Podcast

In this episode of The Forum Podcast, Kirsten Davenport and Darius Norwood of Norwood & Co. explore the often-overlooked conversation about getting and retaining minority talent.

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Millennials have become the largest generation in America’s workforce. And, by 2030, they will hold more than 75% of the workforce. As everyone is in pursuit of talent, there is a different fight for minority talent. Darius and Kristen share actionable recommendations to not only obtain but keep your minority millennial talent and identify potential gaps within your organization.

Learning Outcomes
  • Learn how to recruit and retain diverse millennials
  • Delve into personal examples from a Fortune 500 Corporate Employee and Corporate turned Entrepreneur
  • Identify potential gaps within your organization and learn how to quickly fill them with actionable recommendations.

Want to hear more from Darius’ and Kirsten’s podcast All Things Career? Head to norwoodandco.com for more information.

Connect with Darius and Kirsten:

Podcast episode audio sample, “Joan Kuhl explains Why Millennials Matter.”

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Transcript

The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.

Speaker 1: [00:00:00] The Forum on Workplace Inclusion’s 2021 podcast series is sponsored by Best Buy. More diversity in tech means more ideas that can change the world. Learn more at bestbuy.com/moreofthis. The next installment of our popular diversity insights presentations is Wednesday, February 3rd, titled; Removing the Red & Blue Divide: What It Means for Corporate America and Belonging, brings DEI practitioners and thought leaders from across America on both sides of the political aisle to discuss how we can now, amidst divisiveness, double down and equip leaders on how to bridge the divide. For more information and to register, visit forumworkplaceinclusion.org.

It’s happening, The Forum’s 33rd Annual Conference “Workplace Revolution” is March 8th through 12th, 2021. A Forum Conference like never before, the 33rd Annual Conference will be completely virtual with the same high-quality Forum programming you’ve come to know, love, and expect. This year’s annual conference is our most affordable, most accessible, and at five days long, our biggest conference ever. Register early and take advantage of reduced pricing.

Join us from anywhere on March 8th through 12th, 2021 for The Forum on Workplace Inclusion 33rd Annual Conference “Workplace Revolution”. Be a part of the global conversation, be a part of the solution, be a part of the workplace revolution. For more information, visit forumworkplaceinclusion.org/2021. That’s forumworkplaceinclusion.org/2021. We get to engage people, advance ideas, and ignite change because of the generous support from our community. If you find our resources meaningful or valuable, please consider supporting The Forum today; visit forumworkplaceinclusion.org/donate. That’s forumworkplaceinclusion.org/donate.

Thank you very much for your support and generosity. With that, I’d like to say thank you to all our listeners and subscribers. You help support the growth of the podcast and reach new listeners. If you like what you’re hearing on The Forum Podcast, please [00:02:00] consider writing a review on Apple Podcast or wherever you listen in to your podcasts. If you’ve already written a review, thank you. Please consider sharing our podcast with a friend, family member, or a colleague you think might find value in the content. Word of mouth is the best way The Forum grows, so thank you very much for listening and sharing. Thanks again, and enjoy the show.

[music]

Ben Rue: Hello and thank you for tuning in for today’s podcast; The Pursuit of Talent: Are You Retaining Diverse Millennials? With presenters, Kirsten Davenport and Darius Norwood, co-founders of Norwood & Co. This podcast is sponsored by Best Buy. I’m Ben Rue, program associate here at The Forum on Workplace Inclusion. Millennials have become the largest generation in America’s workforce, and by 2030, they will hold more than 75% of the workforce.

As everyone is in the pursuit of talent, there’s a different fight for minority talent. In this episode, we’ll learn actionable recommendations to not only obtain but keep your minority millennial talent and identify potential gaps within your organization. We’ll learn how to recruit and retain diverse millennials, delve into personal examples from a Fortune 500 corporate employee to a corporate employee turned entrepreneur, and lastly, identify potential gaps within your organization and learn how to quickly fill them with actionable recommendations.

Kirsten is an experienced HR professional with a focus on recruiting, training, and inclusion. With a special ability to appeal to any audience, especially young professionals, Kirsten specializes in helping people walk in their true identity at work. Kirsten has published a book on Amazon entitled Secure The Bag! Resume Guide, which outlines the importance of resumes as well as how to write an effective one.

