by Gloria Lawson
Originally published: November 17, 2017
As an aspiring lawyer coming up during the civil rights movement, I knew at a young age that diversity and inclusion were not nice-to-haves, they were must-haves, both in the workplace and in our society. Decades later, I became president of a business university where unfortunately these issues remain ever-more pressing. It is our job as a university to help students recognize that their view of the world may be different than that of those with whom they live, learn, and work. We do this through co-curricular programming, institutional policies, and academic courses. If we’re going to set students up for rewarding and successful careers and lives after they graduate, this work is imperative.
I know first-hand that the ability to have diverse interactions with peers who think differently drives critical cognitive development for young adults. It forces them (and us) to try and make meaning out of different perspectives and ask the question, “how can someone I like so much feel so differently about a particular issue?” My VP of student affairs Andrew Shepardson told me about a recent conversation with our coaching staff where he encouraged coaches to ensure their athletes were having diverse experiences—likening it to strength training. Muscles don’t grow if they are not challenged and neither will the brain. Dean Shepardson reminded coaches that they would not tell an athlete to stop working out the first time it was uncomfortable or hard. Nor would they abandon them when they needed support. The same is true for diverse interaction. And like working out—most of us need encouragement to do so.