ERNIE BROWN Mahoning Valley's diversification deserves acclaim
It has been a catchword thrown around to describe a way to include minorities into the mainstream of American life.
Webster's Dictionary defines diversity as the condition of being different.
Closely linked to the word diversity is the word diversify. One of several dictionary definitions of that word is to produce variety.
This column is dedicated to updating the status of some of the Mahoning Valley's efforts to diversify to bring about diversity.
Robert L. Faulkner Sr. of Warren knows the importance of diversity, especially when it comes to creating a well-rounded education system.
Faulkner is vice president of workforce development and executive director of the Mahoning Valley Labor Management Council. He also is in his 11th year as a Warren school board member.
Faulkner, former superintendent of reliability and customer satisfaction at Delphi Packard Electric Systems, has been instrumental in trying to get Youngstown State University and Kent State University Trumbull Campus to establish ways to get more minority students and staff at those institutions.
In his office at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce are several posters and pictures extolling the positive virtues of inclusion and unity. Another trumpets "Partners in Education and Training" between YSU and KSUTC.
A sound education system is key to any community's long-term economic well-being and success, he says, and diversity and unity should play a major role toward producing that system.
The force: Faulkner said Dr. Les Cochran, former YSU president, was instrumental in getting the ball rolling to improve the diversification of YSU's faculty, staff, students and curriculum. The two men formed the Community Task Force on Diversity.
The task force, comprised of men and women of all faiths and races, contributed hundreds of hours to discuss ways YSU could strengthen its diversity commitment.
Faulkner said Dr. David Sweet, the new YSU president, remains serious about that commitment.
"Dr. Sweet told me he had three major goals for YSU: increase enrollment, increase diversity from top to bottom from students to faculty, and increase the university's business and education partnership," Faulkner said.
The early results have been good, Faulkner said. YSU's overall fall enrollment rose nearly 4 percent from fall 2000 to 2001. There was an 8 percent increase in black student enrollment and a 17 percent rise in Hispanic enrollment.
Dr. Tony Atwater, who is black, is YSU's new provost. Sweet also is initiating some dialogue with Central State University near Wilberforce, Ohio, a historically black college, Faulkner said.
Dr. David Allen, dean of KSUTC, has worked with Faulkner to establish an engineering and technology scholarship for minorities. Minority enrollment also has increased there over the last eight years, and KSU educators are going into the Warren schools "to find out what kids need and what the professors can do to meet those needs," Faulkner added.
Other entities also are advocating diversity.
Group work: Delphine Baldwin-Casey, a sergeant in the Youngstown Police Department, has formed a group called Law Enforcement Agents for Change, which meets monthly to "discuss ways to improve community relations through promoting and understanding interpersonal and cultural diversity issues."
Partners for Workplace Diversity, an alliance of area organizations dedicated to developing successful diversity initiatives for their own needs and the community at large, had several activities this past week at General Motors, Lordstown; YSU's Kilcawley Center; Seven Seventeen Credit Union; and Holiday Inn, Boardman, to point out the benefits of using the variety of talents and perspectives of all people to improve the quality of the Valley's workplace and markets. Dr. Anne M. McMahon of YSU's Williamson College of Business Administration is Partners' organizer.
Next week is National Diversity Week, and a series of seminars and discussion topics will take place in some of the country's major cities.
The latest Census 2000 figures show that our nation is more diverse than ever. It is time to throw off the so-called differences that separate us and concentrate on those issues that show that we aren't that different after all.