DEI at Babson: To Go Far, Go Together

A speaker interacts with an audience member at an event

Small steps and token measures aren’t enough. If an organization is truly serious about addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues, it needs to make a concerted, continuous, and all-encompassing effort.

Standing in Babson’s Knight Auditorium, before an audience of her College colleagues, Shakenna Williams ’94 spoke of the campus-wide collaboration and community required for DEI, referencing the famous African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Williams, the executive director of the Frank & Eileen Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership, relishes working with others. “I value the voice of my teammates,” she said. “Everything we do is powered by the One Babson community.”

Williams spoke during the inaugural Inclusive Excellence Summit, an event last month that celebrated Babson’s many achievements in advancing DEI, one of the College’s core values.

“These are the values we aspire to and try to live by,” said Sadie Burton-Goss, Babson’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, who organized the summit. “We come together for a noble purpose, to acknowledge the work that goes on at Babson every day.”

Over the course of a couple of hours, student, staff, and faculty leaders representing a range of campus departments presented a comprehensive list of DEI initiatives while outlining plans and hopes for the future. They spoke of hiring, fundraising, vendor diversity, mentorship, counseling, support services, and a host of other issues.

“I am always overwhelmed by gratitude when the Babson community comes together, by the richness of the work we are accomplishing every day,” Burton-Goss said. “We are always creating, innovating, caring, and thinking about the ways of being a stronger community together.”

Reflecting on Accomplishments

One by one, campus leaders shared stories of their DEI work. Professor of Mathematics Rick Cleary, for instance, talked of recruiting diverse faculty. Throughout his career at Babson and elsewhere, Cleary estimated he has led about 40 faculty searches. “We are trying to build a community of faculty that is inclusive and diverse,” said Cleary, the Robert E. Weissman ’64, H’94, P’87 ’90 and Janet Weissman P’87 ’90 Professor of Business Analytics.

the team from the Frank & Eileen™ Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership
Many leaders from across campus spoke at Babson’s Inclusive Excellence Summit, including the team (from left, Sarah Grillo, Amari Dias, Shakenna Williams, Kara Miller, and Mackenzie Hayes) from the Frank & Eileen™ Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership. (Photo: Mark Manne)

To create that diverse community, Cleary encourages colleagues to look beyond candidates who are actively looking. “You have to call people who don’t know they’re looking,” Cleary said. He also makes sure to have every job candidate meet Burton-Goss. “It sends a message that we take diversity seriously,” he said.

Other speakers followed. Kelly Stewart MBA’23 talked of advocating for and creating a chief DEI role for the Graduate Student Council, while Nan Langowitz, professor of management, talked about Babson offering a new course, Building Inclusive Organizations, that focuses on how people and organizations can thrive through inclusive work practices. Discussing the Horn Library was its director, Emily Miles, who talked of taking a close look at the library’s materials and making sure it has robust DEI offerings. “The library is for everyone,” Miles said. “We want to make sure we offer content and spaces for everyone.”

Denicia Ratley listed the many ways the Office of Religious & Spiritual Life supports the diverse religious needs of the Babson community, whether through the office’s programming, its team of chaplains, or its advocacy on behalf of others (say, for instance, by working with dining services to accommodate students’ dietary requirements).

The office’s director, Ratley enjoyed hearing about the wide scope of diversity efforts at the summit. “A lot of it I didn’t know,” she said. “I feel full. I feel motivated. There is so much more to do.”

Building Momentum

As the speakers at the summit went over Babson’s DEI efforts, Priscilla Douglas sat listening. An author, speaker, and executive coach, who has experience in government, academia, and business, Douglas served as the summit’s keynote speaker. She praised Babson for the breadth of its DEI initiatives, which strive to impact every aspect of the student experience, from the classroom to campus life, from the moment students first come to Babson to when they graduate and become alumni.

“The experience is not just one thing. Everything is interconnected,” said Douglas, whose latest book is Woke Leadership: Profits, Prophets & Purpose. “I applaud Babson for seeing the connections.”

“We come together for a noble purpose, to acknowledge the work that goes on at Babson every day.”
Sadie Burton-Goss, the chief diversity and inclusion officer at Babson College

The summit caused Amanda Strong ’87, a Babson trustee, to reflect on how far the College has progressed in its DEI efforts since she was a student, a time when there were a lot fewer people on campus who looked like her. She is thankful for the support DEI receives from Babson’s leadership. “When the leadership cares, that’s when it is successful,” she said. “It is supported bottom up and top down.”

The work of DEI is challenging and never-ending, but Strong hopes Babson’s efforts will continue to build momentum. “The beauty of what is going on here is there will be a compounding effect,” she said. “I am amazed by all the work we are doing. I am super proud to be a part of the process.”

With DEI initiatives enjoying the support of senior leadership, and being closely aligned to the values of the College, Burton-Goss said DEI could prove to be a competitive advantage for the institution. “These efforts to value and include all members of the Babson community will be our competitive advantage,” she said, “in a market where students, staff, and faculty are more and more seeking a sense of belonging and purpose.”

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