Future leader. Latina. Ice hockey captain. First-generation college student. Hip-hop dancer. Sustainability advocate. Introvert. Entrepreneur. Filmmaker. Fashionista. The Bentley community is comprised of a diverse and endless set of stories – and so is the business world. It’s why Bentley is walking the walk when it comes to diversity and inclusion on campus, particularly for underrepresented populations.
“The first time I realized that I wanted to be a college professor was when I had a professor of color during my sophomore year,” says Donna Maria Blancero, who is Latina and Bentley’s Former Provost and VP of Academic Affairs. “I thought, ‘Wow, I could do that.’” (And she did.)
It’s those kinds of moments that Blancero says Bentley is creating for students, faculty and staff through diversity and inclusion initiatives on campus. Here are a few examples:
- Black United Body (BUB): The purpose of the BUB student organization is to promote diversity and cultural awareness on and off Bentley’s campus, and to spread awareness between students of color and the entire student population through social events and gatherings. Inclusion, for example, is an important piece of the BUB annual fashion show, according to director of the 2019 show Reginald Fils ’21. “I’ve come to understand the history of not just the fashion show but the Black United Body, which represents the power of diversity, the importance of inclusion, and the spirit of hope for a better tomorrow.”
- LGBTQ @ Bentley: Bentley strives to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of the LGBTQ community and their allies. Initiatives include an ally workshop for faculty, staff and students to learn how to help create a safe place for our LGBTQ community and become effective and powerful voices of the LGBTQ movement – focusing on the importance of equality, fairness, acceptance and mutual respect.
- Diversity in the curriculum: No matter the subject, Blancero weaves inclusion into the curriculum, for example, through case studies that feature women or people of color in leadership roles. All Bentley students must satisfy a Diversity Intensive Requirement by selecting a course from the list of approved diversity courses. Diversity courses explore issues, concerns and experiences pertaining to human relations across lines of societal or cultural differences specific to the United States.
- Leadership and social justice: Successful leaders bring diverse groups together and tackle tough issues. The Equity Center provides a safe space for students who seek to create a more inclusive, informed, and compassionate community, and promotes leadership focused on social justice and provides campus-wide workshops, dialogues and programs for students, faculty, and staff. Events such as the International Film Series raise awareness and promote conversations around issues such as social injustice.
- Diversity training for new and current faculty and staff aims to deepen individual awareness and understanding of diversity dynamics in society, at Bentley, and in our individual departments, offices and classrooms. The retreat focuses specifically on issues of nationality, race, gender and sexual identity.
“There’s not a week that goes by where something’s not happening related to diversity and inclusion,” Blancero says. “No matter the program, the idea is to open up eyes to differences and have conversations about those differences with the goal to create a more inclusive culture. That’s how we present opportunities for students to grow.”
The key, she adds, is that the message of inclusion has to come from the top. “The simple fact that we have the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, specifically tasked with making sure that celebrating issues of inclusion are front and center, speaks volumes to our commitment.”
She likens it to companies that strive to create a particular culture; the CEO must buy into it to the message for it to be authentic and successful. Blancero knows firsthand.
“When I was recently offered the position of provost at Bentley, it wasn’t mentioned that it would be great to have a woman or Latina in the position; it was all about the skills I bring to the table and that was so motivating,” Blancero recalls. “If Bentley – and all organizations for that matter — keep these issues front and center and ensure that inclusion is built into the fabric of the community, we can show the world that successful people have all types of identities.”
It’s a philosophy that will help Bentley graduates in the workplace. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that career readiness includes the ability to “build collaborative relationships with colleagues and customers representing diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, religions, lifestyles, and viewpoints;” and “global/intercultural fluency to value, respect and learn from diverse cultures, races, ages, genders, sexual orientations and religions.”
Developing those skills, Blancero says, often comes from being courageous. “It takes a certain amount of bravery to be a white person, for example, and enter a discussion about race without worrying about saying the wrong thing. But Bentley has created safe, inclusive spaces for everyone to build confidence to advocate for themselves and to become advocates for others. Once that becomes a part of who they are, it will carry over into their jobs and their lives, and create moments where someone can say, ‘Wow, I could do that.