Cultural inclusion, diversity explored at annual conference
October 26, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Oct. 26, 2011) -- The 12th annual Diversity Leadership Conference gathered more than 150 senior leaders Oct. 19-21 from all services of the Department of Defense, to include representatives of the Air Force Academy and members of the Army Diversity Office, along with industry professionals.
The conference emphasizes the inherent value of harnessing the holistic power of diversity in five key areas: culture, talent management, respect, workforce development and outreach. Each track aligns with the five goals outlined in the Army Diversity Roadmap, Lt. Col. Kay Emerson, West Point diversity officer, said. The purpose is to obtain best practices in diversity and inclusion that the academy should incorporate at West Point, or further explore for incorporation or recommend to the Army for consideration into training, policy or practice.
Lt. Gen. David H. Huntoon Jr., U.S. Military Academy superintendent, set the tone of the conference during the morning address to the attendees. He asked that everyone make the most of their time by ensuring the conference proceedings at the academy were inextricably linked to Army's diversity efforts. More than just an academic exercise, he challenged the group to create a meaningful action plan at the end of the three-day conference.
"It was important to us … to make sure that what we were going to do today not only reflects the vision of the U.S. Army but really is done to a very high standard," Huntoon said. "When we say words like 'diversity' and 'inclusion' they come off the tongue rather quickly in our culture. It's easy to say those words, but I think if we want to do something substantial here, we've got to do it really to the highest possible standard."
The panelists and facilitators invited provided a global perspective to a broad range of topics to include religious reform and the challenges of a post-repeal military. Speakers, like filmmaker Abigail Disney and Louis Caldera, West Point graduate and vice president of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, lent their expertise on progressive thinking and challenging conventional wisdom. The Class of 2013 was selected to attend Disney's presentation, Emerson said, as they are looking into the future at their Army careers and could more readily put into practice the lessons she shared.
During the conference luncheon, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Diversity and Leadership Larry Stubblefield affirmed the Army's commitment to diversity. Selected to the position in August 2010, Stubblefield is responsible for developing and implementing a strategy that sets a clear and concise direction that will better position the Army to recruit, develop and retain the most talented in the nation (http://eeoa.army.pentagon.mil/web/index.cfm).
"Our Army consists of men and women of different backgrounds, cultures, ideals and beliefs who need to know and understand they're valued members at every level," he said. "They need to know that, where appropriate, we will find ways to leverage their special backgrounds and skills to create a better Army."
Stubblefield also presented the documentary "For Love of Liberty," a film about African Americans and their service to the country. Produced in cooperation with the U.S. Army, the film conveys the untold story of black patriots throughout the nation's history who helped win and protect freedoms, even when they were denied those freedoms.
"I also want to assure you that today's Army provides the platform for not only African Americans but all Americans to express their love of liberty," Stubblefield said.
Six Cadet Affinity Clubs volunteered support during the conference, to include the Native American Heritage Club, the Gospel Choir and the Asian and Pacific Heritage Club.
Representatives from several clubs were recognized during the luncheon by retired Brig. Gen. Andre Sayles and Archie Elam, from the West Point Association of Graduates Diversity Leadership Council. A ceremonial check for $10,000 was presented to the Cadet Affinity Clubs of West Point on behalf of the conference planning committee and corporate donations. The funds will allow clubs to take trips to cultural immersion zones around the country and internationally.
The theme of this year's conference was "Cultivating Leadership and Inclusion for Service to the Nation." The WPAOG hosted the first diversity conference in 1996, which was recognized as the Minority Outreach Conference. The name change occurred in 2005 with a focus toward addressing the importance and challenges of organizational diversity, as it relates to inclusionary policies and practices. In 2009, the conference highlight was the unveiling of the Army's Diversity Policy with retired Brig. Gen. Belinda Pinckney, former Army Diversity Office chief, presenting the memorandum.
In previous years, the WPAOG provided much of the coordinating efforts. This year's event was a joint effort, with the bulk of the coordinating effort provided by the West Point Staff.