Thursday, April 24, 2008


We have just finished our meeting with Dr. Jean Arnold, the first Vice President for Inclusion and Equity at Grand Valley State University- GVSU. She is working with President Haas and the entire Grand Valley family to build upon the impressive foundation of inclusion initiatives already in place. One thing that I have learned in that meeting is that Grand Valley State University is making a deliberate effort to learn about the barriers to inclusion and seek ways to develop inclusive strategies to attract and retain a diverse faculty and student body. The university is also developing recommendations on incusionary practices in all aspects of the institution from the offices to the classrooms. It is the hope and aspiration of all those involved to come up with model practices for creating an inclusive community that will be emulated by peers institution all across the nation.

The word "university" comes from the Latin "universitas," meaning whole, and "diversity" means difference. Diversity in the university may seem paradoxical.
I believe that this is a very crucial and vital thing that the nation of Kenya and her institutions can glean from GVSU. American history teaches that “as the first President of America, John Hanson (1715-1783) had quite the shoes to fill. No one had ever been President of this new nation and the role was poorly defined. His actions in office would set a precedence for all future Presidents. He took office just as the Revolutionary War ended. Almost immediately, the troops demanded to be paid. As would be expected after any long war, there were no funds to meet the salaries. As a result, the soldiers threatened to overthrow the new government and put Washington on the throne as a monarch. All the members of Congress ran for their lives, leaving Hanson running the government. He somehow managed to calm the troops and hold the country together. If he had failed, the government would have fallen almost immediately and everyone would have been bowing to King Washington.”

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga find themselves almost in a similar position in Kenya today. They are embarking on rebuilding a nation that wants to re-define itself yet the forces that are inclined to maintaining the status quo will do everything to sabotage their noble efforts. On the other hand, those who have been with them during the election “turmoil” and after feel that it is their right to be rewarded for their support to each one of them.

The truth is that Kenyans must learn to sacrifice, live and work together in diversity. “Diversity encompasses the presence and participation of individuals who differ and are similar by characteristics such as, but not necessarily limited to race, age, color, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, disability status and community affiliation.” Diversifying the new government in Kenya will entail including people of various ethnic, academic, religious, cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The historically underrepresented populations as well as people with ideas, thoughts and beliefs that have always been ignored in the past will need to be given consideration if the new government is to succeed. In essence, diversifying will mean going beyond rhetoric and translating into policy and action in the appointments and hiring of senior officials.

One scholar rightly said that great achievements are not born from a single vision but from the combination of many distinctive viewpoints. Diversity opens minds and unlocks our potential to solve any problem we may face. Shrewd business people understand that diverse markets require diverse operatives. On the other hand governments and organizations must know the constituencies and markets they seek to serve. Diversity does not pit one ethnic group, social class or culture against another for dominance; it only allows for differences to be employed to solve political, economic, cultural, spiritual and business challenges. Diversity acknowledges and uses these inherent differences to drive innovation as a way of creating better organizational performance and competitive advantage in an institution or nation. Diversity provides a richer variety of approaches to work and problem solving. Diversity strengthens a nation’s, institution’s or organization's resilience in changing environmental conditions. Diversity allows challenges to long-accepted views.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have a rare opportunity to build a new Kenya grounded in diversity. They should not let status quo “tribal chiefs”, alliances or individuals discourage them from attracting, and recruiting diverse candidates to help transform our country for our own sake and for the sake of our future generations. Their inability to seize this opportunity will have wide-ranging consequences now and in the future political and economic health of the whole country.


3.Charmaine P. Clowney, J.D, Best Practices in Recruiting and Retaining Diverse Faculty. PA State System of Higher Education and President, Clowney & Associates.

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