New series at Ohio State starts conversation on diversity in corporate sector
ODI launches new monthly equity and justice webinar
What is the role of corporations in effecting social change? Leadership at The Ohio State University and Columbus-based JPMorgan Chase & Co. worked to answer that question this week.
The discussion was part of a new monthly corporate equity and justice webinar hosted by the university called Driving Change. Hosted by James L. Moore III, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer, the new series offers sustainable solutions for advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the corporate sector and beyond.
“When we think about the work we do at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, I see it as connecting the aspirations of our students with all of the opportunities we can offer. This is where our corporate partners can help the most,” Moore said.
Moore was joined by Tom Gregoire, dean of the College of Social Work, for the initial conversation. Moore and Gregoire are co-chairs of the university’s 17-member Task Force on Racism and Racial Inequities.
Their guest was Jeffrey Lyttle, executive director for university relations and workforce at JPMorgan Chase.
The banking firm made a $2.5 million investment in 2019 in both the Young Scholars Program and Morrill Scholarship Program, Ohio State’s flagship diversity scholarship programs. Lyttle spoke about the value of both programs.
“It's a real opportunity for both our organizations to embrace this partnership, and it’s been great for us and also the students we are trying to serve,” he said.
Moore asked both Lyttle and Gregoire how their organizations have changed in the wake of civil rights protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police officers.
“It’s a call to action. We have done that in Columbus, listening to organizations like the Columbus Urban League and the YWCA and YMCA. They are addressing these issues and lifting the community conversation and putting programs in place that directly address the emotion and the anger and frustration that so many neighbors are feeling,” Lyttle said. “In addition to opening up and listening and telling our stories, we are also jumping into action and investing and being personally involved in this work in the community.”
Gregoire said it’s inspiring to see students at Ohio State take a leading role in creating meaningful change.
“We are letting our students lead here at our academic institution,” Gregoire said. “[We] have many students of color. … A lot of our undergrads, almost 40%, are first-generation students. That feels so profound to lead here at this institution.
“We are listening to them, asking how they are doing. Our students have led forums with faculty and staff, looking at what action can look like going forward.”
Moore also asked where and how corporations should invest in higher education. For Gregoire, one opportunity for investment exists for students who have just finished their academic career and are about to join the workforce.
“In social work, we are looking at not stopping the investment once the student leaves. We are thinking about scholarships at Ohio State that might start two to three years before they get here. But why do they have to stop when they leave? In social work, for example, if you come here as low-income, you leave the same way,” he said. “We maintain a career closet for students who don’t have the clothing they need. What if we supported people to launch their careers as well?”
Lyttle said any investment in higher education should come with clear goals and expectations. He said communication is critical.
“Make sure your university partner understands your goals and what you want to accomplish through investment of your time and finances,” he said. “One mistake could be leading with that checkbook and not really getting into the level of detail that will help you be successful – both the organization and the students.”
Future guests for the monthly one-on-one conversations and panel discussions will include university leaders, faculty, students, and corporate and community leaders across Ohio and beyond.
“Ohio State’s scope is unparalleled. Within the diversity and inclusion space, I believe our institution will play a critical role in eradicating racism and some of the things that separate us,” Moore said. “Having a college education, as we know, is a public good, and Ohio State certainly does its share of educating in the state of Ohio and beyond.”