IBM Execs Lead Diversity Workshop Tonight

by Howard Hewitt

September 13, 2012

Diversity is important in a country made up of different cultures, religions, mindsets, and sexualities.  IBM Chief Strategist Rob Shook ’83 and IBM Senior Managing Consultant and US Army Reserve Captain Bill Kirst will visit campus next week to deliver a Chapel Talk and lead a workshop refining the concept of diversity for Wabash.

The  two men will lead a diversity workshop from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sept, 20 in Detchon International Hall.  The goal of the workshop will be to bring different members of the Wabash community together and have the group brainstorm ways on how to improve in regard to diversity at the College over the next five years.  Participation will span from current freshmen to alumni who have been gone for decades, which is a huge plus in the minds of Kirst and Shook.  “It [the topic of diversity] is relevant to campus because diversity makes everybody stronger,” Shook said.  “It is so much beyond tolerance; it is about welcoming and valuing and including and it is about how Wabash College can improve.  And I think we are all interested in improving.”

Shook was on campus this summer to speak to Business Immersion StudentsThe workshop itself will be very interactive in collecting ideas and building potential plans for the future. Kirst and Shook believe a four-stage life cycle exists to describe someone’s relationship with a college.  This cycle includes being a college recruit, and undergraduate student, and later on an alumnus of the college. 

“The diverse ideas, perspectives, concerns, and opportunities that come from all of those people given where they are at in the cycle create a really well rounded opportunity to have a platform to see the future vision of a college such as Wabash or another university,” Kirst said.

Kirst will hold a facilitated discussion entitled “From Don’t Ask Don’t Tell to Out & Proud: The Importance of Authenticity, Integrity & Presence,” at 7 p.m. Sept.19 in the Goodrich Room.  Kirst will focus not only on LGBT issues but also on the importance of diversity, authenticity and visibility in the workplace.  “I have had one foot of my life as a civilian working for a company like IBM which is at the forefront of these issues and really, really driving the importance of diversity in the workplace and around the world,” Kirst said.  “The other foot has been in the military world and I will talk about what challenges that presented and some lessons learned that came out of that really from the standpoint of how to manage those things that you don’t necessarily have control over and how you be true to yourself.”

The Chapel Talk Thursday will be entitled “Building your Toolkit: Practical Insights from the Military & Corporate Worlds."  The two will focus on building a good network as well as branding oneself well and having a plan for the future.  Generally Chapel Talks are delivered by one person, but Shook’s idea to bring Kirst will add another dynamic to the event.  “We are going to share some very practical lessons that both Bill and I have learned in our careers and in our lives,” Shook said.  “Bill offering the added perspective of being a Captain in the US Army Reserve and having been a captain in the military will bring a unique perspective on that as well.”

KirstChapel Talks are one of the College’s most longstanding traditions and Shook is excited to be able to be a part of a talk to current students.  “The opportunity to come back and be a part of the Wabash experience, to be on campus during my favorite season of the year [is great],” Shook said.  “To get to share some things that I learned while I was there but wasn’t necessarily taught while I was there, I hope will be important to the people who are in Chapel that day.  There probably isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my experience at Wabash or apply something I learned there.”

Over the past few years, Wabash has taken many steps to include gay, bisexual, and transgender alumni, but Shook and Captain Kirst believe it is an area where the College can always improve.  “I don’t know that anybody is ever perfect at this, but I have seen such tremendous outreach from people like my fraternity brother Greg Castanias to President White to Tom Runge and countless others on campus,” Shook said.  “I thought this was an opportunity to make sure that we as the body of Wabash College are doing everything to make sure that people from all constituencies are welcomed and valued in their interaction with our institution.”


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