When she’s not working or podcasting, she enjoys spending time with her fiancee, Darius; their fur baby, Lola; and giving back to her community, particularly the down syndrome community. [00:04:00] Darius is a marketing consultant who specializes in digital marketing for brands. Darius has one core responsibility, grow brands and their businesses. He genuinely wants to see people succeed.

Alongside his entrepreneurial career, Darius shares his knowledge and expertise as a board member at Ball State University’s Entrepreneurship Center and a podcast co-host of All Things Career. In his free time, you can most likely find Darius in the gym, listening to audiobooks, or spending time with his college sweetheart, Kirsten. Without further ado, I’d like to hand things over to Kirsten and Darius.

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Joan Kuhl: Millennials, millennials, millennials, everybody’s talking about them. Through years of ongoing research, consulting work inside the largest global employers to the smallest startup and a significant amount of time on college campuses, we’ve uncovered a lot of misconceptions. Our latest research shows why it’s imperative that your business understands young talent.

First of all, millennials already make up 45% of the workforce, so this is not something to worry about tomorrow. Speaking of tomorrow, in less than 10 years, millennials will comprise 75% percent of the workforce globally; 30% to 40% of baby boomers are predicted to retire in the next five years, how you deal with this generation matters.

Darius Norwood: Joan Kuhl is absolutely right. You know what else matters? How companies handle millennials of color.

Kirsten Davenport: That’s right, Darius, it really does matter. Data on millennials and there’s data on professionals of color, but we don’t have a lot of data on is the combination of the two, and that’s what we’re going to discuss on today’s show. Now our findings are a combination of diverse perspectives that we have talked through to [00:06:00] throughout the years, but we wanted to note that it is not a representation of all experiences as each person’s career journey is unique and different.

Darius: Exactly. We want today’s discussion to be the catalyst for conversations within your teams and organization. I love that we’re able to have conversations centered around our podcast mission. Our mission is to provide professionals of color the unwritten rules of corporate America and entrepreneurship.

Kirsten: Today we’re talking to companies directly. They’ll learn how to recruit and retain diverse millennials.

Darius: And, we’re going to get a little personal. Kirsten is going to share why she stays in corporate America, and I’m going to explain why I decided to leave and start my entrepreneurial journey.

Kirsten: From today’s conversation, companies will be able to quickly identify the gaps in their organization. I’m Kirsten.

Darius: I’m Darius.

Kirsten: We’re the hosts of All Things Career.

Darius: Yes. Kirsten, I’m dying to understand, why do you want to stay in corporate America?

Kirsten: That’s a good question and one that I’m asked very frequently. The thing that really comes to my– top of my brain is this whole idea of the people. We have this quote in our company that says, “The people of this organization are its greatest asset,” and I know that to be true in my particular organization, particularly with the individuals that I have mentorship and sponsorship relationships with.

My mentors are just so fundamental into who I am. They help me develop not only of personal brand in the company but also help me explore who I am outside of work; what I want to do with my life, what my passions are. They really help me become my best self. Hands down, the people of an organization, in my organization particularly, keep me coming back and staying in corporate America.

Darius: That’s amazing. [00:08:00] It’s almost like they’re your North Star that helps guide your career, right?

Kirsten: Yes.

Darius: I love that. How did your mentor find you, or did you find your mentor?

Kirsten: That’s a great question. In my organization, we have a formal mentorship process, so my mentor found me. It has just been so beneficial to have a streamlined, formal mentorship process because it shows me that my organization sees me, one, as high potential talent, enough to match me with the leader in my organization but also that leader is bought into the program. They’re not just doing it to do it, or they’re not doing it because they have spare time; they’re doing it because it’s a main priority for our organization.

I’ve been in companies where there is not a formal mentorship program, and I’ve found that the relationships aren’t as fruitful. There’s not that many meaningful conversations. We’re more so bonding over food, which food is great, or bonding over the latest news, but you’re not really talking about things that you need as a millennial of color to really advance your career. I love that my company has a formal streamlined process where you’re able to be assigned a mentor or a mentee.

