Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) 101, with Tayah Butler and Danya Perry

On today’s episode, Tayah Butler and Danya Perry discuss what we should be doing at Poole College of Management (and at all colleges and universities) to help grow the conversation of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and how we can embed DEI into the curriculum. As Tayah looks at it, she’s like “a river guide, an expert river guide. Because when we’re trying to navigate the challenges that we encounter in diversity, equity and inclusion as both individuals, and then also as organizations, there are some smooth rivers that we can float down easily, but then there are some moments where it really is a rough ride.”  Today, Tayah and Danya look at what students, faculty, and organizations can do to navigate the sometimes choppy waters.

Tayah Butler is the first director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Poole College of Management at NC State University.  Danya Perry is the Director of Equitable Economic Development at Wake County Economic Development and the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Raleigh Chamber.

Transcript

Jenny: All right. So Tayah, let’s start with you. As mentioned in your intro, you were recently appointed Poole College’s first Director of Diversity and Inclusion. Tell us a little bit about this role and why now, more than ever, it’s important to have this position in Poole College.

Tayah: Well, thank you, Jenny, for kind of leading with that question. So, if it’s okay, I’m going to reach into a part of my identity that’s a really big deal to me, and that is from being from the Pacific Northwest. So, I’m going to make an analogy here for the role with something that a lot of us in the Northwest we would be familiar with.

And I see a role like this as a river guide, an expert river guide. Why do I say that? It’s because when we’re trying to navigate the challenges that we encounter in diversity, equity and inclusion as both individuals, and then also as organizations, there are some like smooth rivers that we can float down there. There’s some walks that are, you know, changes and things we can do easily, but then there are some moments where it really is a rough ride, and the role of a, you know, Executive Diversity Officer or Chief Diversity Officer, or in my case, College Director of Diversity Equity Inclusion. 

We are the ones that kind of know what level of situation that we’re encountering, and we are the ones that have got the tools. We’ve got the experience and we can guide right, everyone in our raft through those challenging times and not lose anybody in the process, which is probably the ultimate goal. And when we get through that, you know, on the other side, everyone looks back and say, wow, we all feel really good about this.

And we’re in a better place. So, I hope that analogy works. Right now, there’s such a high need for organizations to be evaluating their practices, their policies, their habits, their culture, and those are tough conversations and it takes some courage and it takes some resources. There are experts in this field. So, I get to be the person who brings all of those resources to table, and know what product were going to make, you know, at what point in time and in the role that I need everyone around me to play so that we can move ourselves forward.

Jenny: Wow. Wow Danya. I was reading up on your bio before we started down this path of this conversation. And it looks like you have two full-time jobs, essentially. Tell us a little bit about the work that you’re doing and how they may perhaps interact with each other.

Danya:  Yeah. Well, I, this work it it’s one of those one long continuous beautiful struggles.

You know, I think there’s a lot of intersectionality with the work around equitable economic development, which, actually started with a conversation prior to me coming to the Raleigh Chamber, wake county Economic Development.

It was a conversation of our community’s growth and recognizing that some of our communities weren’t growing at the same clip as other parts of the community. And we recognize that, full participation, full, inclusive prosperity, truly creates a better opportunity to deal with the issues with local, regarding our most marginalized communities.

So, the work started out in 2018, looking at how do we support responsible growth and that’s every part of our economic ecosystem. Now when you think about economic mobility and upward mobility. There’s a sort of a landmark study. I like to say back in 2016, Dr. Raj Chetty out of Harvard ultimately asserts that our zip code can actually predefine our success.

And so, we, now in our community are trying to dissect those elements, right. Those elements of why is that so predictive? So, in recognizing that a big part of the economic ecosystem is how do we support our existing industries? How do we support them within their own, strategy around diversity, equity and inclusivity that support diverse workforces, looks at representation in these communities also connects with their core corporate social responsibility? 

So, it was all of those different elements. And so, my work really splintered, and one is looking at practices and policies of economic development while the other, the role as director of diversity, equity and inclusivity with the Raleigh Chamber is how do we support our existing industries in that space?

So, to that work, we actually launched the, in 2019, the triangle DEI Alliance, which gave us an opportunity to coalesce under the vision to accelerate DEI within the triangle, within our community. So, it’s really cool work because it’s new work, and at the same time, there’s a lot of good energy around it.

Jenny: And I would imagine just the growth of this area right now, right? This entire market, we’re just growing substantially. My question, I guess, would be how are you getting in front of these different industries and making sure that they understand you’re there to help support them as they enter our market and enter this area?

