Introducing Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney, finalist for the 2021 ATHENA Leadership Award

The BNP is pleased to introduce you to the finalists who have been selected for the 2021 ATHENA® honors including the ATHENA Leadership Award® and the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award®.  NEW THIS YEAR, we will also present the ATHENA Organizational Award® to recognize one  for-profitorganization and one non-profitorganization that inspire women in WNY to achieve their full potential. 

We will bring you profiles of each finalist in the weeks ahead, leading up to the awards event. Come back often to read the profiles and you’ll learn what it means to be an Athena. And if you’d like to attend the ATHENA Awards® Luncheon, the region’s most prestigious event dedicated to the professional accomplishments of those who work to advance women, you can get tickets here.

Meet This Week’s ATHENA Leadership Award® Finalist

Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney
Chief of Staff to President & Chief Diversity Officer
Buffalo State College 

Crystal Rodriguez-Dabney is Chief of Staff to Buffalo State College President Katherine Conway-Turner and serves as the college’s Chief Diversity Officer. In her diversity role, Crystal assists Buffalo State College in eliminating barriers based on race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and various differences with intentional, more productive policies. Prior to her work at Buff State, Crystal served in various roles for the City of Buffalo including Chief Diversity Officer and as executive director of the city’s Commission on Citizens’ Rights and Community Relations. She is also an attorney at law. 

Crystal’s community support and volunteer efforts include organizing Miss Borinquen Leadership Development Program, working for Attract Manifest Repeat! Retreat for Female Entrepreneurs, and serving on the NYS Campaign Finance Reform Commission.

First Job

Crystal’s first job was serving as an airman in the United States Navy. 

Career Highlights

Crystal points to passing the New York State Bar Exam as one of her greatest career accomplishments. She also takes great pride in being named the City of Buffalo’s first Chief Diversity Officer. 

Best Piece of Advice Given Regarding Her Career

Be on fire for what you believe, start over but don’t give up, and always remember how far you’ve come when considering how far you have left to go.  

Advice to Give to a Woman Just Starting in the Workplace

A nice dress may get you many compliments. Hard work, authenticity, and tenacity will take you beyond the time when the dress no longer fits.

About being an ATHENA Award® Finalist

“I’ve watched some of the areas greatest women be nominated and win the ATHENA award. Just to be counted among the phenomenal women in this cohort is an amazing honor.”  

On Buffalo Niagara

I enjoy the diversity, history and the rich cultural experiences in Buffalo Niagara. The cost of living and potential for tremendous growth are attractive as well.

Favorite Spot in Buffalo

Broderick Park – a site in Buffalo on the river where slaves once crossed into freedom and where I married my best friend, Judge Phillip Dabney Jr. in September 2020. 

Lightning Round: Added Insights
  • Guilty Pleasure: Downton Abbey re-runs
  • My Superpower: Advocacy
  • Best Describes Me:  Tenacious
  • Most Likely To: Never Quit
  • Best At: Making people feel at ease with me
  • If You Were a Celebrity, You’d Be: Oprah – so I could give away life-changing stuff! 
  • Most Used Emoji: The one with the big eyes


 Attend the ATHENA Awards® Luncheon

The ATHENA Awards® Luncheon is the region’s most prestigious event recognizing the professional accomplishments of exceptional individuals who are dedicated to the advancement of women. Be there when the winners are announced.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021
11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Register to Attend Here


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