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Working Diversity, Diversifying Work: The Work Universities Must Anticipate

Dr. Earl Lewis

Dr. Earl Lewis

Dr. Earl Lewis recently addressed students, faculty, staff, alumni and business leaders at the Thomas R. Williams Distinguished Lecture, a special edition of the IMPACT Speaker Series.

Throughout his lecture, Dr. Lewis referenced the growth of Diversity and Inclusion noting key landmark Supreme Court decisions and their impact as well as time to implementation.  He noted Diversity 1.0, Diversity 2.0 and Diversity 3.0, and commented on the turnover at universities -- at student level (annually 25% due to graduation) and staff level (below 10%).  He talked about the importance of the “common good” – who we are as a community and how we define our boundaries.  He noted that cognitively diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams for complex and innovative tasks – the variety of contributions and the experiences brought by a diverse group elevate the team outcome. 

Dr. Lewis noted that poet Lucille Clifton revealed in her work the powerful beauty of human imagination, and her degree from Howard University provided the opportunity to become a poet – but more importantly to capture American history.

He ended with the importance and the need to value diversity in order to make a difference, and posed the following question: “What role will colleges and Universities play as engines of innovation and guardians of the common good?”

Dr. Earl Lewis was the sixth President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, author and co-author of seven books as well as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of History and African American Studies at Emory University.  He recently announced he is starting the Center for Social Solutions at University of Michigan, a new center that will address three core areas of social concern: diversity and race, water, and the future of work.

About The Williams Distinguished lecture

The Williams Lecture is named in honor of Thomas R. Williams, a 1950 graduate of Georgia Tech.  Mr. Williams had an exceptional career in banking including roles at First National Bank of Atlanta and Wachovia and was an important civic leader serving as President of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Chairman of the United Negro College Fund.  This annual distinguished lecture brings noted national authors and consultants in the financial arena to campus for the benefit of students and the Atlanta business community.   

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