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Upstate and Lowcountry leaders become Riley Diversity Fellows

diversity leaders
Former Coca-Cola executive Juan Johnson facilitates DLI classes for the Riley Institute.

The Riley Institute at Furman has announced that 41 leaders from the Upstate, and 41 leaders from the Lowcountry and surrounding areas have completed the Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI).

Over the past five months, participants have examined sensitive issues related to diversity and inclusion, explored “blind spots,” and discussed how to suspend assumptions. Program designer and facilitator Juan Johnson, a former Coca-Cola vice president with a deep and varied background in issues of diversity and inclusion, has led each of the DLI classes since the program’s inception in 2003.

As part of the program, participants have worked in small, cross-sector groups to respond to actual issues and opportunities in their communities through service projects.

The projects from the Upstate class focus on topics such as providing young men the opportunity to engage with role models to help them understand the importance of reading and its connection to success; assisting formerly incarcerated citizens with reintegrating into their communities; raising awareness and access to opportunities for the special needs community and others with disabilities; and providing professional business attire for community members in transition.

The projects from the Lowcountry class focus on connecting at-risk students to local businesses and access to shadowing and internship opportunities; establishing a personal mentoring program for vulnerable children; addressing transportation challenges for community members who need to access medical care; supporting people in need with food and personal care products through an easily accessible outdoor public pantry; and raising awareness of the widespread lack of access to menstrual hygiene products, and encouraging the South Carolina legislature to make hygiene products more affordable by exempting them from sales tax.

“It’s been encouraging to watch this group of leaders, many of whom did not know each other prior to this program, discover commonalities and work together across differences to strengthen their organizations and communities,” said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute. “I watched in admiration as these leaders raised thoughtful questions and encouraged courageous vulnerability,” Gordon added.

DLI graduates become Riley Fellows, members of a powerful cross-sector, statewide leadership network that includes CEOs of corporations, mayors, city and county council members, legislators, school superintendents, pastors and rabbis, non-profit heads, chamber of commerce directors and community leaders.

DLI class members are identified through a rigorous process including a nomination, application, and interview. Individuals are selected to join the class based on their capacity to impact their organizations and communities.

In addition to the Upstate and Lowcountry, DLI classes are selected annually in the Midlands. Each class is crafted to reflect the diverse demographics in South Carolina.

The full roster of Riley Fellows is available online at riley.furman.edu. For more information, contact Riley Institute Deputy Director Jacki Martin at 864-294-3578, and jacki.martin@furman.edu.

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