Category Archives: Make a Difference

Projects that are making a difference, improving lives, and building communities.

Reaching the Underserved in Gifted Education – by Holly Paul, Stacey Burt

A Camel Through the Eye of a Needle

The National Association for Gifted Children (2020a) defines gifted children as those “who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude…or competence…in one or more domains.” Gifted programs exist to provide enrichment to the core curriculum and support these children in reaching their potential. Unfortunately, racial and ethnic minority students are regularly underrepresented in these programs, with the largest disparity being black students. It is both immoral and illegal not to educate a child on the low end of the special education spectrum. Why, then, do we not have the same moral imperative to help all intellectually gifted students reach their potential?

While interest in the identification and education of gifted learners has waxed and waned throughout the history of the United States, talent identification again rose to the forefront as soon as the Russians launched the Sputnik rocket (Clark, 2013). As a country we entered a period of high interest in students that showed exceptional talent in the fields of math and science, and while all children demonstrating promise were selected for enrichment and academic acceleration, the majority of those students were white (Kellogg, 2016). The United States remains today at an elevated state of high interest in STEM talent as technology becomes a greater influence and defines national progress, yet blacks are still grossly underrepresented in this area (Hrabowski, 2018).

Continue reading Reaching the Underserved in Gifted Education – by Holly Paul, Stacey Burt

Educate by Flipping the Eye – by Todd Cherches

When I originally envisioned the cover design of my new book, VisuaLeadership: Leveraging the Power of Visual Thinking in Leadership and in Life, the image of the eye on the front cover was going to be blue. Not because I have blue eyes (mine are hazel) but, simply, because blue is my favorite color. And because it would align with the name and the brand of my leadership consulting company, BigBlueGumball. lens


However, just before officially committing to the blue eye, in the spirit of thinking outside the box I came up with the idea of, instead, using a rainbow-colored eye. This multicolored eye, I felt, better represented the concepts of diversity, inclusion, and belonging, as well as more colorfully foreshadowing the book’s emphasis on innovation and creativity.

So, leaning heavily in favor of the rainbow-colored eye, I decided to post the two options on social media for two reasons: one, just to seek validation for my decision; and, two, to create a little pre-publication social media buzz. Posting the two prototypes on LinkedIn, side-by-side, I asked people to vote on their preference…along with providing their reasons why.


The fact that 80 percent of voters favored the rainbow eye was not at all a surprise. What did surprise and shock me, however, was the anger and vitriol with which a number of respondents attacked me personally for even suggesting the blue eyeball as an option! While, to me, the blue eye was just one of many possible color variations, to many others the symbolism of the blue eye meant so much more. So, despite my innocent (and, perhaps, naïve?) intentions, I ended up being personally accused of being biased and discriminatory at worst, and clueless and “not woke” at best.

Even though none of these things about me were true, and despite my having already decided on the rainbow eye anyway, this incident, which I could not ignore, both shook me up and reinforced how important it is in today’s world to be consciously aware of current sensitivities, as well as the fact that everything we do and say, and every decision we make, needs to be viewed through a lens of diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity.

And this is as important in the world of education as it is anywhere else.

The basic premise of VisuaLeadership is that how we lead is inseparable from the lens through which we view the world. Our beliefs and values, resulting from the cumulative effect of all our life experiences, impact and influence the way we think, the decisions we make, and the actions we take.

When I ask the students in my NYU and Columbia University leadership graduated classes to shout out the first word that comes to mind when they hear the word, “leadership,” what would you guess is the most common response? If you said, “vision,” you would be correct. But what does it mean to have a leadership vision or to be a visionary leader?

Vision, both literally and metaphorically, has to do with “seeing.” And, in a leadership context, it has to do with seeing a future that is different from – and better than – the current reality. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did not say that he had a 500-page business plan; he said that he had a Dream. And Job #1 of any leader is to help turn that dream or vision into a reality. And that is, primarily, what the eye on the book jacket was intended to represent: the concept of the “leadership vision.”

But there are two other equally important – if not more important – meanings of the book cover image; and I refer to it as, “Flipping the Eye.”

Firstly, “Flipping the Eye” is about turning the eye on ourselves, and reflecting on who we are and how we are as leaders, and questioning all of our perceptions, preconceptions, assumptions, and beliefs.

