Working toward inclusion, diversity at Leadership Conference

By Kathy Eastwood Staff Writer

September 13th, 2018 | Army and Community Sports, Sports
 The U.S. Military Academy at West Point held its 16th annual Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Conference at the West Point Club Ballroom, Sept. 5-7. Many guest speakers and panelists were invited, including Col. John Baskerville, USMA Class of 1990 (above), and Pro Football Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, to this year's conference, which emphasized building strong, cohesive teams and forum discussions. Photo by Bryan Ilyankoff/USMA PAO
 The U.S. Military Academy Dean of the Academic Board, Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb answers a question during the West Point Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Conference Sept. 6 at the West Point Club.

The U.S. Military Academy’s Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity and the West Point Association of Graduates hosted the 16th annual Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Conference Sept. 5-7. Participants included staff, faculty, alumni and cadets.
During the conference, some of the topics included sessions on moving beyond the racial divide and the the art of the inclusion.
Guest speakers included retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, a 1975 graduate of West Point and former commanding general, U.S. Army Europe; retired Command Sgt. Maj. Michele Jones, president and CEO of the Bones Theory Group, LLC and 9th Command Sergeant Major of the U.S. Army Reserve; and Rod Woodson, Pro Football Hall of Famer.
“The conference went well, it was engaging,” Terry L. Allbritton, Chief Diversity Officer of the Office Diversity, Inclusion and Equal Opportunity at USMA, said. “It got people talking. It is a great way to get the alumni involved and to work with us on inclusion and diversity.”
In fact, one of the last sessions before the conference wrapped up was, “The Way Forward: Collaboration of Alumni, Faculty and Staff.”
USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Darryl A. Williams spoke about how important diversity and inclusion is, not only to the military, but to businesses and corporations.
“Diversity cannot be an afterthought,” Williams said. “We must consider diversity up front. Make diversity a purposeful effort to get the right talent and the right mix of talent. I believe we achieve richer outcomes when we do this. We include diversity as a strategic imperative to attract and recruit highly talented faculty and staff and retain them. Maximizing diversity makes us a more combat ready Army. The strength of any team, but particularly the combat arms team, is the ability to leverage diversity across the spectrum. Diversity has a direct tie to readiness. The DOD’s diversity strategic plan defines diversity as all the different characteristics and attributes of our total force, which is consistent with our core values, integral readiness and mission accomplishment and is reflective of the nation we serve.”
There were many questions asked, which were answered by several academy leaders, including Dean of the Academic Board Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb, Boo Corrigan, director of athletics; and Col. Deborah McDonald, director of admissions; and Commandant of the Corps of Cadets Brig. Gen. Steven Gilland.
One question asked was about how the questioner thought that today’s society seems to be very polarized, like with the Colin Kaepernick issue and political polarization. He also said he has seen a lot of uncivility in our discourse and wanted to know if this has been seen in the cadets and if so, what were they doing about it.
“It’s how we think about institutions,” Jebb said. “One, we hand select our faculty to understand the importance to foster an environment that is inclusive and that people understand what it means to take a position on something and know what it means to have evidence of that position. It’s important to have these hard discussions.
“It is important that we graduate self-aware, confident and humble leaders who are ready to take on those kinds of challenges,” Jebb added. “We are very attuned to that, we have faculty discussions, hot topic discussions and cadets get together to discuss those controversial subjects.”
Williams spoke to the cadets in the audience about being open-minded and embracing a diverse environment.
“The Army’s long-term success depends on developing smart innovative leaders of character who bring a wide range of skills and experiences to our ranks,” Williams said. “Our top priorities are people, the finest our nation has to offer. Army values, commitment to always do the right thing and treating everyone with dignity and respect. The all-volunteer Army is a credit to Americans of all races, genders and creeds. Diversity is our strength because we share a common commitment to our nation’s defense and the moral principles and values on which it was founded.”