Midlands leaders become Riley Fellows, present community action projects through Riley Institute at Furman

Former Coca-Cola executive Juan Johnson (right) facilitates DLI sessions.

Thirty-nine leaders from the Midlands and surrounding area have completed the Riley Institute at Furman’s Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI).

Over the past five months, participants examined sensitive issues related to diversity and inclusion, explored “blind spots” and discussed how to suspend assumptions. Each class is expertly facilitated by Juan Johnson, an independent consultant and former Coca-Cola vice president.

As part of the program, participants worked in small, cross-sector groups to respond to real issues and opportunities in their communities through service projects. (See details at https://furman.app.box.com/s/rkwcivxflerpvulncyocrnnie5orya88). The class created projects that focus on:

- Fostering civility in the face of diversity by providing youth the opportunity to experience and learn about diversity and inclusion through food;
- Presenting at the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce’s Business Week to teach students about the concepts of diversity, inclusion, and bias with a goal to inspire a new generation of leaders into prioritizing inclusivity and acknowledging inherent bias;
- Increasing education for parents and students about 529 college savings plans and developing resources to assist them which will give more students the opportunity to attend college;
- Providing an opportunity for students from different schools to expand their exposure to cultural diversities and norms using fellowship, food and activities as the means of interaction; and
- Enhancing mobility for children with disabilities by teaching robotics teams how to utilize their skills to serve the local community and encouraging them to develop mobility solutions through technology.

DLI class members are identified through a rigorous process including a nomination, application, and interview. Individuals are selected to join the class based on their capacity to impact their organizations and communities. In addition to the Midlands, DLI classes are selected annually in the Upstate and Lowcountry. Each class is crafted to reflect the diverse demographics in South Carolina.

“We watched remarkable relationships being formed among these leaders as they shared openly, learned courageously, and worked diligently to discover ways in which they could have a positive collective impact on more people in our state,” said Don Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute.

DLI graduates become Riley Fellows, members of a powerful, cross-sector, statewide leadership network that includes CEOs of corporations, mayors, city and county council members, legislators, school superintendents, pastors and rabbis, non-profit heads, chamber of commerce directors and community leaders. The full roster of Riley Fellows is available online at: https://riley.furman.edu/diversity/roster.

DLI participants examine sensitive issues related to diversity and inclusion, explore “blind spots” and discuss how to suspend assumptions.

The newest Riley Fellows in the Midlands are:

Mike Adams
Vice President, Business Development & Government Relations
Goodwill Industries of Upstate Midlands SC

Sean Baird
Senior Vice President and CFO
Snider Fleet Solutions

Betty Best
Director of Strategic Planning
Dominion Energy

Bridget Brown
SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center

Evelyn Coker
Executive Director
Blackville Community Development Corporation

Ferlecia Cuthbertson
Virtual Lab Coordinator
Lloyd Kennedy Charter School-Aiken Performing Arts Academy

Latoya Dixon
Director - Office of School Transformation
South Carolina Department of Education

Sherry East
The SCEA President/Teacher
The SCEA/Rock Hill Schools

Jermaine Easterwood
Department Manager
Michelin North America

Les Echols
Director of Community and Minority Enterprise
Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

Chuck Epps
Fort Mill School District
Fort Mill

Sara Fawcett
President and CEO
United Way of the Midlands

Jean Cecil Frick
Senior Strategic Advisor
NP Strategy

J.R. Green
Fairfield County Schools

Elizabeth Harris
Executive Director of Tribal Operations/Tribal Administrator
Catawba Indian Nation
Rock Hill

Scott Huffmon
Professor of Political Science and Executive Director of the Center for Public Opinion & Policy Research
Winthrop University
Rock Hill

Lindsay Joyner
Gallivan, White, & Boyd, P.A.

Beatrice King
Richland One School Board
Richland One

Frank Knapp, Jr.
President and CEO
South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce

Manny Licata
Vice President of Operations
BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina

Randy Mann
SP Development Partner
Michelin North America

Yvette McDaniel
Director of Choral Activities
Denmark Technical College

Dominik Mjartan
President and CEO
South Carolina Community Bank / Optus Bank

Georgia Mjartan
Executive Director
South Carolina First Steps

Anthony Padgett
President and CEO

Jon Pedersen
University of South Carolina College of Education

Bob Reeder
Program Director
Rural LISC

Lee Ann Rice
South Carolina Human Affairs Commission

Beth Burke Richardson
Robinson Gray Stepp and Laffitte, LLC

Tiffany Richardson
General Counsel and Director of Policy and Legal Services
South Carolina School Boards Association

Vicki Ringer
Director of Public Affairs
Planned Parenthood South Atlantic

Hope Rivers
Executive Vice President
South Carolina Technical College System

David Ross
Executive Director
South Carolina Bar

Ed Sanchez
Vice President
Palmetto GBA

Cindi Scoppe
Editorial Writer
The Post and Courier

Mary Sumter
City of Columbia Police Department

Della Watkins
Executive Director
Columbia Museum of Art

Carl White
Aiken County Schools

Stephanie Wildrick
Shop Manager
Michelin North America

About the Riley Institute at Furman University
The Riley Institute at Furman University broadens student and community perspectives about issues critical to South Carolina’s progress. It builds and engages present and future leaders, creates and shares data-supported information about the state’s core challenges, and links the leadership body to sustainable solutions. It is committed to nonpartisanship in all it does and to a rhetoric-free, facts-based approach to change. For more information, visit https://riley.furman.edu. Or contact the Furman News and Media Relations office at 864-294-3107.

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