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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 11, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 7
Diversity Issues to be Explored

Inaugural conference welcomes all staff and faculty

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Early next month, the Johns Hopkins Diversity Leadership Council will host its inaugural diversity conference, a half-day event intended to create a dialogue around the subject and allow faculty and staff to share strategies for improving JHU's efforts in this area.

Diversity: Key to Our Future will be held on Monday, Nov. 1, at Homewood's Glass Pavilion. The keynote speakers for the event are President William R. Brody and John B. Slaughter, a distinguished education leader and engineer.

The conference, which is open to the entire Johns Hopkins community, will feature several workshops on topics including faculty and staff recruitment and retention strategies, ways to create an inclusive educational environment, conflict resolution and means to foster diversity in the workplace.

Ray Gillian, associate provost and director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Programs, said that a major goal of the upcoming conference is to bring added visibility to diversity issues.

"We hope these workshops and training sessions will increase people's understanding and knowledge of diversity issues," Gillian said. "We want to bring together a group of people who care about these matters so that they can interact and dialogue with each other."

The event will kick off at 9 a.m. with a keynote address by Slaughter, a former director of the National Science Foundation, president of Occidental College in California and chancellor at the University of Maryland, College Park. Currently the president and CEO of the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Slaughter is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 1993, he was named to the American Society for Engineering Education Hall of Fame.

The workshops will go from 10:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and be followed by a luncheon featuring an address by President Brody.

Gillian said that the workshop topics were chosen to illustrate the broad and diverse population that the Diversity Leadership Council services.

"Too frequently, people think of diversity only in terms of ethnicity or gender, but it is a very broad spectrum. We want to be equally inclusive in terms of our personnel here at Johns Hopkins," he said.

The conference will help to identify the challenges that exist at Johns Hopkins, Gillian said, and then allow participants to think through strategies and uncover opportunities to overcome those challenges.

In terms of the recruitment challenge, Gillian said Hopkins is caught in a sort of Catch-22: It's crucial to have a "critical mass" of a specific population, he said, in order to be truly successful in recruiting that same segment, whether it is African-American faculty or Hispanic students.

"Those groups are out there, but they may choose to go elsewhere, someplace where there is a critical mass of others like them, rather than come here and be among the only one or two like themselves," Gillian said. "One of the things we are asking conference presenters to do as much as possible is to help us develop a sort of game plan so that the participants walk away from the workshop with some thoughts on how they can address these sorts of issues. When you bring people together, they can be pretty creative in making something work."

Gillian said an example of a successful diversity strategy was one recently implemented by the School of Engineering that requires the school's academic departments to produce a diverse pool of candidates before interviews are conducted. Other university departments have, in turn, adopted a similar policy.

Now in its eighth year of existence, the council advises the president on diversity issues for both the university and Johns Hopkins Medicine and currently has 30 members. Its priorities include the recruitment for and retention of women and underrepresented ethnic minorities in senior faculty and leadership positions, and increasing the visibility, awareness and appreciation of diversity throughout Hopkins. Each spring, the president appoints new staff, student and faculty members to serve one- or two-year terms. In 2003, President Brody appointed Gwendolyn Boyd, assistant for development programs at APL, to chair the group.

Boyd said that the conference will convene a talented group of experts. "The presenters will help us to focus our attention on how we can develop a strategic plan of action to continue to recruit and retain the highest quality of faculty, staff and students in the world at the same time making it more diverse," Boyd said. "We want to remain unqualified leaders in every way as we put together multigenerational, multicultural, multidisciplinary and multitalented teams here at Hopkins."

Registration deadline is Oct. 22.

Go to DiversityConference.


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