Danya: That’s a really good question, because I think it’s twofold. I always look at change as a science, as an implementation science. And my goal is about really connecting with those early adopters. those companies that are in that space that are excited about it. They may not know what they don’t know, they want to grow.

They want to evolve. Once you get that. And I like to call it that crazy dancing person in the field who was just dancing at this you know, at a concert and they’re dancing by themselves, and how much can they then attract all this energy. And then all of a sudden you have 20 people and all of a sudden you have 50 people.

And then next thing you know, you have 400 people dancing crazy together. So, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to get everybody to dance crazy together. And, you know, we’re slowly being able to do that.  There’s a lot of folks that are in this space that are paralyzed in just analyzing the problem, and what we try to do is create awareness through our programming, which is our DEI conference, our courageous conversations. We’re trying to build the fluency of our community to be comfortable talking about it and to recognizing that being uncomfortable isn’t being unsafe. 

And so, for us is how do we keep pushing those narratives of okay, you’re going to mess up, you know, we’re going to fail, we’re going to fall. But as my football coach would say all the time, you know, listen, if you get tackled just fall forward, okay. Just fall forward you, that means if you’re going to get tackled, but at least you will be one inch closer to the goal line.

Jenny: I love the analogy, just full of analogies today. I want to dig a little bit deeper into that too, but before I do that, I want to ask Tayah a couple of questions. One, Tayah your role now, I assume you’re getting the opportunity to work across Poole College with many different types of stakeholders.

What are some of the things you’re hearing in terms of what we should be doing in the college to help grow the conversation of DEI, in our classrooms and most particularly, how’s it important to embed it in our curriculum?

Tayah: Those are two really big questions. So, I’m going to try and do my best to kind of unpack them a little bit at a time. If I can say my general observations, Jenny, is that first of all, I have found Poole College as a community and as a collective in a space of ready to learn, and ready to see what we need to do differently.

And I’m also hearing a lot of people say, you know, and I think this is also builds on what Danya just shared, they’re not entirely sure what they don’t know, right. And so, what I am hearing is a real strong call for some good learning and development. And kind of going back to understanding that we’re all approaching some of these conversations from an interpersonal place based on our frame of reference.

So, some of us did get introduced to a little bit of these conversations in our own college experiences, but depending on like how long ago that was or where that was, what kind of college it was, some of those conversations could have been incomplete. They could have been, you know, maybe they were great for their time, but our knowledge and our theory has evolved, you know, over 30 years to improve on the practices and to learn you know, new practices and new behaviors.

 And then if I can just be honest, some of our experience with these conversations in the past has just down right been toxic, and so I’m hearing everyone ready and eager to re-engage. That’s the word that I’m using in Poole College right now is we’re going to re-engage in some learning and development, and we’re going to start with some awareness building.

What I’m hearing from our faculty when it comes to what they want to be able to do in the classroom is they want to be more aware of the microaggressions that are popping up that are keeping our students of color from feeling welcome and safe in those classrooms. And there’s a lot to learn just in that one space.

But if I can help them, first of all, become more aware and see those moments as they pop up, then the next step is to help us understand what’s going on in those dynamics, and understand kind of the background and the more depth of those comments or why that might be happening.

And when we understand something, then we can actually begin to fix it. So, we’re going to go through a process of learning and development over here in Poole where we’re going to begin to see things that we’re not seeing right now, and we’re going to be able to name them. Once we name something and we can understand what it is, then we can actually change our behaviors.

And I think as we increase that level of confidence that we can, you know, have a different conversation in the classroom. I will then begin to see more faculty wanting to add different modules to their classes. There’ll be more confident to add different learning objectives for our, you know, 300 and 400 level courses and all of that will circle around to impact our total student experience.

We will begin to produce business leaders who have seen that behavior role modeled in a positive way. They have been exposed to what some of these challenges are. They have heard some people talk about ways to, to move through it. And that’s going to make our future graduates and our alumni really effective in the multicultural and pluralistic work space that they’re entering. 

Danya: I have to say that right there, that is it. What we’re seeing within our business community now is we are having to start at using the university levels. We’re looking at 101, you know, and even a pre-101 class. You know, maybe one of the courses that I used to take when I was at NC state to get me ready to take math 101, you know, calculus 101. So, you know, it will be so amazing to have these young leaders already at that space, and they’re now ready to then take us to the next level. And we’re seeing our Gen Z folks that are already demanding change.

