Diversity and Inclusion: LDP Expansion by Dr. Harvey Henson

I have grown so very fond of the LDP, the untiring Dr. DeRuntz, the amazing student leaders, and everything that the LDP represents and accomplishes. I have certainly enjoyed the hard work and truly gained from the dedication exhibited by everyone – members, sponsors, and mentors, especially my colleague Dr. DeRuntz. I have also grown as a leader through our combined teamwork and I have learned from the examples of leadership that occur nearly every day among our members.

       I’m sure we can all list so many benefits to the LDP, at multiple levels. One LDP benefit from our collective hard work for which I am most proud is the recent expansion, actually the exciting explosion in diversity of the LDP membership over the past few months.

      A recent online article in Forbes asked, “Is Diversity Good for Business?”(Llopis, April 23, 2016). To honestly answer this important question involves more than insufficient discussions about equal representation, or a politically correct interpretation of diversity and inclusion (D&I), or especially some misguided attempt at quotas. Diversity is indeed “good”, in fact, it is essential to healthy growth for any organization that wants to be authentic, innovative, sustainable, successful… You get the picture. D&I are indispensable in leadership.

       I think by now nearly everyone understands that tomorrow’s STEM leaders are in critical demand. That is  why the LDP leadership is continuously working on multiple dimensions of  diversity and inclusion. In the short time I  have been involved with the LDP and  through the leadership of Dr. DeRuntz we  have worked to expand the LDP beyond  the College of Engineering to include  students majoring in the numerous science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degree programs from the other colleges at SIU, namely the College of Science, College Agricultural Sciences and College of Applied Sciences & Arts. Mission (almost) accomplished! We now have several of these STEM students from each college active in the LDP. The membership nearly tripled from last year! However, there is much more to this story.

       There are several ways to measure diversity and to demonstrate inclusion. The LDP has expanded indeed, and this growth is not one-dimensional. We have more individuals from underrepresented groups, such as women, minorities, economically disadvantaged persons, first-generation students, and students with disabilities than ever before. I have heard it said in the past few months, during Team Week and after, by several individuals I’ve come to respect deeply, and Dr. DeRuntz echoed the same sentiment again this morning during our Thursday meeting, “We have one of the best LDP’s ever.” The evidence speaks loudly and our growth is truly multidimensional. The LDP is getting it done, in terms of diversity and inclusiveness. So, great job LDP for making us proud.

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