Dr. Damon Williams, chief catalyst and founder of the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership & Social Innovation, joins Megan Hayes to talk about leadership, possibility and the imperatives of diversity, equity, inclusion, change and the centennial generation.
Megan Hayes: Dr. Damon Williams is recognized as one of the nation's leading experts in strategic diversity leadership, youth development, corporate responsibility, educational achievement, social impact and organizational change. Celebrated as a visionary and inspirational global thought leader, and a trail blazer, he is one of the world's foremost authorities on diversity, equity and inclusion. Dr. Williams authored the best-selling book, “Strategic Diversity Leadership,” and co-authored “The Chief Diversity Officer: Strategy, Structure, and Change Management,” both in 2013.
MH: Dr. Damon Williams, welcome to Appalachian State University, and welcome to Sound Effect.
Damon Williams: Thank you so much. I'm really glad to be here. Thank you.
MH: Well, we're really glad to have you. In your books, you dedicate quite a bit of text to defining diversity. This is also something we work to do at our institution. I don't think that's unique to us, and it proves to be a bit of a difficult task. So can you talk about why it is that talking about what diversity is, is so difficult to do, particularly in an academic setting?
DW: When we actually sat down to write the definition of diversity in chapter three of Strategic Diversity Leadership, what we found was that visiting different institutions, if you had 20 people in the room, you get 20 different definitions. Some people are going to be defining it in terms of race, others are going to be defining in terms of gender, others are going to be defining in terms of LGBTQ, still others may be defining it, “No, it's about access to the institutions.” Or others, “It's about the campus climate.” We really wanted to provide some guidance to help institutions not just define diversity broadly, but we think it's important for institutions to also frame that same diversity as a part of creating a rich learning environment in the classroom, outside the classroom, that's going to accelerate our students to being leaders for the 21st century.
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About Appalachian State University
As the premier, public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 19,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.