Innovations in Inclusion: An Opportunity for Necessary Conversations
Early Friday morning, September 29, before recruiters began arriving to set up their booths for the NC State Poole College Career and Internship Fair at the NC State McKimmon Center, a small group of recruiters gathered in one of the center’s meeting rooms for breakfast and conversations with students on the topic of inclusion and diversity.
This first Innovations in Inclusion breakfast, presented by Poole College, was billed as a ‘meet and greet’ event, but the conversations that developed between students and company representatives went much deeper than that.
“This was a very unique event – outside the box but exactly what’s needed,” said Mike Mohr, manager of career development programs at Edward Jones, a large investment firm with headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. “These conversations have to take place,” Mohr said. “Students need to know what companies stand for diversity and inclusion, and it was a great opportunity for me personally. Everyone learns when there is open dialogue (on this topic) – and Tayah knocked it out of the park.”
Mohr was citing Tayah Butler, director of diversity and inclusion at Poole College, who organized the event, bringing together “students from diverse backgrounds with companies who are creating inclusive environments. This event was hosted by the Poole College of Management as part of our commitment to connect our students with companies that honor their multicultural and inter-sectional identities,” she said.
In addition to Mohr and two of his team members from Edward Jones were representatives from Target, John Deere, Duke Energy, PwC, EY, Cisco Systems, LORD Corporation and Cintas.
“At EJ, we live within a huge inclusive culture,” Mohr continued. “We believe that diversity and inclusion make us a stronger firm and we want to ensure that we are meeting our inclusion/diversity candidates early in their career so that they know what opportunities we have to build and grow professionally and personally.” He attended with Beth Scupin and Alison Thompson Blodgett, both financial advisors at Edward Jones.
“This was a phenomenal event,” Scupin said. She and Blodgett were on site to help answer some of the questions posed by the students. “One question that came up: What does our company do to help with retention for women in diversity? Fortunately for us, we have so many avenues, formal and informal: internship, networking, home office training.”
Students notice, as evidenced by a key takeaway by one of the student participants, Lindsay Gardner, a sophomore in Poole College.
“It was great being able to talk to company representatives in a more casual setting and for a longer period of time,” she said. “I was able to talk to recruiters like normal people and not like someone I was looking to gain a job from. This was really valuable as I was able to gain the knowledge of what people are looking for not only in potential employees but the characteristics of the people they’d like to surround themselves with in a work environment,” she said.
Gardner added, “It was evident in the discussions we had and the questions answered which companies were more developed in their diversity initiatives. This was something that was important for me to note as I gained insight on inclusion at different companies, and this gave me a sense of where I would feel most valued and comfortable working.”
Tamah Morant, associate dean for undergraduate programs at Poole College, said, “This inaugural Innovations in Inclusion breakfast reflects the college’s commitment to not only create an inclusive environment here in the college, but to also signal to our employer partners the value we place on making sure that our students are prepared to be successful contributors to a diverse workplace.
“We appreciate the employers who participated. Because of their participation, our students were better prepared for the career fair and have seen first-hand that these employers validate their identities. This breakfast event gave our students more of the tools they need to talk to companies about how their unique perspectives and contributions are valued and supported,” she said.
Participating in this inaugural event were Target, John Deere, Duke Energy, PwC, EY, Lord Corporation, Cisco Systems, Cintas, and Edward Jones.