After a three-year hiatus, the Fleishman Center and the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) brought together students who value workplace diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) with employers actively working to promote it.
At the Diversity Roundtable Event, which took place in Old Union Hall on Sept. 20, 36 students met with representatives from 11 top employers over complimentary dinner. The Roundtable served as both a discussion forum about DEI in the workplace and an opportunity for students from diverse backgrounds to network with employers such as Bloomberg, Teach for America, Aflac, PwC and YWCA of Binghamton. Students were initially assigned to tables based on their interests, and then could move around to engage in different discussions.
Small groups gave every student a chance to speak and connect on a personal level with representatives, many of whom come from underrepresented minority communities. Students could learn about job and internship opportunities with companies looking to recruit diverse talent in fields ranging from education to accounting and beyond.
Dr. Karen Jones, Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), gave a keynote speech on the value of workplace diversity, which is statistically proven to help organizations retain staff, perform better and ultimately save money.
Dr. Jones discussed her family, education, and her personal journey to be where she is today as BU’s Vice President for DEI. She also discussed the importance of honesty and understanding your purpose. Knowing your personal motivations guides you in the work that you will do for any company or organization.
Importantly, Dr. Jones described how every member of a workplace environment can and should demonstrate respect and inclusivity. Engaging with positive feedback, being committed to taking action and holding oneself accountable are some of the best practices for creating a space that is both productive and welcoming.
Yaleza Fernandez, a senior majoring in human development and member of the Fleishman Center’s Diversity Engagement team, worked at the Roundtable event checking students in and leading them to their first table. “Everyone was captivated by Karen Jones and what diversity means to her,” she remarked.
Fernandez also watched the lively atmosphere bloom as students went around linking with company recruiters.
“I saw that many people were having great conversations with employers, and many students had resumes with them, which was helpful when speaking with employers,” she said. “Being proactive about asking questions will showcase that you are interested, which will look great in the eyes of a recruiter!”
Stephanie Ramirez-Cisneros, a junior double majoring in political science and sociology and also a Diversity Engagement team representative, noted how the keen interest of students propelled the activity and conversation.
“I think it was incredible to see how many students, especially underclassmen, came in to interact with these businesses,” said Ramirez-Cisneros. “They were not afraid to ask questions, and decided to learn from a person rather than a website. I also found it amazing how enthusiastic and open employers were when talking to students.”
If you know what to look for, you’ll find plenty of employers who want to bring people of different backgrounds — genders, races, abilities, immigration status and more — onto their team. In the end, DEI is an essential part of a smooth-running work atmosphere, and always worth advocating for. The Roundtable Event served as a gateway to finding a company receptive to that.
“I think this was an amazing way to get students of diverse backgrounds to start learning to advocate for themselves as well as recognize good and welcoming professional environments,” said Ramirez-Cisneros.
Tiffany Soto, LMSW, Diversity Engagement Specialist at the Fleishman Center, organized and led the roundtable event.
Beyond the Diversity Roundtable, students can join the Fleishman Center’s Affinity Groups to find unique and supportive networking communities for members of underserved student populations. Learn more about Affinity Groups on the Fleishman Center website.
By Erin Zipman