Darius: This is a safe space. I am happy that you’re able to be 100% yourself and comfortable with your mentor, but the question is, does your mentor look just like you?

Kirsten: Now, what you’re probably asking me, Darius, is, is my mentor a woman of color? The answer to that is yes, the mentor that I was referring to earlier in our conversation, someone who helps me develop my personal brand and someone who really has those fruitful conversations with me, that mentor, in particular, she is a woman of color. I really do value our conversations because I’m able to go to her with sensitive topics that I may not [00:10:00] be able to talk with anyone else.

For example, I was really hesitant about my hair when I first started corporate America, like could I go from wearing my hair in braids and then switching to a unit and then switching to my natural hair? What did that look like in my organization, and how could I navigate that? I was then able to go to that mentor and have that fruitful relationship and really understand what were the pros and cons, if any, and how would I navigate that.

Now, sharing that doesn’t mean that that’s the end all be all. I have multiple mentors in my organization that I value my relationship with. I actually have a relationship with a white male in my organization, and I have found that that relationship is one of my– I wouldn’t say best, that’s not the right word, but it is my most engaging and challenging relationships because I’m constantly being my best self in that relationship.

For example, if I was to apply for a role, if I see a role posted I normally maybe wouldn’t apply for, but once I talk to this mentor, he tells me, “Kirsten, you absolutely can do this job, and this is why you should do it, and this is why it’s so important for you to step outside of your function or outside of your comfort zone.” I definitely recommend for millennials of color and also for mentors in the flip end to really step outside of their comfort zone, cross those lines, and really build a fruitful relationship with people outside of their demographic.

What I’ve also found is that when you’re a minority and you have a majority on your team or you just have someone outside of your minority group also wanting your best interests at heart, it takes that burden off of you feeling like you have to be the best because you’re the only one. When you have these allies backing you up or on your team, it really does [00:12:00] make it so much more easier for you to be able to be your best self because it’s not just you now; you’re on the backs of all of your colleagues, all of your mentors, mentees, whatever it may be.

I definitely recommend that you have a combination of mentors, someone that you look like and that you could talk about those sensitive issues but also someone who doesn’t look like you to challenge you and make you your best self.

Darius: Wow. While you were on your journey to find a career that you wanted to work, how did you come to find this organization?

Kirsten: That’s a great question, Darius. I think there’s a lot of things that you have to do in the evaluation process for an interview. Oftentimes, recruitees or people who are trying to change companies, they forget that piece around that you are also recruiting and you are also interviewing a company as they’re interviewing you. Whenever I am talking to my mentees or when I am speaking to college students, I always tell them to ask theirselves three questions when they’re recruiting; do the company’s values match your values, what is the company’s diversity and inclusion strategy, and can you do the job?

With that first question, do the values match yours? For me, I’ve had family members who have died from secondhand smoke, from cigarette use, et cetera, et cetera, the list goes on, so I would never work for a company that does anything in that room, whether that be marketing for them, whether that be handling their financial books, whatever it may be because that’s a value to me. Each of us have values that we bring with ourselves, and we need to value those ethics and those things about us even when we’re recruiting. You shouldn’t just work for a company just for the paycheck, really work for them because you are tied to their mission [00:14:00] and the things that they do.

That second question about the diversity and inclusion strategy, a lot of companies have an office, they may have a position statement on diversity and inclusion, but what is the company’s strategy? After the year that we had in 2020 with racial injustice, with police brutality, all of the things that were going on in the world, you need to be confident, particularly as a millennial of color, knowing that you are going to be working for a company that values every single part of who you are, that support causes and missions that are aligned with who you are.

I also tell people to evaluate where money is going for that organization; are they supporting political candidates that may be supporting issues that aren’t aligned with your values? That’s how nitty and gritty you need to get when it comes to the diversity and inclusion strategy because, after the year that we saw in 2020, now more than ever, we have to be more intentional and more just aware of the companies that we are going to be spending our time because we bring our full selves to work. When that was going on last year, in 2020, there was no way that you could hide that, there was no way that you could turn that part of yourself off. It’s so important that you take that into the evaluation process with you.

