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Preparing tomorrow’s leaders for a changing world

Rick Anicetti
Greenville, N.C.   (Apr. 15, 2011)   —   Making sure East Carolina University graduates are prepared to compete in the changing cross-cultural world was the focus of a town hall meeting on April 13 in Hendrix Theatre.

Sponsored by the Office of Equity, Diversity and Community Relations, the event featured keynote speaker, Rick Anicetti, former CEO of Delhaize America (Food Lion), who said he was speaking “not from a position of being an expert (on diversity) but from the exposure that I’ve had from other organizations.”

The focus for the town hall meeting was “Why Cultural Competence is an Imperative for 21st-century Graduates.”

Cultural competence is an understanding and acceptance of the beliefs, values, and ethics of others as well as the skills necessary to work with and serve diverse individuals or groups.

Dr. Taffye Benson Clayton, associate provost for Equity, Diversity and Community Relations, pointed out that ECU has made great strides in recent years toward being a more diverse campus. “(Our office) has worked hard with administrators, faculty and staff, and senior leadership to fully integrate diversity and cultural competency into the fabric of this organization.

“That effort is now evident by a mission, institutional strategic priorities, and additional college and library goals for the diversity program. And these elements will systematically assessed…. So as we continue our initiative on the diversity front, it affords our institution the opportunity to establish itself as a forerunner in the realm of cultural competence thought leadership and skill development,” she said.

Anicetti stressed the changing face of America – minority populations will be the majority by 2042, if not before – and the need for educational institutions and corporations to work in that ever-changing dynamic.

As of August 2008, minorities were roughly one third of the U.S. population and are expected to become the majority by 2042, according to the U.S. Census 2010 website. The nation's population of children is expected to be 62 percent minority by 2050, which is up from 44 percent today.

“There are already five to six states where the minority school population is already the majority. This is a significant trend that we can’t overlook. From my perspective as a retailer that means my consumer profile is going to change dramatically,” he said.

Consumers want to see people in stores who look like them. The changing face of the population will appear much sooner at educational institutions, Anicetti added.

“My experience has been for too long organizations have often structured themselves and looked through prism or lens of profitability,” he said. “I would suggest that there’s another way: To look through the lens of diversity and inclusion.

“By looking through this lens, you have integrated diversity and inclusion into the entire fabric of the organization…. Another thing I would suggest that if you do this, then profit will follow,” Anicetti said.

Another important component for students to have is cultural intelligence, which is the ability to extend one’s self across different cultures and provide people with exposure to other cultures.

“What you are doing in your global learning center has people exposed to what’s happening in countries like Iraq and being able to speak to students in Iraq is absolutely amazing. And it’s this kind of experience and exposure that is critical to this kind of work,” he said.

Anicetti concluded by saying that future leaders must have the skills to be able to lead while looking through the lens of diversity “in what will be a much different world than people my age grew up in.”

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Contact: Jeannine M. Hutson | 252-328-6481