In 2009, Lt. Tashinda Glover organized a breakfast at Spelman College to kick-off the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead's tour of Spelman and Morehouse Colleges.
During my short time in the U.S. Navy, I have come to know that tradition is essential to our organization. When I think of organizations that value tradition as much as the Navy, I think of Spelman College, my alma mater. This historically black college, which was founded by anti-slavery activists in 1881 to educate African American women, evolved into a prestigious institution that churns out the largest number of black, female professionals in the nation.
I met Capt. Cynthia Macri, the Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for Diversity, at the with National Bar Association Conference in San Diego, Calif., where we both spoke on a panel titled, “Women in the Military.” She approached me afterwards and asked that I organize an event for the CNO Adm. Gary Roughead, at Spelman College where he would meet with the President, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum.
For three and a half months I worked with Dr. Tatum’s staff to organize a breakfast at Spelman College, which was the kick-off event to the CNO’s tour of Spelman and Morehouse Colleges.
From its homogeneous outward appearance, “diverse” is probably the last word that would come to one’s mind to describe Spelman. To the contrary, within the gates of this institution are some of the most unique perspectives I have encountered in my life. From the background, opinions, and intellect of the students to the desires, goals, and even the dialect, one would find a vast amount of diversity. As “freshwomen” we entered the gates with varying contributions to the institution. Yet, during our four year matriculation, we were shaped by rich traditions. Wearing skirts every day and reciting the history of the college instilled purpose in our journey, which all made sense in the end when we graduated wearing white dresses and black shoes (the uniform of the first graduating class). We were armed with the knowledge of our history and empowered by the expectations from our ancestors who came before us. It was my introduction to tradition at Spelman College that made my transition into the traditions of the Navy an easy one.
I believe it is this common value of tradition that leads the Navy to seek the perspective of Spelman College in its mission to increase diversity amongst the officer ranks. Spelman has endlessly combated negative stereotypes with respect to increased diversity in the workforce by continuously producing qualified, diverse candidates who provide a unique perspective. Since Dr. Tatum is a renowned race relations expert and author, it only made sense that the CNO would seek an opportunity to meet with her and her staff to discuss the role of black women in the Navy and how Spelman College can help to increase diversity in our organization.
The breakfast was very interesting. The CNO discussed the value of diversity in the Navy and how a partnership with historically black institutions such as Spelman and Morehouse Colleges is a great start. ADM Roughead and Dr. Tatum were joined at breakfast by Dr. Johnnella Butler (the Provost), Dr. Desiree Pedescleaux (the Dean of Academic Affairs), Mr. Harold Bell (the Director of Career Development), Capt. Macri, Capt. Stephen Kirby (Commanding Officer of the NROTC Unit at Spelman, Morehouse, and Georgia Tech), two Spelman College midshipmen, and me.
In the 21st century, the Navy, Spelman College, and Morehouse College face the same challenges of rapidly changing U.S. demographics, demands for talent to drive a knowledge-based society, and the impact of a global economy. Each has a strong interest in, and commitment to, maintaining our nation’s security and economic interests where technology has transformed geographically distant threats to impending realities. During the breakfast event, ADM Roughead and Dr. Tatum exchanged ideas and discussed opportunities to address these challenges and increase diversity in the Navy.
I had the unique opportunity during the event to speak with the Spelman College leadership about the Navy Staff Corps and my experience that led me to the JAG Corps. They were amazed to hear about the various opportunities for candidates with professional degrees.
Currently, I am working with Capt. Macri and Spelman College on the “Spelman Women Empowered Through Professional Training” event, which will take place in fall 2010 and will feature a “JAG Corps Day” hosted by a leader from our judge advocate community. The Navy’s partnership will provide opportunities for the Spelman and Morehouse College students and faculty to learn about the various career paths and opportunities in the Navy.