They’re demanding our community to look different. They are ultimately saying we want our companies to be responsible to the community. We want our companies to use their platform for change. you know, I just have to give, you know, Tayah what you’re doing, just so many props, because that is the foundation.

That’s the only way that we can evolve. You know, Isaac Newton said we stand, if I see further, it’s because I stand on the shoulders of giants and you know, all we are doing is preparing our shoulders for folks to stand on those and they can look farther too. So anyway, just wanted to give that quick shout out.

Tayah: I appreciate that, Danya. And, you know, sometimes I sit back and I have some other amazing people that I’m working with in Poole College. Beth Shepherd who was recently named the Director of Instructional Design, she is a master at understanding how adults learn. And we are teaming up also with our new operations specialist, and someone who’s leading us in our organizational excellence, Maggie Mary, we have seen that if we continue to put a platform of Poole professional development that has the same structure that you just recognized, Danya, like there’s 100 there’s introductory knowledge that we all need to get exposed to. And then once we have that foundation, then we can go on to write, understanding more about the depth of that.

Then we can begin to see elementary application of that knowledge and advance. You know, it’s kind of funny. We’re a higher education institution. We figured out how to teach people a ways back. So, using those same methods and using the adult learning process, meeting our faculty and our staff where they’re at, and that’s a critical component to adult learning.

So, this, this is a fun, full circle for me, personally, to have gone that’s, to bring the conversation back kind of Jenny, to your opening question, because I’ve been doing this in the undergraduate space, I’ve been creating learning opportunities for all of our undergraduate students to begin to understand again, that foundational level. When I first joined pool and we modified the course that every single new student takes and we call it our M 100.

We renamed it to Personal Professional Identity Development, and we just start with the basic. Every single one of our students are going to learn how to understand themselves and then recognize by the end of that one semester course that the students that they’re sitting around are infinitely complex and layered and different just because they might look like another student that there’s more than what we appear.

 And that was the foundation. As our faculty kind of comes up to speed with me and we begin to introduce more concepts in 200 level and 300 level we’re going to see a culture shift here in Poole, and I’m really thrilled about it. 

Jenny: Next question really is for the both of you, and we’ve asked this on many of our guests on the show so far in various different topics, but I’d be interested to hear the opinion of the, both of you and Danya, from your perspective, engaging with industries and the community, and Tayah, certainly being embedded within the college.

What are the skills that our students need to have to be successful moving forward? What are those future skills? What are the skills for the jobs that we don’t even know exist yet? And how can they be impactful? And these organizations to continue to have these conversations and continue to impact change.

Tayah:  I think maybe what I just described right is a process of critical self-awareness, and what I have experienced in 15 years of being in higher education, particularly in business schools of higher education, that attribute that’s, we used to call them soft skills, come to find out it’s like THE skill. Critical self-awareness is the root of great management, great leadership, great teamwork. And it’s holds the same, holds true also for understanding how to navigate, you know, diversity in the workplace, how to overcome prejudice, how to reduce bias, all of that really boils down to critical self-awareness. So, I’m going to pause. I’ll let down yet, add another one out there and then we’ll keep going. 

Danya: No, I just want to add on to that. Amen. And pass the offering. I mean, it’s, for me, it’s like this. we did a, we being the chamber in wake county economic development, which is a division of the Raleigh Chamber, we’ve been doing these talent and skills analysis, surveying over four or 500 businesses asking about their future talent and what do they need, or where do they see the largest gaps?

And the number one thing is critical thinking, under the umbrella of those social skills. And so, I’m excited about being a part of any conversation that would leverage getting young people workplace immersion, but specifically opportunities to critically think through processes, how to work across difference.

I sit on a board of an organization called District C, and their goal literally is pulling together, diverse groups of young people to identify a real-world problem, and they worked through that problem to come up with a solution. And they solicit companies to give them real work, like real problems that they want solved. And then they bring all of these differentiated ideas together and they have to come up and pitch that, that product. Now, the idea isn’t the goal, you know, the final goal, it really is them being able to work all of their differences to get to that place of actually being able to present a pitch.

So, I’m right there with you, Tayah. That to me, is it really resonates from that one element. Everything else, and I’ve learned this, you know, as I’ve gotten older, that some of the things within any of the work that I’ve done has been an experiential, or I can learn on the job or if I have a great mentor, but if I don’t have a foundation of that, can think through and be able to even self-motivate and think about how I can engage others. Then it’s going to be really tough, you know, for me to be able to really move and having the type of impact that I like to have 

Tayah: Can I build on that? 

