Indiana’s workforce is fundamentally changing. In May, LUNA President Marina Hadjioannou Waters was a participant in the Elkhart School District’s Thought Leadership Conference as a keynote speaker and addressed this fact.
In her speech, Marina focused on her personal connection to diversity, its importance, and how public and private organizations can work to connect with Indiana’s increasingly diverse workforce.
The Thought Leadership Conference aimed to create an inclusive, connected culture of collaboration among businesses, non-profits, community, and education. Instead of taking a passive approach to changing demographics, the Elkhart community is taking a pro-active stance to engage leaders to dialogue about diversity and inclusion. This conference demonstrated an intentional, inclusive effort among leaders to build a connected community culture. Marina was there to speak about how making a personal connection to the diversity in one’s own life can open someone up in a way that fosters the dialogue necessary for a larger community to evolve.
“I grew up in an area in Los Angeles dense with immigrants in a multilingual home and Greek musicians were omnipresent.”
Marina spoke about the experience of being raised with one distinct culture inside her home and another outside her home. She asked the audience if there were times in their lives when they felt ashamed of who they were or tried to hide what set them and their family apart from others, no matter what the difference that they felt.
Making Connections Beyond Language
One of the biggest challenges facing schools and businesses is changing lingual landscape. A child might be fluent in English while a parent is not. Without proper assessment, a company might not grasp the fluency level of new employees. This puts these organizations at risk of not communicating important information across to their constituents.
In her speech, Marina explained that we are brought into this world with the innate and instinctual drive to bond with others long before we acquire language. She spoke about the intense connection we have with animals, the way we use gestures and body language to communicate, and how feelings such as love and anger are universal experiences. She challenged the audience to use images, music, and silence as a way to form relationships with people in their organizations and community who do not speak English.
“We are truly at a critical point in the history of Indiana. This is the perfect time to decide how far each of us can go individually to learn about new cultures coming into our communities and then be a force of change inside of our organizations to explain to others why diversity needs to be a priority.”
Marina was so grateful to be welcomed into Elkhart as a leader and applauds the conference organizers for embracing diversity as a tool to grow. Creating a platform for these kinds of conversations will foster a safe environment where individuals, irrespective of their cultural and lingual background inside their homes, can thrive out in the community.