“Bridging Cultural Gaps” was the theme of the Haslam College of Business’ inaugural diversity summit, held Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The summit was sponsored by the college and its Office of Diversity and Community Relations (ODCR).
Stephen L. Mangum, Stokely Foundation Leadership Chair and dean of the college, welcomed an estimated 200 attendees by noting that building an inclusive community, where everyone can be their authentic selves and feel valued and empowered to speak openly, would be a process where steps are taken forward and back, with the goal of taking more steps forward.
“More important than what we become is that we are always in the process of becoming,” he said.
Clarence Vaughn III, director of ODCR, thanked Mangum and the leadership team of the college and the university for their support of diversity, equity and inclusion before faculty, staff and students transitioned into tailored breakout sessions aimed at each audience.
Students explored two hypothetical organizations’ DEI policies, discussing what policies they would set as future leaders in the corporate world. A corporate discussion panel on the relationship between corporate culture and cultural awareness also was presented.
First-year Haslam MBA student Ashley Tucker found the programming informative.
“The main thing I got was to plant seeds that grow trees whose shade we may never sit under,” he said. “That is, we should make sure we do things intentionally today for the future of other generations.”
Professional Coach Jennifer Gamble led staff through paired and small group discussions, working on active listening and personal reflections on self-identity and bias.
Erin Hatfield, communications coordinator with Haslam’s Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, said the session highlighted how important it is to listen to others.
“It helped me realize just how much common ground we all share,” Hatfield said. “Jennifer used some thought-provoking prompts to guide us in making more personal connections with fellow staffers. I hope we all can use this experience to build better and more inclusive professional relationships at work.”
In their session, faculty focused on building inclusive classrooms that consider diverse learning preferences, abilities, prior experience and knowledge, while providing multiple ways for students to demonstrate what they’ve learned.
Mark Collins, distinguished lecturer in the marketing department and director of technology-enhanced education, called the faculty session the most useful DEI event he has attended.
“It was a powerful combination of real-life stories and examples intertwined with specific, actionable suggestions of how to make our classrooms more inclusive,” he said. “I left the session knowing what I wanted to do and why.”
After the breakout sessions, participants joined together for lunch, where Eva Cowell, senior lecturer in management and entrepreneurship, was presented with the 2022 Diversity & Inclusion Award in recognition of her years of advocacy for ODCR. Vaughn then introduced Tyvi Small, UT’s vice chancellor for diversity and engagement, who was the first director of Haslam ODCR. After reflecting on the office’s humble beginning at one desk in one small office in the Stokely Management Center, Small thanked Vaughn and his staff for continuing the work and bringing the summit to fruition.
The summit culminated with a talk by Ken Bouyer, EY Americas’ director of inclusiveness recruiting. Bouyer began by noting that “conversations are the currency of change” and crediting the diversity summit for creating those conversations. A first-generation college student raised by a single mother, Bouyer paralleled his own 32-year corporate journey in EY with his daughter’s entrance into college. Consistency in leadership and a dedication to cultural dexterity that embraces the validity of multiple voices and views at the university level will be required, he said, for the culture his daughter comes of age in to be different from the one he did.
He noted that everyone has a role to play, that each could make a difference by opening a conversation that is an invitation to create change.
“You could be the person who opens a dialogue that lets someone else know they belong,” Bouyer said.
Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, firstname.lastname@example.org