Aquinas Offers Diversity Certification

December 8, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Changing demographics have propelled businesses to address diversity issues as a matter of general practice.

But to create those practices, companies often have been forced to put people in charge of diversity initiatives who often do not have the requisite knowledge, skills and tools to make a long-term, positive impact on the organization.

That’s one of the reasons why, beginning next month, the Woodrick Institute of Aquinas College will open its Diversity Learning Academy.

The initiative will focus on those individuals who have been put in charge of diversity issues within organizations but who may not have much formal training in that area.

“We know through research and experience that most of the people given the responsibilities surrounding diversity issues don’t really have the tools or foundational background to do the job right,” said Steve Robbins, director of the Woodrick Institute.

Often, he said, people who draw such assignments are human resources generalists whose ideas about creating and implementing diversity policies can be somewhat hazy.

What the institute is offering, he said, is a program that meets one day a month for nine months, to give participants the foundation and knowledge to run a successful diversity program.

He explained that participants will learn how to make the business safe for diversity, how to obtain a buy-in from people within the organization, and other key skills they can adapt to their own organizations.

Robbins said participants also will be able to develop a strategic plan for diversity for their organization. Too, he said, they eventually can earn designation as a certified diversity professional.

“This is really a response to the fact that there is really no diversity association for professionals in the United States,” said Robbins.

“So there is no body that says, ‘Here is what you need to do in order to do diversity well.’ We are trying to give them those skills and (the) set of tools that they need.”

Students of the academy will be taught in a variety of ways, including lectures and presentations from Robbins and outside experts, and group and individual projects. Robbins said all are designed to result in practical applications and tools that can be brought back to the workplace.

Participation is open to any individual who would like to develop a set of tools to effectively address diversity in the workplace, but the academy is limited to 30 registrants.

The 2004 academy is tentatively scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the second Tuesday of each month from January through August.

The cost to participate is $3,000. Robbins said there is an additional $1,000 fee for those who wish to pursue designation as a Certified Diversity Professional.

Partial scholarships may be awarded depending on need and availability of funds, Robbins added. 

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