The diversity experience: Panelists are models of achievement

Apr 14, 2017

PANTHER 2017 diversity forum
From left are panelists Erica McKinney, Kimberly Butler Willis, Ebony Jade Hilton Buchholz, Megan Rivers and Chris Powers. (Panther photo by Jordan Geddis)

Diversity is like all of the different foods and inclusion is accepting the different cultures from which they come, said Chris Powers, manager of recruitment and diversity education for the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Powers was a panelist for the April 10 Vice President's Forum on Inclusive Excellence at Claflin, an event emphasizing the university’s ability to incorporate diverse backgrounds, traditions, and experiences in realizing the goal of an inclusive college community.

Powers was joined on the panel by Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton Buchholz, author, community activist and the first African-American female anesthesiologist hired at MUSC; attorney Erica McKinney, judicial law clerk, for the U.S. District Court in South Carolina; Megan Rivers, multimedia journalist and ABC News 4 in Charleston, and Kimberly Butler Willis, director of the Roper St. Francis Ryan White Wellness Center.

The panelists were chosen because they represent diversity and leadership in their professions. They detailed their experiences with diversity issues, from grade school to college and beyond to their careers.

"My sister and myself were the only African-Americans at our elementary school," Powers said. The used to break-dance at school because it was something different and everyone loved it.

Rivers, a Claflin graduate, said appreciating diversity is very important because everyone comes from different areas of the country.

"It is important to remind people that you can come from these small towns and still accomplish what you want to accomplish," she said. "Diversity is really important so that we make sure that we tell multiple and diverse stories."

Buchholz said, "My main purpose in life is to reach out to people that have been left out like I felt I was."

Willis said her encounter with diversity issues came during her career, because she is one of a few African-Americans in her position.

McKinney encouraged students to be prepared for diversity in their careers after college.

"Make it your duty that no one works as hard as you," McKinney said.

Powers said diversity may be a little uncomfortable at first, but he advised students not to give up.

"What was once uncomfortable can begin to feel comfortable for you," Powers said. "It may not feel like home, but it won't feel as uncomfortable as it once did."



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