Profiles of the winners below:
Blue Star Recyclers puts disabled to work
Recession meant cuts to diversity programs
Colo. lawmakers likely to introduce immigration reforms
Attard: Working to build cohesion amid diversity
Minority chambers turn to collaboration
Diversity isn’t just some lofty management goal for Colorado Springs Goodwill Industries; it’s part of everyday life.
The evidence appears in organization’s “Resolution of Respect” every employee must sign, in the “cultural competence” training they undergo, and the friendly pot-luck meals that feature culturally-diverse foods.
“We better serve a diverse population if our employees are a diverse population,” said Melissa Lyby, spokeswoman for the not-for-profit agency that helps people find work. “We’re committed to being a leader in the industry.”
Goodwill’s resolution of respect encourages every employee to “do their best to eliminate discrimination.” There are copies of the pledge posted throughout its operation.
“Visually, we try to remind people of their importance no matter what they do, who they are, what their background is or how much money they make — everything they do impacts Goodwill’s mission,” Lyby said.
Employees in Goodwill’s career development center, along with the diversity officer on staff since 2008, have designed programs to bring in guest speakers and host lunchtime discussions on diversity and inclusion.
This year, topics have included “creating safe spaces” not only for minorities, but also for people who are homosexual, bisexual, poor, an ex-offender, a single parent or developmentally disabled.
“It’s all very day-to-day with us, which brings greater innovation and creativity,” Lyby said. “We are a better organization for hiring a diverse workforce.”
Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance
It has been in existence for more than seven years and its programs reach thousands of people, yet the Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance is somewhat of a stealth educator on issues pertaining to diversity and tolerance.
“They’re aware of our programs, but not always aware they came from us,” said Robin Sumners, executive director.
The center was founded in 2003 by David and Paulette Greenberg “with a vision of doing something special for the community they love,” Sumners said.
That “something” includes free events like movie presentations, lectures, panel discussions and exhibits intended to “enhance learning and by doing so, create a climate of tolerance.”
The center often partners with local organizations like the Fine Arts Center and Pikes Peak Library District.
Programs have tackled thorny issues like the Holocaust, the genocide in Darfur, apartheid and its impact on South Africa and Jewish-Christian dialogue.
The multi-media presentations — which might include films, photos and interviews — are often designed to travel, so the information can get to classrooms or other organizations.
Greenberg Center volunteers and board members hope program attendees use their education to inform others and support organizations that are helping find a solution.
“We try to change attitudes,” Sumners said. “Or at least get them to understand the things going on and make them more alert.”
The Matrix Center for Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion
The Matrix Center for Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion not only works to create an “inclusive and equitable” Colorado Springs, it holds the goal of “shaping the national discourse around diversity.”
While that seems like a tall order for the small center, located on the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs campus, its national White Privilege Conference continues to grow — drawing some 1,700 attendees this year, its 11th.
“Unlike some academic conferences, we don’t just stand there and read papers,” said Abby Ferber, director and UCCS faculty member. “We focus on real strategy for changes in a business or work place.”
The center is funded by grants and donations — it uses no UCCS money.
In addition to the White Privilege Conference — which was held in La Crosse, Wisc. this year — the center hosts an annual local conference to help educators “transform teaching and learning” by eliminating bias issues.
The center also uses a steady stream of films, guest speakers and panel discussions to raise awareness and get the difficult discussions about diversity started.
“We emphasize the breaking down of the ‘us vs. them’ mentality,” Ferber said. “We can all be part of the solution if we come together and work on it.”
Colorado Technical University’s Colorado Springs
Diversity at Colorado Technical University’s Colorado Springs campus isn’t confined by the school’s four walls.
By encouraging teachers, faculty and students to become more involved with the Colorado Springs community, officials hope to spread the message of respect and inclusion.
“Initially, we were just involved in what people expect of diversity: age, race, national origin or disability status,” said Colorado Springs campus President Greg Mitchell. “But it migrated to the realization there are so many other areas related to diversity.”
Over the years, CTU employees and students have participated in almost 300 activities of non-profit organizations. CTU officials sit on some 30 boards for non-profit organizations. The school has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to non-profit organizations like the Urban League of the Pikes Peak Region and awarded scholarships to groups like the Hispanic Education Foundation and the Society of Women Engineers. It also launched a Wounded Warrior project, which offers injured soldiers a scholarship, laptop and a mentor to get them studying while still hospitalized.
“We just started seeing opportunities in the community where we could be of more support,” said Mitchell.
“Honestly, it has been a benefit to business,” Mitchell said. “But that was never the motivation. … Our motivation here is to do the right thing.”
Jan Pro of Southern Colorado
Some businesses advertise sales, the lowest price or the best service.
Jan Pro of Southern Colorado touts diversity in its ads.
And business is good, said Robert Posch, chief executive officer.
“Diversity isn’t just nice to have, it’s an integral part of our business model and it works,” said Posch, co-owner with his wife Marylou Posch.
Jan Pro ads state it has a “diverse, welcoming culture that just happens to be the fastest growing franchise in El Paso.”
Jan Pro has nine employees to support 96 commercial cleaning business owners.
“Our franchisees are representative of who our customers are,” Posch said.
In addition to the ads and the diverse make-up of its franchise owners, Posch said the company “practices diversity” in everything it does, from the events it attends — like Pikes Peak Diversity Day — to the employees it hires and promotes.
It’s key to a sound business because in any minority group that’s overlooked, there could be talent that’s passed too, Posch said.
“If you’re not attracting certain demographic groups, you’re hurting yourself,” Posch said.
It also helps when businesses are looking to hire minority-owned sub-contractors.
“Our customers tend to support this,” he said. “Of course you still have to do a good job cleaning. … (But) diversity really does contribute to our profit picture in a positive way.”
University of the Rockies
Students attending the University of the Rockies can expect to be trained in diversity issues, no matter what specialty they choose.
The graduate school specializes in programs to complete a doctorate or master’s degree in psychology.
“(Our students are) going to be working with people who need counseling,” said Janet Brugger, director of student affairs. “But you never know who’s going to walk into the office, so they need to be prepared.”
The school appointed a diversity director last year, formed a diversity task force and is one of the first “regionally accredited learning institutions to offer an Organizational Diversity specialization,” according to its Diversity and Inclusion award application.
Brugger said the school regularly offers programs designed to “make diversity real.” For example, students this year watched a documentary called “King Gimp” about a man with cerebral palsy who went on to become a renowned artist.
“It was a way to get everyone talking about the way we see people with disabilities and how our own prejudices work,” she said.
The diversity director, Amy Kahn, also developed a “diversity learning map” to help track the effectiveness of the institution’s diversity initiatives. Those that work well are expanded and those that fall short are changed, Brugger said.
“Diversity is more than one of our core values,” she said. “It is who we are.”