And, secondly – and this is where the multicolored rainbow eye really comes into play – it’s about seeing the world, with empathy and compassion, through the lens of those who are different from you.

And nowhere is this more important than in the classroom – whether teaching in person or online.

As educators, we are leaders. And, as leaders, we must consistently focus on “Flipping the Eye.” But how? One way is by looking at and reassessing the images we use, the frameworks we choose, the metaphors we offer, and the stories we tell from the perspective of our students, rather than – as is typically the case – from our own.

In addition to teaching leadership graduate courses at NYU for the past ten years, and at Columbia University for the past six, I am also involved in faculty development (observation, assessment, coaching, and training). As such, I have witnessed, firsthand, the teaching practices of more than 100 of my faculty peers over the years. And one of the most common practices I have observed is instructors thinking and communicating from their own perspective rather than that of their diverse student population. And, in so doing, they often show PowerPoint slide images lacking in diversity; use metaphors that alienate, rather than educate; and tell stories that although well-intended, often offend.

For illustration, I would like to share the following real-life example:

An experienced instructor featured in his class a “Leadership Quotations Quiz” exercise in which students were tasked with filling in the blanks of twelve famous leadership quotes. For example: President John F. Kennedy wrote that, “Leadership and ________[blank] are indispensable to each other.” (The answer, by the way, is “learning.”)

This was an incredibly fun, energizing, and creative gamification activity that fully engaged the students in the learning process, got their wheels turning, had them interacting with their peers. It ultimately led to groans, smiles, and laughter as the instructor, in an entertaining fashion, revealed each answer with a series of visual PowerPoint slides that each featured a photo of the speaker along with the completed quote.

Looking at the list of quotations on the quiz sheet, there appeared to be no issue at all. Seeing the visual images of the answers during the slide presentation, however, revealed a glaring (though entirely unintentional) oversight.  As it turned out, the famous speakers of each and every one of the quotes ended up being a middle-aged, white male.

While all the quotes were excellent and relevant choices by well-known leaders, the complete lack of diversity was a glaring mistake and a missed opportunity. The instructor had used this very same quiz for a number of years.  He’d never noticed this now-obvious pattern before…until one of his students respectfully (offline, after class) pointed it out to him.

So, what did the instructor do? Horrified and embarrassed by his obliviousness, he went home that evening and spent three hours researching and replacing more than half of the quotations with a far more diverse representation. Gone were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates. Aand in were Ursula Burns, Kenneth Chenault, Indra Nooyi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lao Tzu.

The very next class session, the instructor kicked off the class by publicly acknowledging his error in judgment; thanked the student who pointed it out; and proceeded to re-deliver the new-and-improved version of the slides to the delight and appreciation of his 35 students. He also invited the students to submit and share their own favorite leadership quotes in future sessions.

After presenting the new version of the quiz, the icing on the cake, in addition to the students’ round of applause, was the reaction of the student who had bravely brought the issue to the instructor’s attention – despite her admitted (but, as turned out, unwarranted) fear of a possible adverse reaction on the part of her professor.  She publicly acknowledged in front of the entire class that, rather than being defensive or dismissive, the instructor had been open to the feedback, took full responsibility and accountability, and was immediately responsive in terms of rectifying the issue. This brought it to light as a teachable moment…rather than just sweeping it under the rug as he could have. Turning lemons into lemonade, and pulling back the curtain on what happened, this episode became a living lesson in leadership for all involved – both student and teacher alike.

In case you had already guessed, by the way…yes, that instructor was me. And this incident was one of the most “eye-opening” moments of my teaching career. Had I proactively “flipped the eye” ahead of time, I would likely have noticed and remedied the lack-of-diversity oversight on my own, without it having to be pointed out to me. In this situation, I was thankful that my students – because they “assumed positive intent” – viewed this episode as a teachable moment. It was a leadership learning opportunity for all, rather than as anything other than that.

When we “flip the eye” for the purpose of consciously reflecting on how we think and communicate, we can see the world through the diverse lens of our students . We will make wiser and more inclusive choices. Flipping the eye,  as both a mantra and a habit, will not only better connect us with our students, but will open our eyes to a new and more diverse world of possibilities.

Women and Higher Education Inequity – by Jaclyn Anderson, Margie Crowe 

 Faculty and Leadership Positions, COVID-19, and Structural Disparities 

Where Are the Allies?