Danya: Of course. 

Tayah: what you just said, being able to engage others takes me to what I believe the second most valuable skill, that has always been seen as a soft skill, but turns out to be essential and that’s active listening.  For us to really be able to understand the mindset of someone else to understand the value that they bring, the strengths that we could potentially work together on, their concerns that we could easily alleviate, we have to be able to listen. And slowing down the pace of our lives right now is such a huge challenge to just pause and listen to each other. We’re trying to cram so much into our classes. I turn this back to curriculum, right, and teaching. So much jam packed in the class is really that we’ve, we’ve got to a spot where the best way to deliver that information is just one speaker, right, delivering that content. And while students are listening for that information, they’re not developing the active listening ability to ask for clarification and, and ask for, you know, more insight. And it’s something that we try really hard to develop in our students in a co-curricular space. 

So, when we can bring down the engagement size of different programs, right, and then we can create, you know, small learning experiences. Leveraging companies, you know, coming in and talking about their different topics. But, it’s so easy for our students to slip back into like a consumption mode, and what we need to be helping them do is increasing their skill level in that that listening mode and asking for clarification, asking for understanding. Asking, you know, to build empathy and build rapport. So, I’ll, I’m going to throw that out there, Danya, what do you think?

Danya: I love it. I’ve seen and been a part of spaces now that we try to open up for companies just to have that chance to go into sort of this constructivist, you know, listening protocol of where you just listen to your, your colleagues, you just spend time, I mean, unlike unfiltered, don’t break in don’t interrupt, just practicing listening for two minutes straight. And most people, who are actually the ones talking don’t feel like they can fill that space up into minutes, but we’re getting folks from moving from the cognitive to the metacognitive where you’re actually getting to that space where you really getting a chance to go deep, which sometimes we just don’t get it.

We don’t get an opportunity to really go deep because we’re in output mode. We’re all continuously wanting to move to the next step. So, when you give people space to be able to talk and then have the person listen uninterrupted, then you can start to see some real growth around changing, you know, whatever the issue is, whatever you’re going to attack.

And so, what we’ve been doing, you know, within our spaces of our Triangle DEI Alliance is opening that up. Giving spaces for our CEO’s to be in a small group session by themselves to actually bounce ideas off of each other. And we’ll just give prompts and they’ll work on that. And it’s crazy to think okay, we’re asking CEOs to sit, be quiet and work on a prompt. Like, you know, they are managing, you know, multi-million-dollar, billion-dollar companies, but to have that space to ideate, especially around something as new in their own journey around DEI is critical.

So, we hope that, you know, again, Tayah to your point to get this as a foundation of our young leaders will really help accelerate the work once they become, you know, more senior and seasoned leaders in the workforce.

Jenny: I want to pivot for a second and talk a little bit about, we don’t want to sound tone deaf literally today in the sense of what’s been occurring in the last 12 months for all of us, right, with the pandemic. Danya, I’d be curious to know, in your opinion, and I’ve heard this several times in the last couple of months, that this time that we’ve had is a country has given a lot of organizations and industries, companies, an opportunity to pause and reflect and really think about what their values are, and what is most important to them. 

How do you see the conversation of DEI continuing to move forward with embeddedness of values within organizations? Do you see that something has been… I don’t say this to kind of be flippant about it, but it’s not just a trend. It’s something that we will continue to build and incorporate in everything that we do. Do you get the sense from the organizations that you’re talking to that we’ve turned that corner or do we still have a lot of work?

Danya: You know, it’s, it’s hard because I’ve been thinking, I think about change in sort of like what are the milestones, you know, for our change? Like what are some of the indicators that we have turned a corner? or is it just one long set of blocks? You know, that you’re just running down and there’s no corner to turn.

 I think some of the indicators for me, one, I noticed that our fluency is increasing. So that means I see people using terms like equity and understanding what it is, and they’re applying it in a right way. The fact that now equity is a part of the conversation of diversity and inclusion is a huge indicator to me that folks are starting to understand that, because even 15, 20 years ago, we were talking about minority sensitivity and it was really about how do you tolerate somebody different than you versus how do you build a bridge or remove a barrier to ensure to include them?

So, we’ve been able to see this, I like to look at it like the stock market, you know, we’re trending up, you know? We obviously have those bumps and those, those, those are those valleys that we dip, but we’re trending up, and so I’m an optimist. I think one of the, one of the things that we have to continue to do, and this is something that, you know, I hear Tayah always talking about.

