During most discussions about diversity, it’s not seen as a strength but rather an obstacle to overcome. Committees overseeing diversity within organizations often spend months deciding how to define diversity and end up failing at initiating real change.
For universities, this initiative is especially difficult. Damon A. Williams is a trailblazer in strategic diversity leadership, youth development, corporate responsibility, educational achievement, social impact and organizational change in the United States. The NAACP and 100 Black Men, among other organizations, have honored him for his work.
National Inclusive Exellence Tour
In 2017, Williams went on his National Inclusive Excellence Tour in the U.S. to speak on the power diversity can bring to universities to make them excellent.
During his tour, he stopped at many big universities including Colorado State University. Colorado State was already making plans for increasing its diversity, and even before Williams visited the institution, it was using ideas he had pioneered.
“He’s helping us kick off and really spearhead our efforts to create an institutional diversity plan,” said Alicia Sprague, the training coordinator for the Office of the Vice President of Diversity at CSU. “So we’re really excited to have him.”
As an African-American, Williams has faced adversity in the diversity field due to his race. People expect him to be the “spokesperson for black people,” when in reality he is knowledgeable in other aspects of diversity, he said.
“When somebody white asks what you do with diversity work, you might not know what to say,” Williams said. “Because you don’t know where folks are, they might not know.”
Diversity and courage
Williams emphasizes that to affect real change, leaders in diversity must be courageous.
“You must lead with courage. The reality is this: Whether you are Lebron James or you’re a first-year student, or a faculty member, a dean, provost or faculty chair, change happens when you are courageous and you step up and you step out and you get in the conversation.”
Today’s current climate allows for free energy in the system, creating a more globally mobile world. With campuses filled with the most diverse body of students to date, institutions must adapt. Williams predicts that centennials and millennials will have a positive effect on diversity:
They are elevating the conversation in prominent and powerful ways.
As Williams tours throughout the country, he preaches a message of diversity that will affect change. With more voices being represented in institutions, the strength of diversity will change the world.
“It’s really inspiring and helpful to hear someone who has clearly such a deep understanding and experience and who also can communicate in a very engaging way,” said Maria Fernandez-Gimenez, who attended one of Williams’ talks. “He is real and also hopeful.”