The structural disparities linger within higher education and are influenced by long-standing patriarchal practices and ideologies. These inequalities can lead to a lack of diversity and inclusion of single-parent households and women. The problem has become salient given the current pandemic of COVID-19., which disproportionately affects women and single-parent households. Inflexible thinking and leadership practices in higher education have led to barriers to full inclusion of women in higher education positions that are exacerbated when women must choose between their career and their families. Current higher education leadership practices often disallow or acknowledge the right of women to exist in this space. Institutions are reluctant, and indeed refusing, to allow accommodations for staff, faculty, and students (allowing work from home, reducing attendance requirements, required on-campus hours). Administrations that are rife with patriarchal ideologies, with little or no understanding of the consequences of these archaic policies, seem to continue with business as usual.

Continue reading Women and Higher Education Inequity – by Jaclyn Anderson, Margie Crowe 

Our Fathers: Learning from Wounds – by Laszlo Patrovics

Perhaps the past Century will not be known for the World Wars, for the atom bomb, for the rapid growth of scientific technology leading to IT, nor for even the Holocaust and a new awareness of crimes against humanity. In the long eye of history, perhaps the past Century will be known for fatherlessness. As such it will also be known for “Atyahiány”, Our Father’s absence, a most bitter and embittering fatherlessness: For Hitler was fatherless, Stalin was fatherless, Sceuicescu, the tyrant of Romania, was a bastard, Sadam Hussein of Iraq had no father, the ruler of Libya, Khadaffi was fatherless, Castro was a bastard.

Psychology in all of the last Century focused almost entirely on the role of the mother. We know little about the role of the father in child development.  But we have certainly experienced the role of fatherlessness in our lives and in wars and in loss. Much of the world has embraced nihilism, a nothingness that emanated from the past Century as a precursor for the First World War, the Modernism from Nietchze’s anti-Christ, only to be revived by Hitler in the mandala of the broken cross, the swastika of the Nazi.  Our epoch may become known, in its own way, as the time when Our Father was absent. What we are coming to know is that the father is critical to the development of the child, especially in later childhood and in the teen years.

Continue reading Our Fathers: Learning from Wounds – by Laszlo Patrovics

Diversity & Speech Part 13: Education and Equity – by Carlos E. Cortés

Carlos Cortez
ADR Advisor Dr. Carlos Cortez

Education, particularly higher education, has become ground zero for the clash of inclusive diversity and robust speech.  Many administrators and professors proclaim their support of both.  So do I.  Yes, they can co-exist.  But there will be clashes, inevitably.  Which means decisions, tough decisions, will have to be made.

In the wake of the Memorial Day police killing of George Floyd, those decisions became more complex and more contentious.  College leaders throughout the country proclaimed their horror about that Minneapolis event and vowed that their campuses would not only continue to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, but would also assert leadership in anti-racism.

Such anti-racist proclamations are needed.  But what does that mean when it comes to action?  What should college leaders do if members of their campus communities use their robust speech to express anti-equity ideas, particularly ones that are deemed to be racist?

Continue reading Diversity & Speech Part 13: Education and Equity – by Carlos E. Cortés

Education & Equity – ADR Advisors

Hear from our distinguished ADR advisors on what to expect and what is needed in education today. Their experience in education, diversity, and social justice makes their perspectives invaluable.

Elwood Watson

1.The current political, social and cultural climate calls for — in fact, demands —
the inclusion of ethnic, studies programs across disciplines and departments from k-12 as well as throughout higher education. Th

e same holds true for social justice and equity initiatives. Fierce resistance from right-wing politicians, state legislatures and a few other conservative segments of society notwithstanding, such issues, without question, more important now than ever.”

~ Dr. Elwood Watson: Professor of History and African American Studies at East Tennessee State U. His specialties include Post World War II U.S. History, African American History, Gender Studies, and Popular Culture.
Dr. Gail Hayes
ADR Advisor Dr. Gail Hayes

2. “It is our responsibility to teach in a way that reaches every child, regardless of background.” This quote by Clarice Clash of Tucson should resonate with us all. Ms Clash said this in response to one her team members telling her that “students aren’t arriving with necessary prerequisites to teach grade-level ELA standards.” I agree with Ms Clash and believe that the education system must now find a way to shift to meet the needs of all students.
After speaking with several educators from different regions in our nation, I discovered that many are planning to start private institutions where they can better focus more on the needs of not only the students, but also the family. This is challenging but they strongly believe that it can be done, and they are committed to this end.”
~ Dr. Gail Hayes: Thought Leader and Race Relations Consultant who is a Bridge between races, genders, generations, and political parties because of her ability to paint pictures with words that promote understanding.

