Diversity and Inclusion Progress

Diversity and Inclusion Progress


Elisha Hodge, Judy Shepard, Cynthia Deitle, and Tomi Rogers
Diversity and Inclusion Panelists:
- Clarence Vaughn III, Executive Director, Police Advisory & Review Committee, City of Knoxville
- Jennifer Richter, Associate Vice Chancellor and Director, Office of Equity and Diversity, The University of Tennessee
- Brenda Wynn, County Clerk, Davidson County
- Chief David Rausch, Chief of Police, City of Knoxville
- Judy Shepard, President, Matthew Shepard Foundation
MTAS Legal Consultant Elisha Hodge and IPS Vice President Dr. Herb Byrd III welcome Holocaust escapees Dr. Henry Fribourg and his wife Claudia to IPS. Dr. Fribourg spoke to a group of IPS employees about his family's escape from Algeria.
The Violins of Hope exhibit at the Downtown Nashville Public Library features a number of violins that were played by Jews who were imprisoned in concentration and death camps during the Holocaust. The violins tell the story of unwavering HOPE, during a time of horrific tragedy.
A photograph of some of the violins on display as part of the Violins of Hope exhibit. These instruments, some of which have been restored, were played by Jews in the concentration and death camps during the Holocaust
Mrs. Frances Cutler Hahn speaks with IPS employees about her experience as a child survivor of the Holocaust, as part of an IPS diversity and inclusion event
IPS employees and Mrs. Frances Cutler Hahn touring the Violins of Hope exhibit at the Downtown Nashville Public Library

Why Emphasize Diversity and Inclusion in IPS?
The question does often come up about why a diversity team and a diversity program are necessary in IPS, and the need to spend time emphasizing and recognizing diversity, inclusion and bias in our teams and in our work.

  • Diversity today is a complex issue. While this country has yet to address many of the gender, race, age, sexual, religious or cultural issues that divide us, as a team we recognize that in IPS there are no clear heroes, victims or villains. Our assumption instead is that the bias and prejudice, that we all share, are unintentional. The focus for the diversity program is therefore to create discussions on issues that may be sensitive to anyone that we work with or for, and to thereby limit the poor treatment, inefficiencies and hard feeling that hurt our colleagues and our work together.  Indeed, we want to attract diversity of thought and other invisible characteristics that enrich our discussions, work and efforts.
  • We celebrate and encourage diversity, and support the differences (and culinary advantages) that people bring to our work. As a team we focus on the obvious, that diversity and inclusion improve relationships and maximize the effectiveness of our services and decisions. Relationships can be and often are uncomfortable, but we believe that every positive discussion on differences and similarities helps to build better relationships.
  • Better relationships also help us to live and to work together with dignity and with limited conflict. We often can’t know the impact of a casual comment, compliment or remark, or how these are received by the intended recipient.  Diversity training is intended to help each of us to better understand the context for the actions and thoughts of each other.  At the end of the day, as so many people say, we also like to go home knowing that we are valued, that we make a difference, and that, within the confines of good manners and sense, that the people that we work with like us.  We all have a lifetime of growing in front of us, and training and exposure to diverse people and opinions can be transformative.  That’s a tall order, but that is the heart of our need for better relationships.

The business case for diversity is that our services and work improve and are more effective with diversity. Every single person brings a unique background of experiences, education and outlooks to work every single day. The challenge is to create a work environment in which each member feels inclined and able to share their comments without fear of rejection or criticism, knowing that their input is important to the work that we do and the relationships that we share. Working in IPS has to be a team sport, and welcoming and engaging diverse members of our team is critical to our team success and to creating the collegial working relationships that we want and foster.