When we talk about systems change, we can’t forget the people side of it. And how do we give people opportunities to be able to do self-assessments, to check their own bias, to become re-energized and not to think about the enormity of the problem to the point where they’re sort of like, well, what can I really do?

Because that’s when you start to get folks to pull off a little bit on how important this work is. I will say after, you know, I have my milestone before that, you know, we can mark it with the murder of Trayvon Martin, right? When black lives matters, like the hashtag and then the organization was created and, in our community, started refocusing in on the most marginalized black and brown folk.

And then the next milestone became, then I think something we’ve all experienced was the murder of George Floyd. And then the conversation to cover up of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. And then, you know, the conversation around Brianna Taylor and the murder of Brianna Taylor, you know, then that became like, okay, all right. Back when we were talking about, and, and really dissecting why Colin Kaepernick took a knee, like we would really, like, why is he taking a knee? And folks were sort of waking up to why is he taking a knee? To now, it’s like, oh, wow, I see why he took a knee. 

So going back to the crazy dancing, got to be the crazy dancing person. Again, now we have about 50 people dance, right? And so back in 2016, we may only have had 2. So, we’re moving where we’re getting more people to this momentum around changing where there’s an expectation. So, what I’m starting to see as another marker is within economic development shop, when we have companies that are looking at relocating or, looking at, you know, expanding into our market, they are asking questions about our diversity equity and inclusivity work.

They’re asking, that that is now a priority just like, how close are you to the highway? You know, I mean, they are, it is now part of the menu of what they see as a part of their corporate culture. So again, these are markers and milestones that we can see that encourages me, that this is going to be something that’s sustained and not just an add-on.

Jenny: That’s great. Along with that Tayah, I know you and I have had the opportunity to, you know, see some things that have happened over the last year within the college, everything from our book club conversations, to just having some really tough conversations that I think people, you always say it’s going to make you feel uncomfortable, you know, that’s great. It’s making people feel uncomfortable and stretch and change, but what do you feel has been kind of the biggest takeaway that we as a country and potentially just we as a college have learned about ourselves in the last 12 months?

Tayah: I think Danya brought this up and so I want to make sure that I echo it. It’s that we can’t name what we can’t see. We can’t understand what we can’t name. We can’t fix what we don’t understand, and what turned the corner this summer is a lot of people began to see. And so now what do we do with that awakening?  We need all hands-on deck. Every single person that has been dedicated to social justice work has been writing the theories in critical race theory, who’s been leading and our minority studies, queer studies, you know, all, all of the areas, all of our academics that have been writing and pushing all of those people need to now merge with both our corporate spaces and with actual practice. And because we’ve been having an academics, we’ve been having these conversations for a long, long time. 

Just this week, college of education was able to host Gloria Ladson-Billings, the writer of critical race theory who helped us understand how our institutions originally were set up, unfortunately with racialized lenses, and that is part of the system that we need to begin to evaluate. We need to be turning to all of those resources in a way. And, and I think we’ve also said a couple of times in this conversation, we need to go back to 101 where we’re going to need to go back to 101, because we’ve come a long way in 30 years, we’ve come a long way in 10 years and are all ready. That’s what I’m seeing, is that we’re ready to kind of go back to that material. Look at it one more time, because we’re looking at it with new eyes now. 

Jenny: So, I guess a compliment to that question would be, what do you anticipate being some of the greatest challenges moving forward?

Tayah: Remember my river guide scenario?

Jenny: I’m in the boat. I’m in the 

Tayah: Yeah, you are in my boat, literally, Jenny. You’re in my raft, here’s your oar. Around the bend, we have to make sure everyone stays moving in a similar direction. There is a lot of ways that all of this can kind of evolve. And when we get really, really excited and everybody really, really, really wants to join in and everybody really, really wants to start to doing, like one of the best things about Poole College of Management is the think and the do part. Right, it really is. Everyone is eager to jump in and start rowing. And so, keeping the vision and keeping the direction and saying, 

Okay. you know, if we row too hard at this point in time, we’re, we’re going to go, go right into that level five rapid everybody. I actually need us to like, right-side you just slow down for a minute. We’re going to veer over here, and we’re going to take the easy path, to a certain extent, to, to get us through a few of these times. And so that’s what I’m really working hard to do is to set the vision and to show everyone, you know, the direction that we can gently head. So, we don’t get all thrown from the boat. The really that’s what I’m trying to help avoid. 

Doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. No, I mean, I don’t mean to oversimplify this, because you’re right. We you have been trained as a culture to not talk about our past and to not talk about these pain points and not talk about the trauma. And that goes, that goes 360 degrees, every individual in our community.  And so, when we start to try and bring these things up, all of those emotions are going to come up. So, we need a lot of support in unpacking the emotions that are around this, cause it’s one thing to cognitively understand it. It’s something completely different to be able to unpack the feelings and the emotions that we’re all carrying around, like invisible baggage, 

Jenny: Oh, mine isn’t invisible. Mine’s there. I’m aware. I am self-aware of what my baggage is. 

Tayah: Put it down. Danya, what do you think? Am I being too, am I out there? Am I out there? Bring me back. 

Danya: not at all. There’s nothing to bring back. You know, as you were talking, I was just thinking about, you know, I am my father of this beautiful black baby boy, 15 years old. I keep calling him my baby, but he’s about 6’3″. And I have a nephew who’s 16, and I have the talk and within my community, when we talk about the talk, it is how do you, as a black male govern yourself in this community?

You know, having to pass down trauma that I experienced, that my father had experienced, my father’s fathers had experienced, and were talking about how do you navigate a world where that may be your skin is seen as a threat. And, you know, knowing that my son walks out of this house every single day and I have to think about, you know, am I sending them out in a better world than yesterday? Or, is there a possible, in that trending up that this is going to be one of those dip days? Again, this is one of those things where I have to stay optimistic, because conversations like this, I know we were not talking about these things 10 years ago in a way that was as open as it is now.

They were in different settings, they were in in corners of barbershops and all across the dinner table and halls of academia, which tends to be the lead, the forefront in this sort of evolving and moving. But I just hope that it really trickles down to, you know, a place where we can have honest conversations about other people’s lived experiences.

So, when I talk about my experience, this is not, it’s not a place to defend why that experience isn’t valid and that does not get us any closer to living in a community that we truly see. So, I think honestly, the biggest challenge is, just us as humans, taking the time to self-reflect. I’ll call it grits, Get Right into Their Shoes.

 You know, just

Jenny: I’m writing that down by the way, grits.

Danya: Get some grits. Get right into their shoes and let that be your starting place. Try to figure it out a time and opportunity to informally socialize with somebody who has a different lived experience. Go have a drink, go have lunch with somebody that has a different lived experience, go to that sacred place, you know, go worship with them.

Just go somewhere different, learn something different, ask questions and be inquisitive. Now don’t put your, you know, challenges on them, right? You don’t want to put your no you’re in in this authentic mode of just learning and growing. there’s now this conversation, especially after the passage of, the conversation around The Crown Act, that which supports specifically women of color, being able to wear they’re here in spaces and not feel you know, devalued.

And you know, a lot of women of color talk about that feeling of people being interested in their hair. Ooh, let me touch it. Don’t do that. That’s not the authentic, authenticity that we want, right? We want you to feel comfortable in asking questions, talking, sharing, learning, but do it in a way in which you’re building a relationship with somebody before you meet them.

Jenny: It sounds to me investing too, right. Investing in the conversation, investing in the relationships. I think that’s a big part of it too. Two questions remain this next one specifically Tayah and then Danya, I’d love to hear your, kind of things that are happening in your world, but Tayah you’ve built this, well group effort, right? This beautiful center in Nelson Hall, and you have, I imagine, a very ambitious agenda of the things that you want to do, but give us just a sneak peek at what your 12-to-18-month plans look like for Poole.

Tayah: Well, I appreciate you giving me the platform, Jenny, to open up my brain and kind of share what’s in it. And I’m actually going to tell you this may come as a surprise. I don’t have an ambitious agenda. I would like to see us move this year, you mentioned our reading groups, right? So, I piloted and experimented with some ways that I can engage the adult learners of our building, right, our faculty and our staff. Experimented with some ways to bring them to a learning space. So, in my little pilot studies, right, and these little beta testings that we’ve been done, and I’ve tried different styles and different topics. We have seen about 60% of Poole come to some kind of learning opportunity. And so that’s a really big deal. That that’s an incredible accomplishment just by itself, and that was just kind of, you know, experimenting with some ideas.