The third question is, can you do the job? Oftentimes, people apply for a job that they can’t do, they don’t think that they will be good at just to get their foot in the door. If you truly want to work for a company and you truly want to put value and passion behind the work that you do, apply to a job that you can do the job and that you can successfully deliver on the deliverables and deliver on what they’re asking you to do; that’s so important. That goes back to the piece of you’re interviewing a company just like they’re interviewing you. You want to be with a company that you can actually successfully complete the job and be good at it.

Darius: [00:16:00] That’s huge. I believe most people in the seat of interviews, they don’t believe that they’re interviewing the company as well. They need to understand the value that they’re bringing to that organization just because that organization has goals that they need to accomplish year over year, you could be that value that leads to them accomplishing those goals. Kirsten, with you being in HR, you’ve worn the recruiter hat before. What’s the most misconception that recruiters have when targeting millennials of color?

Kirsten: I wanted to provide some framing before I answer that question. Darius is right. Yes, I have worked in recruiting for about five years now, and two of those years were particularly focused on the collegiate recruiting space, so I do know a little bit, if I may say myself, about recruiting and about misconceptions that recruiters have when it comes to recruiting millennials of color.

One thing that I would say is the biggest misconception, to answer your question, Darius, is that GPA is the indication of success. I’ll say that again, that GPA is the indication of success. Meaning that if you have a high GPA, you will then deliver well in this organization, or if you have a high GPA, you will be successful in this role. Today, I want to put a face, a name, a voice to that myth because that myth is so untrue.

I want to share my story with you all and share this idea of that GPA is not the indication of success. I went to Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and I did not graduate with a 4.0 GPA. I did not have a honors college degree backing me when I graduated. I did not have president’s [00:18:00] council on my resume, but what I do have is grit like no other.

Two weeks before going off to college, my father was killed in a tragic work accident unexpectedly. In that moment I had to decide was I going to go to school or was I going to stay home? I decided to go to school.

Throughout my four years of college, I was grieving, but I also was working on the weekends to support myself and to take that financial burden off of my family. It’s so important for recruiters to, one, be trained on how to recruit and retain diverse talent but also to understand that GPA is not the indication of how successful someone will be. Really getting deep and understanding stories and understanding the backstory behind why a person is here, what they’re aspiring to do while they’re in college and after college, and how they can be an asset to your organization. That is so key and so instrumental when you are recruiting.

Darius: I can completely relate to that. Most of my peers probably don’t even know this, but when I first started college, within the first week, I remember being called to my advisor’s office. She informed me that my mom’s financial aid was not approved, so we had to find someone that was going to co-sign for us. That meant that after we found a co-signer, we were going to have to put out more loans just so I can even start college. This was a huge disadvantage for me because I knew once I graduated, I was going to be in a deeper financial hole than my counterparts.

During college, I worked 40 plus hours just to pay my bills while taking 16 to 18 credits hours. [00:20:00] It was a struggle just to get by, but I made my education and learning a priority so I can be that much more valuable after graduation. Although I didn’t have a high GPA, I had more experience than my peers.

Kirsten: Wow, Darius. Thank you so much for being vulnerable and sharing with our listeners today. How would you say this experience affected how you approach the recruiting cycle when you were in college?

Darius: In college, I’m majoring in public relations and had a minor in marketing. I quickly did research my junior and senior year just to get a peek at what those starting salaries were going to be, and, unfortunately, they weren’t enough to cover my student loans alone. [chuckles] I had to quickly network with my business peers, and they told me about searching for a sales career. After college, I found a job in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey; I started out making $80,000 a year with a commission that put me in the six figures. This was great, but the money wasn’t strong enough to sacrifice a fulfilling future.

Kirsten: Wow, I think that’s so good to hear, hearing your humble beginnings and then hearing that you were able to land an 80k-plus job straight out of college. I’m dying to know, I know the listeners are dying to know, why did you leave corporate America, and why are you never going back?

Darius: The short answer is that I can no longer sacrifice my passions for a paycheck. If I ever found an organization that matched my values and principles, I wouldn’t mind working on a project with them. I’m actually consulting corporate organizations today on their marketing and sales efforts, that’s a shameless plug for Norwood & Co.