Advisory Board - Marc Brenman
ADR Advisor Marc Brenman

3. “The most disadvantaged students under the pandemic regime of out of class learning are those with disabilities and those who are limited English proficient. Much has been made of the digital divide and the number and percent of students who don’t have access to broadband and good high speed Internet connections. While it is appropriate to focus attention on IT issues and the digital divide during the public school closures, there are measures that can be taken to deliver education in addition to using the Internet for laptops and desktops. These include maximizing education over mobile devices and gamification, especially since that’s how a great many young people today receive and transmit information and spend time, and since almost all households today have cellphones; using good old educational TV, since almost all households in the US have TVs; using traditional homeschooling methods; using old-fashioned lessons by mail; and using radio, as used to be done in rural America and in Australia. Some solutions are ready-made and available off the shelf, such as mobile device maximized foreign language education applications. The current crisis provides an opportunity to rethink some old-fashioned aspects of education, and substitute gamification. This is the application of typical elements of game playing (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity. It encourages users to engage in desired behaviors by showing a path to mastery and by taking advantage of the psychological predisposition to engage in play games.

A problem that hasn’t been solved, and which technology isn’t going to solve, is the fact that about a third of K-12 students aren’t even bothering to log on to their school sites to participate in distance learning. This figure far exceeds the gap caused by the digital divide. There will probably be bad long-term consequences for student achievement due to the lack of imagination by educators. A bigger, different question is what are people learning under the pandemic. Some demonstrators are learning the virtues of mob rule as a form of civic participation. Overall, we should all be learning that life is contingent and that nature bats last. Students of public administration may be learning that lack of national leadership is extremely harmful. Business students may be learning that everything they learned in Econ 101 can be tossed into a cocked hat.”
~ Marc Brenman: Served as Executive Director of Washington State Human Rights Commission and held positions with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Dept. of Education.

Beth Lynne
ADR Advisor Dr. Beth Lynne

4. “Across the nation, governors, state education commissioners, school boards, and, reluctantly, teachers and parents are discussing and planning how to open schools.

I think, regardless of method of delivery, I know how schools will open.
With rage. And fear.

There has always been some amount of frustration in the schools — not understanding concepts, unhappy home life, school bullying, mean teacher, mean students, poor teaching, poor teaching/learning conditions — on the part of both teachers and students. And the

RIP John Lewis – By Elwood Watson

A Tribute to the ‘Conscience of Congress’

As he’s laid to rest, there are no shortage of salutes to Congressman John Lewis, the formidable civil rights activist and legislator from Georgia who departed this earth on July 17, 2020, at the age of 80.

Mr. Lewis was a larger than life figure, a fierce, fiery presence packaged in a medium-sized man’s body. He was a person who lived an extraordinary life.

Mr. Lewis, there have already been numerous, bountiful tributes to you; you were more than deserving of such recognition.

The commentary (save for a few right-wing websites) has been overwhelmingly positive and rightly so. Indeed, even when you were alive, there were a considerable number of articles written about you and your life experiences. You were a living legend.

To hear network commentators, radio hosts, prominent and lesser-known podcasters and people from all walks of life pay their respects to you was and is nothing short of deliriously satisfying.

    For a Black man who was born in 1940 in Troy, Alabama, a child of the deep, segregated south, life was a challenge from the very beginning.

Bold Social Activism

From childhood on, you readily witnessed glaring unjust impositions that were routinely perpetrated upon Black men and women who often had no recourse, legal or otherwise, to challenge such indignities. Witnessing and experiencing such injustices made you determined to combat such untoward mistreatment.

While your parents, who were deeply indoctrinated in the mores and customs of the segregated south, were steadfastly opposed to you becoming actively involved in civil rights activities (their concerns and reservations were well-founded), you nonetheless decided to follow your own heart, forge your own path, trust your own instincts, and pursue a life of social activism.

Trust me, more than a few of us, of my generation, thank the Lord that you and others of your cohort did!

