Monthly Archives: March 2016

Sharing our diversity stories

CUPAOur MnSCU HR professionals belong to an organization called CUPA-HR (College and University Personnel Association). Over the years I’ve benefited from many of their workshops, which often include an emphasis on hiring and retaining a diverse faculty and staff.

Just in time for our blog topic this month, CUPA-HR has released a new website based on a project called Creating Inclusive Communities. It features a series of diversity stories to help us think about the higher ed workplace. The site provides resources including videos with discussion starters and facilitator guides to make it easy to bring these conversations to local staff meetings or leadership team events. Some of the topics include:

  • Microaggressions
  • Immigrant Employees
  • Raising Young Black Men
  • Women in Leadership Roles
  • Challenges of the Deaf

I’ve found that other people’s stories can have a profound impact on how I view the world. As I mentioned on Friday, I just returned from a volunteer project in the Philippines. The team included both Americans and Filipinos, many of whom have worked together in the past. On the last night we spent some time debriefing the trip and sharing memories. I reminded them of the first time we worked with Shirley, one of the local leaders. She told me that she was uncomfortable giving work direction to Americans. Over time, we talked honestly about our fears and expectations and developed shared stories. Now she is much more willing to tell us what she wants us to do!

The creators of the CUPA-HR website believe that sharing our stories of diversity and inclusion can enrich a campus community and move institutions along the path to greater cultural understanding and competence. How have you used stories about diversity and inclusion when leading in our higher education workplace?

Dee Anne Bonebright



Leading, relationships, and diversity

cebuAs you read this, I will be finishing a two-week volunteer trip to Cebu City in the Philippines. I’ll be immersed in our topic for this month – valuing diversity.  Spending time with friends and colleagues who live and work in another culture helps me increase my cultural awareness, learn new things about myself, and challenge my assumptions about the world.

A colleague who has lived in Cebu wrote a story about going to a currency exchange that was out of pesos. The employees were working, but they were not able to help customers. This kind of thing occasionally happens due to glitches in the supply chain. He concluded:

Why don’t stores just close and send employees home early? I’m not sure exactly, but I don’t think they can. “Regular employment” is a technical category for employees in the Philippines. Employees who have regular status need to be paid when they are scheduled to work (and show up of course) even if there isn’t any actual task to be accomplished. You can’t shut down because this would deprive the employees of a benefit…and hopefully, your supplies could show up at any moment.

As an HR professional, that’s a different way to think about work. Businesses in Philippines seem to place a higher value on providing employment opportunities than is typical in the U.S. For example, the parking ramp near my building has switched from attendants to automated ticket machines. It’s hard to imagine that happening in Cebu. More likely, there would be one person employed to take your ticket and another to give your change. And they’d be wearing nice uniforms to announce that they work for the building management company.

There are all sorts of cultural and logistical issues embedded in this story and I understand only a fraction. But thinking about why people and organizations do what they do allows me to come back with new insights. It’s not necessary to spend 24 hours on an airplane to experience another culture. What experiences have you had with other cultures, and how has it impacted your leadership?

Dee Anne Bonebright



Chris Rock Racist#OscarSoWhite, Black Lives Matter, Native Lives Matter, Atticus Finch and Go Set a Watchman, the Syrian refugee crisis, the achievement and opportunity gap, white privilege, David Duke, the list goes on and on …

At a personal, organizational and societal level we are all facing the reality of living in a diverse world. A world that treats people differently and provides different opportunities based on observable and unobservable traits, characteristics, cultures and genetics. It can feel overwhelming at times. As a leader I find myself asking, “what can I do to make a difference?”

Over the next month, we will be exploring ways to make a difference. We will be blogging about the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities leadership competency – Valuing Diversity. It is defined as:

  • demonstrating inclusivity in work processes and work teams
  • encouraging and promoting the diversification of our faculty, staff and student body
  • actively seeking out and inviting alternative viewpoints in planning, discussions and decision making

This is a volatile topic that exposes a wide variety of strong opinions and realities. Acknowledging and tackling challenging issues is an important aspect of leadership so we encourage you to dive in with us!

To get started I want to share two quotes that I heard at the MnSCU Student Affairs/Diversity and Equity conference last week. They reminded me of the personal and organizational accountability we all have to make changes.

“Equity is a practice, not a number or an outcome.”

“What can I do to shrink my bubble of ignorance.”

 I look forward to our dialogue and sharing of ideas as we address our leadership roles in valuing diversity.

Todd Thorsgaard