The College of Arts & Sciences welcomed a new director of human resources, Donna Lynch-Cunningham, on Oct. 4. Cunningham was previously human resources divisional director for the James T. Laney School of Graduate Studies at Emory University in Atlanta.
At Emory, Lynch-Cunningham was also the deputy Title XI coordinator for the graduate school, developed a yearlong onboarding program for new staff and created a summer internship program for high school students. She also led the school’s transition to remote work during the COVID pandemic, then back to in-person staffing after 18 months and was responsible for developing new flexible work policies for staff returning to the office.
Lynch-Cunningham said the COVID pandemic has had a great impact on the role of human resources in higher education. “Across higher education, there are changing expectations of the role of human resources, especially in light of COVID. While we’re not expected to possess experience or background in mental health, we are expected to respond to the needs of our faculty, students and staff in addressing their health and wellness needs.”
Lynch-Cunningham was also involved in Emory’s efforts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace, efforts she plans to continue in the College.
“When I think of diversity, I always think of the saying ‘diversity is inviting me to the party, but inclusion is asking me to dance,’“ she said.
According to Lynch-Cunningham, new hires (and current employees) need to be involved in committees, encouraged to share their ideas and invited to become a part of the academic and social community. At Emory, along with staff trainings and changes to the search process, she regularly reviewed the staff evaluation system to ensure fairness and equity in the overall staff performance evaluation process.
She said she is looking forward to the move to Ithaca and to joining the College to support its mission of offering students a world-class education and the opportunity to explore their curiosity.
“In any new position, you bring with you all of the training and experiences you’ve acquired over many years and you align those with the mission and goals of the institution. My hope is that I will be able to do so in a way that’s both collaborative and impactful.”
Before her position at Emory, Lynch-Cunningham was involved with administration and human resources at Tenet South Florida Health System / Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Weston, Fla. She has also been an online course facilitator and instructor for eCornell, teaching courses in human resources. Cunningham holds a bachelor’s degree in business and management from the University of Phoenix, a master’s degree in human resource management from Nova Southeastern University and a master of law degree from Emory University School of Law.