[laughter]

[00:22:00] In the long-form, the reason why I left was because there was a lack of priority on my growth within certain organizations. I saw sales as a foundation of all of the skillsets that I was going to be able to acquire while working in corporate America. I wanted more exposure outside of my sales position so I can start to plan my future. I didn’t always feel safe to share my ideas with teammates and direct managers.

I’ve had teammates that sabotaged my training so I couldn’t compete with them once I exited training. I’ve had managers tell me that I don’t need to work on tasks that are outside of my job description just because it’s going to affect my bottom line. There was a situation where I was speaking to a end-user or a customer and they were giving me recommendations on what will make our product better or different areas of marketing channels that we can continue to advertise it, so I went to go speak with the marketing team and I went to go speak with the product development team and I was recommended; my manager told me that I was out of line and I shouldn’t have done that.

That’s not the type of leadership that organizations need to provide for the millennials of color. I saw myself as a entrepreneur within the organization, my only concern was to push the organization forward, and I actually cared about that. I needed to be in control of my future and corporate America wasn’t allowing me the room to do that.

Kirsten: Wow. I know you probably have heard this statistic before and you actually align with the statistic, but I want to learn a little bit more about what you think about it. According to Forbes, 49% of millennials leave their company within the first two years, do you believe this statistic is true? [00:24:00] Why or why not?

Darius: [chuckles] It may be higher. No, this is completely true just because, millennials of color, most of us, we were not exposed to professionals before entering in corporate America; we didn’t know what to expect. There may be a lot of turnover in the first few years until millennials of color can find the organization that matches the culture, to find the organization that has a culture that understands them as an individual.

Kirsten: Wow, thank you so much for sharing. I think that’s so true, Darius, that this whole idea of millennials of color not really having representation maybe in their household or maybe within the organization, so they’re not sure as to what they can do or what they can be within corporate America. I think that your example is so true, so thank you so much for your sharing. Is there anything else that you would like to add? Any advice that you could give to a company that just wants to save their talent? They don’t want anyone else to leave, they want to retain all they can. What would you say to them that they need to do or just to think about?

Darius: Some organizations, they have this down; others, they don’t put enough emphasis on employees’ career advancement. Organizations, please take the time to learn more about your millennials of color and their interest. They may have more skillsets and strengths hiding below the surface. Because we don’t have experience with professionals growing up, we do not have exposure on where we can go within our career. It’s going to be important for you to apply and allow them exposure outside of their functions so they can continue to learn new skillsets or even to plan a future within your organization.

If you want to retain millennials of color, [00:26:00] invest your time and resources in us. We’re capable of learning at a high rate. We spent our entire lives battling misfortunes, we’re natural problem solvers. We don’t make excuses, we find solutions.

Kirsten: Wow, that’s good. I’m going to repeat that again; we don’t make excuses, we find solutions. Who would not want a solution-driven person on their team or a part of their organization? Now while these are our stories, many millennials of color can relate or find their truth in what we share today. With that being said, we want to introduce the P-A-S-T method to help companies identify and fill the gaps in their organization.

Darius: Okay, y’all, I know what you’re thinking, we tried to come up with a better acronym than PAST.

Kirsten: Yes, we did.

Darius: Don’t overthink this method. P is for pay, A is for advancement, S is for safe space, T is for training. This method is the key to helping you recruit and retain diverse millennials. Pay, obviously this is considered around compensation and benefits. Most organizations have this down, but continue to offer competitive compensation and benefit packages by understanding the market value of each role.

Diverse millennials have more financial burdens than other groups that’s because some of us may be providing for families back at home, or they may be just like me and they have high debt because of the school loans. Here’s the question that you can ask yourself when comparing your pay versus other competitors within your market, where does my compensation and benefit package plans sit compared to other companies for the same position? Am I able to offer increased bonuses [00:28:00] or pay bumps based on accomplishments?

As you may know, pay isn’t going to be the only thing that keeps your millennials of color around. This next point is what’s going to keep your organization ahead of the pack when retaining top talent. Advancement, this is a clear understanding of the path of career advancement within your organization. It’s important for you to have diverse leaders so employees can aspire long-term growth. This is important so millennials of color can imagine themselves in those high seats.

