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A newsletter header image with an image of Dan Bollman behind the title 'The Details with Dan Bollman'

In search of greatness

June 1, 2018


Former MSU president Clifton Wharton Jr.


John Hannah led MSU through rapid growth from about 6,000 students in 1941 to almost 40,000 in 1969. His successor Clifton Wharton Jr. (pictured above) served from 1970 to 1978, and described his appointment in his autobiography:

"My path to the presidency of Michigan State University led through a maze of politics and paranoia so Byzantine that writing about it even decades later leaves me in a state of near-disbelief. At the time, though, it was all too real. […] After two years of racial turmoil both close to home and throughout the country, the MSU trustees had selected a Black president."

With his wife Dolores, Wharton navigated student protests and led fundraising efforts for a world-class center for performing arts. Today, Wharton Center is ranked in the top 20 among international venues of its size, and remains the leading performance venue among the Big 10.

Diversity at Michigan State University is a part of our history and a source of strength.

As we mature, we understand more about the world:

  1. It’s not about me. I can accomplish much more working with other talented people than I can on my own.
  2. I like people who are like me. It’s human nature to relate to others who share a similar background and experiences.
  3. Most people aren’t like me. It’s a big world and no matter what part of it I’m from, most people are from somewhere else.

The lesson: Unless we’re willing to make an extra effort, we will miss out on the opportunity to relate to most of the talented people we encounter.

What’s true for an individual is just as true for an organization. We have a tendency to prefer people who are similar to us.

Our diversity and equity review last summer led us to form a Diversity and Inclusion Committee with leadership from Jenni McManus and Ann Erhardt. They are working to share best practices across IPF, find alignment between our efforts, identify gaps and propose solutions based on our values.

MSU states that “we believe our differences are our strength. Diversity is power. Building inclusive communities is at the core of our values.” At IPF, we use a working definition of diversity as the “mix” of people in the IPF community – people who vary in age, culture, ethnicity or national origin, life experiences, gender, political persuasion, personality, disability or veteran status, etc. Inclusion is how well the “mix” works together to ensure the continued stability and health of the IPF and MSU community. It’s worth noticing that inclusion is the goal here – without inclusion, diversity doesn’t create strength.

Diversity and inclusion are worth pursuing for the sake of social justice and progress - but also because we can’t afford to miss out on talent.

It’s not difficult to include others. Be kind to your fellow Spartans, and you may find opportunities you never realized were there.

All the best,

Dan

P.S. What opportunities do you see for inclusion at IPF? Let me know at TheDetails@ipf.msu.edu.