Hopkins.”
Munoz is not ready to see her mentor leave the college, but wishes him well in his endeavors to help another community.
“I’m not ready to let go of John, but I know he is going to do so many amazing things throughout the rest of his career and that this is a necessary step to help other people, so I’m comfortable knowing that,” Munoz said.
In the interim, Rawlins said, different members of the campus community will take over the responsibilities for sustaining the initiatives and student organizations he led.
“I’m walking away from this program, but I walk away with the confidence that this program will continue to grow,” Rawlins said. “The community that has been started will continue way beyond me and beyond even these students.”