A Diversified Approach

July 3, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — There isn’t much that separates Skot Welch’s personal life from his professional one. After speaking with him for a while, it becomes fairly clear that it is his life experience, or what some might call fate, that has led him to his position of managing partner of Diversity Management Strategists (DMS).

Welch was raised in a world that was unlike any his peers knew. He spent a portion of his formative years in South Korea, where he stood out as different — the only young American in the immediate area. His stepfather was in the Army at the time and his mother insisted that the family not live on the base so they could become exposed to Korean culture.

“First, I was the only dependent child of that entire battalion in that entire city. There were no other American kids there, period. It was just me. And then we lived in the village and not on the base, so all my friends were Korean. So I think that had a lot to do with how I view the world,” said Welch.

After the years in South Korea, Welch moved to Atlanta and then he came here, where he had the opportunity to expand his world view from West Michigan. As a member of the Blue Lake International Choir, he had the chance to sing and travel throughout Europe. Following his graduation from CrestonHigh School, Welch joined the singing group Up With People for a year and performed with the group in 25 states, eight Canadian provinces and five European countries.

“I had over 98 host families, and we stayed with them with our counterparts from Up With People, and those people consisted of people between the ages of 18 to 25 from 18 different countries. It was a global experience,” he said.

“That back then shaped who I am now.”

His mother had a hand in that shaping, too. Ruth Jones is a noted educator in Grand Rapids and was the principal of HenryPaideiaAcademy, a progressive elementary school that became the MartinLutherKing Jr.LeadershipAcademy last year. Her passion for education rubbed off on her son, and he earned a degree in communications and broadcasting from AlbionCollege and then a Master of Management degree from AquinasCollege.

Welch completed the circuit from student to teacher and began teaching diversity at Davenport and Cornerstone universities and at the University of Phoenix. Seven years ago, he joined Tom Melchar at DMS. He also became vice president of benchmarks and analysis for Diversity Inc., a national magazine based in New Brunswick, N.J.

“In terms of diversity management, I would say the sequence of those have been very significant in my life,” he said. “Now that I have worked with many Fortune 500 companies, I’m always talking about diversity.”

Despite his success at the corporate and municipal levels, Welch hasn’t abandoned his roots, as he still teaches diversity at Cornerstone and Phoenix and sits on Cornerstone’s presidential advisory board.

Although diversity training is a focus of DMS, it isn’t all the firm does. Welch said his company gives clients a system in which they can apply what they learned from the training.

“Our niche in the marketplace is we actually help build those systems, organizational systems for people to have a sustainable initiative. Our thing is you can train all you want, but if people don’t feel engaged and think there is a larger effort than training, they won’t really take their company seriously,” he said.

“They can build a quantitative system that is directly tied to their business plan.”

Diversity Management Strategies and Strategic Communications Group are working with the Convention and Arena Authority to find ways to draw more minorities to events held in DeVos Performance Hall and Van Andel Arena, and to create a more diverse work force at both buildings.

CAA Executive Director Rich MacKeigan said Welch has been “very responsive” to the board’s needs.

“He is very aware of what we are trying to achieve and very interested in trying to find a way that not only gets to our goals but also is workable within our framework. I think part of what they’re able to do is come in with an issue like diversity that at times can be a little tough to understand or tough to quantify,” said MacKeigan, who is responsible for daily operations at both buildings as SMG general manager.

“But they have a product and a process that allows you to put numbers to the issues so you can address it and, hopefully, see improvements. These are quantitative improvements you can actually see on paper, and that is a huge positive, especially for an organization like ours where we’ve got a board that wants us to show and track that progress,” he added.

Welch and his wife, Barbara, have two children: Brandon, 13, and Brooks, 8. Barbara Welch is a financial educator and recently earned a master’s degree in financial services online from the College of Financial Planning in Colorado.

“She goes out to corporations and helps people understand the psychology of how to better manage what they have,” he said.

In his spare time, Welch likes to hang out with his family. He enjoys reading, too, mostly nonfiction books that offer insights into other cultures. He just finished “A Long Road to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, and has started “A Country Unmasked” by Alex Boraine.

“It’s about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. I love the book ‘The World is Flat’ by Thomas Friedman. It’s a fabulous book. I also love practical books about Christianity,” he said. “The common element is I love reading books about people because I love people.”

Looking into his short-term crystal ball, Welch sees himself doing more speaking and writing over the next year or so. He also plans to further develop the radio show he does every Monday morning from 8-9 a.m. with Rick Wilson on WTKG AM-1230, as some networks have expressed an interest in adding the show, “Radio Black and White,” to their line-ups.

“I’ll focus on doing more speaking because that has been something that kind of has been pulling me, and finish one of my writing projects,” he said of his more time-sensitive priorities.

“Of course, DMS is always in the background. I’ll continue to work with organizations and broaden DMS and the listener base for ‘Radio Black and White.’”       

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