Due to the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented in regards to social gatherings, the number of overall events on campus have decreased dramatically. Our Marlin community has made the best of the situation though, and a variety of virtual options have been experimented with.
An example of such an event occurred on October 22, a virtual Dominion Energy Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Panel Discussion, from 1-2 pm. This event was put together by one of Wesleyan’s own students, freshman Tiffany Warren.
Warren is a Dominion Energy student ambassador, meaning that she has an internship with the company where it entails promoting it here on campus.
Students were able to sign up for the panel by filling out an online form. The form included a section that students could type in any questions that they wanted to be answered on the panel. After being accepted, students received an email with the WebEx link and code to access the session.
The idea for the panel came from Warren’s deep connection with the company’s principles. She said that “diversity and inclusion is one of Dominion Energy’s biggest values.” They take great efforts to promote and embody this value of acceptance, and a huge part of Warren’s attraction to the company was this explicit exemplification of diversity and inclusion.
Each of the panelists were a member of a different Employee Resource Group. These ERG’s are a major way through which the company promotes diversity. By having such a variety of groups for employees to choose to join, the company is able to better celebrate and embrace their collective differences.
Edgardo Corporan, one of the panelists and a member of the Hispanic and Latin American Resource Group, expressed that these Employee Resource Groups create “a culture of diversity” within the company. By offering these groups as a resource for employees to use and as a haven for people of differing backgrounds and upbringings, the company is able to better embrace diversity and promote inclusivity.
Over the duration of the event, Warren asked the various panelists questions related to their Resource Groups and about how the company embodies diversity and inclusion. The panelists represented included the previously mentioned Edgardo Corporan of the Hispanic and Latin American Resource Group, Brandon Smith from the African American Resource Group, Mary Tschirhart from the Pride LGBTQ Resource Group, Yasin Vohra from the Asian and Pacific Islander Resource Group, and Venessa Woodson from the Youth Professionals Resource Group.
One of the main points emphasized throughout the panel discussion was that the promotion of diversity and inclusion originates and stems from the leadership within a group. Dominion Energy would not be the accepting place it is without the guidance and direction of leaders on all types of levels that speak and live by these values.
Smith talked about how the specific leaders in the Employee Resource Groups are constantly taking advantage of and maximizing the opportunities they have to educate people on these topics. He says, “it all comes down to education.” Without leaders who are repetitively nurturing and encouraging the cognition and understanding of diversity and inclusion, Dominion Energy would not be the company that it is today.
Moreover, Nailah Alston-Iszard, a current student here at Virginia Wesleyan and an attendee at the panel discussion, said that this partnership helps set a good example for the school on “what it means to produce a welcoming, diverse, and inclusive atmosphere.”
Sasha Bolden, another attendee at the panel discussion, holds the same point of view. “This panel represents a spectrum of people on our campus such as different cultural backgrounds, races and they are even representative of those in the LGBTQ+ community,” Bolden said. By having such a diverse panel welcomed onto campus, it has the ability to “impact and inspire the voices of the students who may have felt that because they are a minority or underrepresented that their opinion does not matter.”
Even with the virtual format that COVID-19 has required, benefits have included several opportunities that may not have occurred during normal times. Additionally, as Alston-Iszard put it, “if we host more and more events like this, I think it will attract the attention of many media outlets, and give the ethnic organizations on campus a chance to host more events that promote diversity and inclusivity.”
By Phoebe Cox