The Diversity Collegium History

The Diversity Collegium was founded in 1991 by the following group of prominent pioneers in the field of Diversity: Price Cobbs, MD, Vapordeal Sanders Ph.D., R. Roosevelt Thomas, Jr., D.B.A., Marilyn French Hubbard, Ph.D., Jeff Howard, Ph.D., Marc Wallace, and Kenneth Kelly.

The first meeting of the group was organized by Marc Wallace and Kenneth Kelly in January 1992 and held in Puerto Rico. Originally, the group formed in a spirit of collegiality to be an informal think tank and work on advancing the field of diversity. This goal was noble in that the founding members were not only pioneers in the field of diversity, but also frequently competed against each other.

Over the course of the first year, members met three times and committed to share their intellectual property and further develop "diversity thinking" for the benefit of the emerging profession.

The group focused on developing a set of diversity principles, agreeing upon a common definition, and moving towards conceptual clarity regarding the underpinnings of diversity. In addition, the group decided to identify some informal standards regarding diversity interventions with organizations.

After the first year, the group decided to expand the Collegium. This was a difficult decision because the group, which was entirely African American, had bonded and enjoyed a significant cultural comfort with each other. Nevertheless, they believed a diversity think tank must broadly represent the many dimensions of diversity.

In 1993, the Collegium sponsored and funded its first symposium at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. The conference design incorporated a presentation of diversity papers written by the founding members for the symposium. Nationally recognized diversity thought leaders were selected to provide written responses to the papers. Further, small groups were asked to evaluate the concept papers and form recommendations aimed at furthering the profession of diversity.

One hundred attendees participated in the very successful two-day session. The symposium was a watershed event in the development of the Collegium because it attracted diversity practitioners representing many fields of study, and established the Collegium as the first diversity think tank in the United States.

Following the Atlanta symposium, the Collegium expanded its membership and continued to meet as a think tank. From 1993 to 1997, Collegium members met three times a year to write concept papers intended to advance core principles in the field of diversity.

In March of 1998, a small group of Collegium members met to evaluate the status and discuss the future of the Collegium. At this juncture, attendance at meetings had dwindled significantly and only a few members were writing papers. It became apparent that the Collegium would need to decide if it should continue or dissolve as an organization.

A survey was conducted to find out how members saw the purpose of the group and what direction they wanted to take membership. It was clear they had a commitment to the Collegium, but had to revise the vision and membership criteria.

To this end, the group met in California and modified the vision, goals, and structure of the Collegium. In so doing, the group reconfirmed its commitment to develop a small think tank that valued free-flowing discussion. In addition, the group agreed to recruit up to 25 new diversity thought leaders to focus on the following:

  • Broadening and deepening our understanding of diversity.
  • Contributing to a body of knowledge that advances the field and profession of diversity
  • Providing an opportunity to share, dialogue, agree, and challenge and learn from each other.
  • Enhance professional development.
  • Help each other be better at what we do and help the profession grow.

In 2001, The Collegium held its second Symposium at Bentley College outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Approximately 100 persons attended. Three papers were written, presented, and discussed:

  • Janet Bennett, Ph.D. and Milton Bennett Ph.D. presented "Developing Cultural Competence: An Integrative Approach to Global and Domestic Diversity"
  • Richard Gaskins presented, "An Effective Culture Change Agent: Using a Business Case Approach to Organizational Diversity"
  • Lani Roberts, Ph.D. presented "Diversity: Looking Ahead."

Proceedings were published and distributed to all who attended.

In 2002 and 2003, the Collegium continued to move forward in its mission to make and encourage significant contributions to the field. Part of this effort included the design and launch of the www.diversitycollegium.org web site. Four new members were admitted and plans were made for a third Symposium.

In 2004, the third Symposium was held, offered through the Collegium's new strategic partnership with the American Institute for Managing Diversity, The Alliance. This Symposium addressed the future of Affirmative Action. The Proceedings Report of that Symposium are posted free of charge on this Website, www.diversitycollegium.org.

In 2006, The Alliance hosted a special forum on the topic: The World is Flat: Implications for Diversity Management. The proceedings report from this forum is also posted on this Website, www.diversitycollegium.org.

The emphasis for all Diversity Collegium and Alliance events is on providing attendees with the opportunity to delve into cutting edge diversity issues, domestically and globally.

The Fetzer Institute┬áSince 1999, the work of the Collegium has been supported and encouraged by the Fetzer Institute. The Fetzer Institute is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Under auspices of the Institute’s diversity, initiative, Healing the Heart of Diversity, the Collegium convened annually at the beautiful retreat center, Seasons, a Place for Renewal. The Fetzer Institute is a nonprofit private operating foundation that supports research, education, and service programs exploring the integral relationships among mind, body and spirit.

The Institute works closely with programs that share a common interest. The staff worked with us as colleagues participating on a number of occasions in Collegium meetings. We shared and exchanged information about programs and research of mutual benefit. One of the goals of the Institute was to expand it’s presence in the local community and make available programs, and activities to members of the community. Toward that end the Collegium would frequently invite members of the community to our meetings. We shared the research, reports and programs presented by Collegium members during our meetings.

We also supported educational activities in the community. We sponsored a local program, African Dance and Drumming. They taught us traditional African Dance and discussed the history and meaning of the African traditional spiritual dances. This organization addresses the self esteem and academic needs of potentially at risk young people. The organization provides jobs for college age students who learn to be instructors and mentors for the younger students.

We are grateful for our affiliation with the Fetzer Institute and appreciative of the opportunity to use the beautiful space and delicious nutritious meals provided by a great team of chefs.

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