You need to allow room for millennials of color to grow and develop so they can continue to give their best selves while working in their roles. Here’s the question that you can ask yourself along the lines of advancement within your organization, have you created a transparent talent management process that gives millennials of color a preview of how they can progress within their career within your organization?

Kirsten: Then next is S for safe space. Create a safe space to communicate hardships. Now, this may look like fireside chats, happy hours amongst teams, or even a hotline where conversations can be discussed, but it’s just so important that there is a feedback loop that will allow companies to fix issues before they become larger problems. That can look like a space for millennials of color to talk about things that are going on in the world, things that are happening within their team, or whatever it may be that is maybe having a impact on their work. This can be talked about with leaders, with counterparts, or in my particular case, with mentors.

It [00:30:00] goes back to that whole idea of your organization being safe enough for them to share these things. Oftentimes people don’t share because they feel as if their hands going to get slapped or they feel as if they may get in trouble for something that they ask or that they say. If your organization truly wants to retain different perspectives, it’s so important for you to have a safe space where they can do so. The question to ask yourself is, does my organization have a safe space where employees can communicate hardships?

T is for train; training your leaders, recruiters, interviewers, and employees on unconscious biases. I talked about this a little bit earlier, but this is the whole idea of making sure that your organization in the recruiting scene first; that they understand that, one, GPA is not the indicator of success; that they understand those unconscious biases that every single person has and how they can be aware of those, first and foremost, but how they don’t allow that unconscious bias to be a deciding factor when it comes to someone’s career.

One that we talk about very often in my organization is this whole idea of university relevance. Let’s say, for example, I go back to Ball State and I recruit at Ball State, I may have a bias for Ball State students because I went there, but if I go to maybe another school in Indiana, Indiana University, I may have this other attitude towards those students because of my experience. That’s just something that’s natural, that’s something that everyone may just have in the back of their head.

Once you’re in the recruiting seat, if you are decision-maker when it comes to hiring, you can’t allow that bias to affect your decision-making. It’s so important for companies to have these conversations with their recruiters and their interviewers particularly [00:32:00] because that’s the first step into a company. If the individual doesn’t get placed with your company and they just interview, that still can impact the brand that they may have with your organization. First and foremost, making sure that the recruiters, interviewers, anyone in the recruiting process is trained on unconscious bias and how that affects individuals in the hiring process.

Next, training leaders and employees how to interact with different people that they may necessarily may have never interacted with. That’s so crucial and so key. The beauty of an organization with high diversity is being able to have diverse perspectives, bring different things to the table. If you don’t train those associates on how to interact with one another, how microaggressions may affect someone’s working agility or may affect their efficiency, then you’re just having these people here and they’re not bringing anything good to the table.

It’s so imperative for companies to train their employees on how to deal with diverse individuals. The question that you can ask here is, do you have a training for leaders, recruiters, interviewers, and employees on inclusion?

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Darius: As we look ahead to the future of our workforce, millennials will become the majority within our organizations. It’s important to note that our generation is the most diverse group ever. How organizations support millennials of color matters.

Kirsten: Our hope is that from today’s conversation, organizations learn how to recruit and retain millennials of color by applying the PAST method. Until next time, we’re the hosts of All Things Career.

Ben: Thank you so much Kirsten and Darius for that wonderful podcast. Thank you to our listeners for joining, and a special thank you to our sponsor, Best Buy. To learn more and listen to more episodes of their podcast, All Things Career, visit norwoodandco.com. New episodes of The Forum Podcasts are [00:34:00] available at our website, workplaceforum.org/podcast. You can also find our podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, and Stitcher. Thank you again for listening and have a great day.

Speaker 1: Thank you again for listening to The Forum on Workplace Inclusion Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast to get updates and the latest episodes. Also, tell us what you think by reviewing our podcast; we’d love to hear your feedback. For more information, visit us at forumworkplaceinclusion.org or search “Workplace Forum” on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Thank you very much and have a great day.

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Speaker 1: The Forum on Workplace Inclusion Podcast is recorded at Augsburg University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of the most diverse private colleges in the Midwest, Augsburg University offers more than 50 undergraduate majors and 9 graduate degrees to 3,400 students of diverse backgrounds at its campus in the vibrant center of the Twin Cities and nearby Rochester, Minnesota location.

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