Inclusivity + Belonging Forum Recap

Inclusivity + Belonging Forum Recap

Jennifer Novo and Nate Talley

February 21, 2024

On January 23, 2024, FUTURO hosted an Inclusivity and Belonging Forum sponsored by The Education Trust, the Tennessee Diversity Consortium, and Culture Shift Team. At this forum, business leaders were invited to discuss how inclusive student support services strengthen the recruitment pipeline. In light of the changes to higher education’s admission practices, following the US Supreme Court’s decision to ban affirmative action practices based on race, we discussed the proposed legislative changes to higher education regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion practices. Such changes can disrupt the support systems that underrepresented students rely on to help them succeed in college. Without DEI campus support, the impacts will be seen by negatively affecting student retention, decreased degree attainment, and can ultimately lead to a less diverse pool of candidates.

The forum provided an opportunity for corporate partners, institutions of higher education, nonprofit organizations, and students to discuss the impacts, implications, and tools to support the recruitment pipeline despite any changes to campus support services. FUTURO highlights recruiting tactics that have traditionally worked to diversify the recruitment pipeline. These tactics include college recruitment programs, paid internships, employee resource groups, among others. At the end of the forum, attendees got into groups to draft advocacy statements supporting continued funding of DEI programs on campus that work to strengthen the college-to-career recruitment pipeline.

Many FUTURO Employer Advisory Board Members attending the forum, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) represented by Novanda Lilly. VUMC opened its doors in 1874, very soon after Vanderbilt University was founded in 1873 with a grant from Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt University’s School of Medicine was once part of the University of Nashville and had been operating since 1851. Lilly explains how VUMC serves the community by saying, “Vanderbilt University Medical Center serves the community by providing high-quality medical care, advancing medical knowledge through research and education, promoting wellness and health education, and ensuring access to care for all members of the community, regardless of their ability to pay.” She explains how VUMC’s partnership with FUTURO provides them with an opportunity to support our diversity and inclusion efforts, access a diverse talent pool, drive innovation, and enhance employee engagement and morale. VUMC is intentionally working to uplift leaders of all backgrounds. Lilly explains how they are doing this work through a range of programs and initiatives aimed at building essential leadership competencies, providing mentorship, and coaching support, fostering continuous learning and professional growth, and promoting diversity and inclusion. She expands on those efforts by saying that they contribute to the medical center's mission of delivering exceptional patient care, advancing medical knowledge, and training the next generation of healthcare leaders of all backgrounds. Vanderbilt University Medical Center has been serving our community for 150 years and is a proud Sponsor and member of FUTURO’s Employer Advisory Board.

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