Looking to the future of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, upcoming millennials and Generation Z professionals are looking to see how their employers are creating sustainable practices. Recent studies indicate, “young workers are eager for business leaders to be proactive about making a positive impact in society.”
A lack of diversity in the workplace can lead to a series of issues. As a stepping stone into the workplace, universities and colleges are trying to create inclusive environments, welcoming people of all backgrounds.
At BYU, administration, faculty and students are taking steps to address these issues. To ignite the conversation surrounding diversity in their major, public relations seniors Abby Giles, Monica Chabot, Tucker Toolson, Ashley Young and Colin Wylie spent February and March developing a campaign they hope will provide solutions.
“We knew that we couldn’t change enrollment,” said Giles. “But we could change the way people approached diversity and help bring the problems faced by students of diverse backgrounds to the forefront. We really hope we can eliminate some of those issues and make our school a place where anyone feels welcome.”
The group planned a campaign titled “Embrace Diversity,” which focused on three major groups: high school students, current BYU students and alumni. The group first reached out to communications and diversity clubs in local high schools and invited them to tour the School of Communications. One particular student came to the tour without any intention of attending college, but is now considering studying communications.
The group also worked with the School of Communications to begin a newsletter campaign that reaches out to prospective students that had previously participated in tours or in the SOAR program, run by BYU Multicultural Student Services.
Focusing on current students at BYU, the group developed coursework that was piloted in a class this semester. The objective was to implement the materials in a new course focused on diversity and ethics that was already in the works by the School of Communications. The campaign group also worked with the School of Communications and the College of Fine Arts and Communications to redesign the diversity pages on the school website.
The final key aspect of the campaign was to work with the faculty to recruit alumni to participate in a new mentorship program. The program, which will be facilitated through a new service BYU recently launched, is designed to connect students with alumni and prepare them for jobs after graduation. A special emphasis was made to reach out to alumni with diverse backgrounds, with the hopes of allowing students to connect with people that may have had similar experiences in college and in their early careers.
“Diversity can be a topic that people tend to gloss over, talking about it as a numbers game or a checklist,” said Wylie. “During this campaign, we tried to focus on making real change that could positively affect students for years to come. I’ve loved doing the research, especially talking to students and seeing what we could do that could to help students of all backgrounds.”
The campaign is timely, which is part of the reason the group wanted to work closely with Ed Carter, the director of the School of Communications. In October of 2018, a student arrived at a School of Communications party dressed in blackface. The incident, and many similar issues, appear to stem from ignorance or a lack of cultural sensitivity and the school has been working hard to make sure students are properly educated and given necessary tools.
Chabot, one of the group members, talked about how these events have started conversations that have never happened in the past, “We began our campaign by conducting a survey of students in the School of Communications and almost every participant said that they felt they didn’t talk enough about diversity in their classes. We are excited to have been able to work closely with the school to create solutions and build an inclusive environment.”
The PR seniors’ campaign is an entrant of the Bateman competition, a national public relations competition held annually by the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA). Finalists will be notified by April 18, and winning teams will present their campaign in May to a panel of judges in New York.