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Riley Institute celebrates 10 years of DLI

DLI facilitator Juan Johnson helped lead the celebration.
DLI facilitator Juan Johnson helped lead the celebration.

More than 80 business, education and community leaders gathered at Michelin North America Monday morning to help the Riley Institute at Furman celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its highly successful Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI) program.

The celebration featured the unveiling of a new publication highlighting 10 of the DLI’s most outstanding community action projects across South Carolina.  Three of the projects are from the Upstate.

The speakers at the event included Michelin North America Chairman and President Pete Selleck, Riley Institute Senior Fellow and DLI Facilitator Juan Johnson, and the Riley Institute’s namesake, former U.S. Secretary of Education and former South Carolina Governor Richard Riley. Jean Shifrin, who provided the articles and photos for the DLI magazine, also spoke.

The Diversity Leaders Initiative seeks to stimulate productive dialogue and build leadership skills among South Carolina’s community leaders.  Approximately 1,350 people have graduated from DLI over the past decade and are now Riley Fellows.

Selleck unveiled the Initiative’s special edition publication, UNITE South Carolina, which features 10 of DLI’s best community action projects.  Those projects range from Camp Hope, a summer evening camp for low-income and underserved children in Charleston, to Dream Connectors, a program that introduces seventh-graders from Greenville to diverse career opportunities with Michelin, BMW and Greenville Health System. The publication will be available in both print and digital editions.

“We chose 10 DLI action projects to celebrate 10 years, but we could have just as easily chosen 20 or 30 to spotlight,” said the Riley Institute’s Johnson, who also serves as a member of Furman’s Board of Trustees. “There have been 135 action projects and a lot of them are still on the ground, making good things happen across the state over the past 10 years.”

The need for a program such as DLI surfaced when Furman political science professor Don Gordon, Riley and former Furman President David Shi first launched the Riley Institute 15 years ago. The Diversity Leaders Initiative now includes five full program days over a five-month period.  Participants work in small groups to identify, analyze and develop solutions for community issues, and these capstone projects are the focus of UNITE South Carolina.

“Dick Riley was confident that South Carolina was small enough that a relatively small, able and determined group of people across the state could affect real change for all our citizenry,” said Gordon, who has served as Executive Director of the Riley Institute since its founding. “DLI is engaging and building that group. Through their efforts, great things are happening.”

Other community initiatives that grew from DLI community action projects include the annual Upstate Diversity Leadership Awards dinner, which recognizes organizations and individuals for their accomplishments in improving diversity in the Upstate; Ten at the Top, which convenes Upstate leaders in discussion of shared issues; and the Diversity Recruitment Consortium, a group of organizations working to increase the diversity of professional and executive talent in South Carolina-based organizations.

The Richard W. Riley Institute of Government, Politics, and Public Leadership, inaugurated in 1999, is a multi-faceted, non-partisan institute affiliated with Furman’s Department of Political Science. The Institute works in the areas of public education, economic development, leadership, diversity and other issues critical to South Carolina’s progress.

For more information about the Diversity Leaders Initiative, contact Megan Dodgens, DLI program manager, at megan.dodgens@furman.edu or (864) 294-3253.

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