So, what I’d like to put in front of everyone in Poole this next year, and the next 12 months is a roadmap where they can kind of see, okay. I’m going to start with some more awareness building, these are the types of things that I might go do. And some of them, you know, it would be hosted here in Poole, but many of them are going to be hosted around in the numerous resources that we have at NC State, or they might be resources that are in the triangle area. And if I can move that 60% to 90%, which might sound like a big move, but really the energy and the enthusiasm of the 60% that already tried something this year, all they need to do is mention it a couple of times in their staff meetings, a couple of times to their colleagues in their offices, mention it a couple of times in their social media, and I believe we’re going to have to Danya as in his analogy, we can get more people on the dancefloor. 

Jenny: The dancers, yes. 

Tayah: we will have Those dancers. So, where my vision is ambitious is really helping everyone kind of see the 100s in the 200s and 300, 400 right, the levels that I’d like for them to work through. But if I can get everyone just to do, like I said, if I can get 90% of everyone doing one awareness activity next year, that’s going to be a big deal. That’s going to be really big. 

I also know that in the college, our Associate Dean for Curriculum and Academics, did ask our curriculum committees to look at our coursework. And I think I saw a lot of deer in headlights looks from some of our committees when they first read what the committee charge was. And I would like to say that it’s a fair response. That is fair. So, I’m circling back to those committee members and I’m asking, what do you feel like you maybe need to be able to execute on this request to evaluate curriculum and make some adjustments and add some modules and add some new concepts and vocabulary.

So, if I can help our college see a scaffolded structure, like let’s have some concepts introduced early, let’s have the analysis of some of those concepts in the middle of the student experience, and let’s have a few activities and deliverables of what students are learning through that process towards the latter end.

That would be a great vision to be able to paint for everyone. All I want to be able to do next year is paint the vision. And then in the next couple of years, as my faculty awareness and learning and development increases and their confidence grows, then I’ll begin to see, you know, two or three people coming back and saying, okay, I really would like to add this element to my class and what would we need to do to do this well so that the experience is successful, so that we’re reaching some learning outcomes. 

And what I love to see, I mean, at I end up next year, I have two examples of that? That would be great, that really would.  So that’s where I do believe that we’re going. Meanwhile, you know, we’re going to be able to be back in person come fall semester and what most people were used to engaging me in Poole College around were our heritage month celebrations, because that is an easy way, right, that is assessable for two goals to be reached. One, we get to center and validate one of our subcultures in Poole that way, right, and that’s why NC state as a campus has, you know, wonderful programming around Latin-x heritage month, Native American heritage month, Black history month, women’s history month, right. Apida heritage month, all of those things. 

Well, when we get back, Jenny, we’re going to throw some really big parties. We’ve had some amazing, there’s going to be so much dancing. There’s going to be so much salient culture to explore and to get used to engaging with in those moments.  We’ve been super fortunate to have a couple of alumni and some private donors step up who want to supercharge my efforts in this way.

So, we’re going to have fun community activities as well. And I think it was, it will be very timely, right? Everyone’s going to be eager to be reconnecting, and if I’m doing my job well, then those events are going to be really layered. There’s going to be messages to be learned, there is going to new knowledge to be learned, and lots of validation for our communities in those process. So that’s, that’s what the next 12 months are going to have from me.

Jenny: I can’t wait. And Danya I’ll, I’ll give you a tee up here, right? Rumor has it that you and Tayah partner together on a conference. So, I’d love to hear a little bit about that that’s coming up. But also, what is your next 12 to 18 months look like? You’re a busy guy anyway, but what do you, what do you have coming up?

Danya: Well, we are, and this is actually our fourth annual Diversity Equity and Inclusivity Conference, is scheduled for August the 25th and the 26th. And our last conference attracted over 900 people.  Taya has been an amazing thought partner with us along with so many other companies. We have an amazing task force that really helps us drive this conversation that is new in the chamber world, but it’s also something where I feel like it’s being a really amazing launching point for an agenda. So, we look at our conferences as being bookends, but the real work happens in between the conferences.

So, it is an opportunity for us to celebrate, to talk about what’s the next era, you know, what’s the next conversation. And for me, at least the next, I would say the next year or two, really, we’ll be focusing in, on getting deeper into our work around dismantling systemic racism. That is absolutely new for our chamber to be the convener of a conversation, to look at disparities in education, health, criminal justice, and economic mobility as you meet. But we recognize the influence that the business community can have in these spaces. So, we’ve actually launched an initiative and awareness campaign called A Better Wake. You can go to abetterwake.com and it has amazing resources. It has a lot of great opportunities, to the action plan and action guide and a toolkit to help build your fluency. 

