As I traveled the state of Louisiana during my initial months as chancellor of the LSU AgCenter, I often encountered many talented and dedicated employees on all levels of the organization. It occured to me at a meeting one day that everyone in attendance looked like me. Everyone was male, white, slightly balding, waging a war against vertical challenges (weight issues).
A week before I met a wonderful, African American employee who asked me if she did everything needed educationally, completed all her work tasks, and showed initiative and leadership abilities, could she truly be considered for management/administration. Of course as an optimistic person and the leader of what I still consider to be one of the best institutions in the country, I answered with a hearty yes!!! After this meeting I realized the question was a valid one and continued to pay closer attention to the number of individuals who resembled me at meetings I attended. Everyone did.
Today, after seven years I am proud that we have not only hired people of color, but we have promoted the most qualified persons for supervisory and management positions who just so happened to be African Americans and Asians. The young person I referenced above is one of our most qualified managers.
While we've come a long way since that time, we know we have a long way to go. Respecting and understanding diversity are key elements in the LSU AgCenter's ability to serve all the people of Louisiana. That's why we began an earnest effort in 1998 to teach our faculty, staff and administrators more about diversity; we continue that effort today.
The quest for respecting diversity and establishing a multicultural organization is a journey with no end. We are committed to walking the journey and continuing our efforts to be a multicultural and multiracial organization that seeks to have leadership that deals comfortably with others different from ourselves.