There’s strength in diversity. That message will be the focus of a research-based workshop presented by Blane Harding of the University of Nevada March 20, at Seward County Community College. The morning workshop, set for 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. in Room SU214 E/W of the Student Union, offers businesses and organizations a framework for tackling this important area.
Studies have shown that diverse teams – that is, teams comprised of people of different races, genders, and backgrounds — promote creativity, foster critical thinking, and tend to make better, more thoughtful decisions because they consider a wider range of perspectives. It’s one thing to know what an ideal team would look like, and another to make it a reality. Organizations often struggle to see inequality, chart a course to rectify it, and to recruit and manage a workforce made up of widely differing people.
“Blane has been working in this area for years, and has developed a keen sense of how to help people tackle an issue that can be awkward and tense for many,” said SCCC Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Todd Carter. “We know in the academic world and in the business world, however, that working to intentionally broaden access to various groups of people makes organizations better. Blane can help point us in the right direction.”
Harding currently serves as the Director of Advising, Recruitment, and Retention for the College of Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. He previously served as Director of Multicultural Affairs at the University of Kansas. He has worked with more than 50 institutions of higher learning in the U.S., and has published multiple articles.
Yet it is Harding’s personal story that prompted him to venture into the world of differences and finding common ground.
“My early life experiences served to prepare me first hand for the work that I do in Multiculturalism and Diversity,” Harding stated in his bio sheet. “I was born and raised in upstate New York by a first generation Italian American mother from Rochester, New York and an African American father who was raised in the Jim Crow south during the 1930s and 1940s. As a multi racial child, I was able to experience a wide range of cultures and issues that provided a deeper understanding of the similarities and differences that exist in society.”
That perspective can be especially valuable in Liberal, where demographic diversity increased exponentially over the past two decades. According to recent U.S. Census figures, Seward County ranked in the top 10 counties in the U.S. for its percentage of foreign-born residents.
“In working with groups and business and industry in the area, I hear people express a desire for more training to help them leverage the strengths of our unique area,” said SCCC Director of Business and Industry Norma Jean Dodge. “It’s just good business to know your customers, your workforce, and your opportunities.”
SCCC Advising Coordinator Patsy Fischer said Harding is the perfect choice to help guide workshop participants.
“He’s a wonderful speaker, and he has a real affection for Liberal,” she said. “It will be great to hear him again.”
Carter shared her sense of anticipation.
“Blane has been working with SCCC faculty and staff for over 10 years and we are looking forward to another great learning session,” he said. “We’re also really pleased to offer an opportunity to the community to share in the experience.”
Register for the Diversity and Inclusivity workshop, set for 8:30-11:30 a.m. March 20 (a Tuesday) in room 214 E/W in the SCCC Student Union. Cost for the workshop is $49. To register, or for more information, call 620-417-117-, or email [email protected]