But in the same place at all, we are also asking for companies and community members to sign up for this pledge, this commitment, so that we can show our collective community that we value this, that we value the experiences of black and brown people, want to make sure that we also recognize the pain that our brothers and sisters within our Asian American Pacific Islander community is going through. And so, this work not only is about, you know, inspiring people and empowering people to want to change. It’s about educating folks and then looking at the systems that need to be adjusted, need to be dismantled, need to be rebuilt. Looking at the policies, the programs and the practices, and really doing a deep dive.

 We had an amazing conversation operationalizing, what the history of systemic racism is, and after that conversation within our business community, the feedback that we were receiving was really of a benign, like I did not know. You know, we do definitely have folks that are trying to distract us from the conversation of systemic racism saying that it’s not real, but the majority of people within our business community, they’re saying like, okay, well, I did not realize I was building on top of this, right. So, I need to get to the root. I need to understand the inner workings of what I’m building on, try to correct that, and then we can accelerate our growth. 

So that to me is really exciting. We’re working with RTI, amazing support from the county, Wake County, city of Raleigh, Duke Energy has been an amazing ally and supporter in this, in this work. This study is going to provide us blueprints and recommendations for a 10-year strategy. And then we’re going to put together an outward facing community facing dashboard that looks at those four areas, and what are some of the needles that we want to move, to be able to, again, show the progress that we’re having in eliminating those disparities.

Tayah: Do you see why I like to hang out Danya now? 

Jenny: Other than he’s a great dancer. 

Tayah: Yes, yes. I mean, how exciting is that for NC State’s Poole College of Management to be right standing side by side with a leader like Danya. That, they all, I know you you’ve got vision and you’re inspiring, and Danya you’re taking on the hardest challenges, but the way you talk about it just makes it sound like it’s going to be so easy. And I just, I think we were trying to figure out how we met originally. I’m sure it was at some common event, right? 

Danya: I figured it out. So, this was part of, and we actually alluded to, and this is where, where it’s, it sparked my brain. So, we were talking about listening, and I thought about, and I said, you know, when I first started the job, I was on a listening tour. And so, in my listening tour, it was about connecting with people I’ve heard, you know, you go meet this person and they say, oh, you got to go meet these people. And then those people say, you need to meet these people. And so that’s how I, I got Tayah’s address email. I emailed her, said, hey, let’s meet up. And I think we went over and ate off of Hillsborough Street. Was it David dumplings?

Tayah: Probably.

Danya: I think. Yeah, yeah. And that’s where we first met. It was a wrap. I was, I was going to follow Tayah to the ends of the earth. You hear me, till the ends of the earth. And, you know, being able to be so connected to, you know, my Alma mater right, class in 98. And so, you know, I’ve been telling Tayah like, you cannot leave NC State.

You can’t, there’s no, NC State has to do everything in its power to keep Tayah’s thought leadership here, because I truly believe that the university is going to be an anchor and a lot of this work. And honestly, if we were talking about recruiting talent, I mean, we are, we are building the talent right here in this university.

We are building that talent and it would be amazing to magnetize them once they graduate to keep them here, and then we can build upon all the wonderful stuff that Poole college is doing with the young folks. So, I love it.

Jenny: Well, I have to say I agree. The positive enthusiasm is rather contagious, but the both of you are doing such good work and, and you’re right, Danya, having an environment like NC State is amazing, but also living in a community that is supporting the work that NC State is doing is powerful too. So, kudos for leading that. 

Thank you both so much for spending some time today. I feel like we probably could talk for hours. We could go a lot down, a lot of paths. So, I’m going to go ahead and tentatively book you on my season two podcast. We have to think of a different topic, but you guys have to definitely come back. And I hope people will, we’ll mention this in a little bit, more information about abetterwake.com, and certainly I assume the conferences open to the public, so if people want to attend, they can so definitely encourage people to do that. So, thank you both for coming today.

Danya: Thank you, Jenny. Appreciate you facilitating.

Jenny: Yeah. 

Tayah: Thank you, Jenny for giving us a platform. It really makes a big difference. Representation matters.

Full Episode Transcript

The Poole Podcast is hosted by Jenny Hammond, and is a production of Earfluence.

Amplify Your Expertise
About the Author
At Earfluence, we are proud to produce this podcast. We believe in sharing amazing stories, providing knowledge to the world, and celebrating diverse voices. Through podcasting, our clients are amplifying their expertise, expanding their networks, building a content engine, and growing their influence. If you're interested in podcasting, we'd love to hear from you! Schedule your free 15 minute podcast consult today.