Putting Our Values Into Action

Spurred by the events of 2020 and strengthened by the arrival of Kim Churches as its first woman president, TWC reaffirms its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion through training, education and courageous dialogue.

Equity, diversity and inclusion have long been core values for TWC, but the organization has taken important steps to put that ethos into action over the past year. In late summer 2020, TWC hosted an organization-wide training to educate staff about systemic racism in American society. In 2021, on the strong recommendation of its staff, the TWC executive team made Juneteenth an official holiday for the first time. And in between, TWC announced the formation of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.

This 10-member body―selected through a nomination, application and interview process―represents TWC staff from all parts and levels of the organization. It was intentionally designed to be grassroots-oriented; neither of its co-chairs, Career Advisor Dr. B. Nathan and Employer Relations Manager Manuela Moreno, holds a supervisory position.

“We’ve had a seat at the table, and our input has been listened to. We’ve been able to share opinions with the executive team, and the president and his advisory team―leading these conversations directly with the people making high-level decisions,” Moreno says. “It’s an elevation of diverse voices.”

One of the most meaningful first steps the committee took was sitting down with each member of the executive committee for a conversation about each person’s personal story. These weren’t interviews, Dr. Nathan stresses, but opportunities to truly get to know each other.

“The feedback we had from [the executive team] was, ‘We have never done this before,’―and that’s the point,” Dr. Nathan says. “We are challenging the executive team to engage and to do the work. We are asking them to think about how they can embed equity, diversity and inclusion in their various areas while building relationships with people in those areas. Because you cannot make change in any organization if you’re not building relationships.”

Already, TWC’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee is influencing tangible change in the organization, including:

  • Providing feedback to help shape TWC’s new staff values statements to reflect a strong commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion
  • Participating in the interview process for the next TWC president
  • Advising on strategies to measure equity, diversity and inclusion, including tracking representation in leadership positions and introducing more equitable hiring practices
  • Planning and leading a series of skills-based equity, diversity and inclusion workshops for TWC staff, beginning with Courageous Dialogues later this fall.

“Training and education is a big piece, because people don’t have the same level of knowledge about equity, diversity and inclusion,” Dr. Nathan says. “We’re shifting a culture that’s never engaged in these foundations and skills before. Everyone in the organization will be involved.”

With the arrival of new TWC President Kim Churches―an accomplished leader with a track record of leading these kinds of values integrations in educational organizations―the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee is excited to build on its early achievements within the organization to inform TWC’s future external work. This work with students will be bolstered by an early commitment by Ford Motor Company Fund beginning next spring.

Although their work has just started, Moreno says she can already sense a change in TWC’s culture. “Through conversations with our new hires, they’ve said even the fact we have a committee that’s making a plan of action has helped them feel like there’s an inclusive space for diverse staff to feel welcome,” she says. “We are making changes that will impact them in the long term.”

Together, we’ll ensure we build access and pipelines for the future workforce with a demonstrated and action-oriented commitment to equity and inclusion.

Kim Churches , President, 2021–

“When will we go back to normal?” That’s a question we’ve all asked multiple times over the past two turbulent years―but it’s the wrong question.

The pandemic has exacerbated inequities in so many ways, and we all—individuals, leaders, employers, government―need to work toward new paradigms that not only include, but elevate those for whom the “old normal” was always a step backward, not forward. The upside is, by exposing these issues, we are all in a better position to correct them moving forward in education and in the workplace.

Already, TWC has shown tremendous adaptability and resilience in the face of challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. With all we have learned over the past several months, if we had a renewed vision for TWC today, what new bridges would we build between higher education and the workplace to ensure we have the most meaningful impact for the most people?

Central to this discussion is our renewed emphasis on equity, diversity, and inclusion and justice. Our own Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee will be central to efforts to evolve TWC’s programs, prioritizing and bolstering access for students of color, those without financial resources to participate in experiential education and nontraditional students such as mothers re-entering the workforce. We will also strive to advise and partner with educational institutions and employers in diverse sectors to build an equitable and inclusive marketplace where all can thrive, not just survive.

Changes and pivots for any organization can be difficult. But the pandemic and our nation’s reckoning with structural and systemic racism have shown that we as human beings can and must change and grow. As the next president, I am proud to lead TWC into this new chapter, and I’m excited to see how our staff, students, alumni and partners rise to meet this transformative moment.

Together, we’ll ensure we build access and pipelines for the future workforce with a demonstrated and action-oriented commitment to equity and inclusion.

Kim Churches , President, 2021–