    It was largely due to those of your generation that monumental change was able to take place in our nation.

For much of your life, you were engaged in confrontations or challenges of some sort, from disagreeing with your parents about how to behave and live your life as a Black man who was living in the legally segregated south, to challenging and confronting vicious southern mobs who attacked you for daring to ride segregated buses or sit at segregated lunch counters, to enduring violent police officers and brutal beatings (your skull was cracked and you almost died).

     For demanding the right to vote as an American citizen, you were often at the forefront of challenging injustice wherever it reared its tormenting and sadistic head. You will always be remembered for your courageous leadership in the face of racial oppression, such as:

     Your 1960s activism in organizing the Nashville sit-ins in 1960. Your courage in becoming one of the 13 original freedom riders in 1961. Your involvement as director of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1963.

Your assistance to Martin Luther King Jr, A. Philip Randolph, and other political and religious leaders of the movement — by adhering to their concerns and wishes that you and some of your fellow comrades modify the language of your eventually delivered speech, and restrain behavior that was viewed as aggressive by some— made that iconic event proceed much more smoothly than it otherwise might have.

In fact, you were often on the front line with Dr. King and other leaders, who you viewed as mentors.

Public Service

During the 1970s, after a few unsuccessful runs for public office, you worked in a variety of government agency positions, first in Atlanta, for the Voter Education Project, for several years, and then working for the Carter administration as a leader of ACTION, VISTA, and similar agencies until you returned to Atlanta.

Unlike the 1970s, your 1980s runs for public office were successful. First you became a part of the Atlanta city council in 1981, and then you pulled off an upset by defeating fellow civil rights activist Julian Bond in 1986 and becoming a member of the House of Representatives.

The campaign temporarily damaged your decades’ longtime friendship with Bond, but over time both of you managed to mend the wounds. You went on to be reelected more than 16 times!

While in Congress you were known and widely respected by your colleagues as, “The Conscience of Congress.”

You, along with several other veterans of the modern civil rights movement were overcome with unbridled emotion at the unveiling of the Martin Luther King Memorial in 2003 as his widow, Coretta King and others consoled you.

Who can forget when you stood on the house floor with a picture of yourself drenched in blood shouting “this was my blood” as you passionately demanded that Congress support the extension of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Fellow congressional members stood up and applauded you for your bravery then and on “Bloody Sunday” in Selma.

Congress went to extend provisions of the Voting Rights Act in 2006. Although, it is ironic that such legislation is now under attack as you have passed on.

In your later years, you were as fiery as ever, demanding that the needs of the marginalized and voiceless be addressed.

    Even in your 70s, you were getting arrested for standing up to and challenging injustice. You eventually came to support Barack Obama for president after initially supporting Hillary Clinton.

While you marched with a few Presidents, it was the image of you with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters — the first Black family to live in the White House — marching over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where you almost lost your life more than half a century earlier, which was nothing short of tearful for many of us.

    It was an electrifying moment for many of us. Your emotional embrace of the former president was touching as well.

You argued that all Americans, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other specific factors be treated as equal and human beings. It was due to brave, heroic individuals like you and others that Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and many others now follow in the pathway you opened up. Witnessing President Obama award you the Medal of Freedom in 2012 was nothing short of spectacular.

Fighting pancreatic cancer undoubtedly was one of your heaviest battles to wage. Even then, you did so with sophistication, strength, and dignity.

     You were a shining example of courage.

Final Thoughts

God called you home on July 17th.

There is no doubt that Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, Frederick Douglas, Juanita Abernathy, A. Philip Randolph, C.T. Vivian (who passed away on the same day as you) and, of course, your longtime friend and short-term nemesis, Julian Bond, and many other forebears have welcomed you with heavenly arms.

Once again, thank you for all you did. You lived and endured an extraordinary life from the womb to the tomb.

May you rest in peace.

Tribalism and The Vote – by Deborah Levine

Some have called our “Me & Us First” politics as nationalism but I prefer to apply the label ‘tribalism’.  In this COVID-19 environment, racial lines, regional preferences, current events and heavy political advertising, are not shaping public opinion as much as the identity of a specific community and the resonance of a leader to that community. Communities are built on religious and ethnic values, family preferences, housing patterns, and health habits. Their political choices have always been shaped by those cultural traits. With the economic fallout and the growing disparities in jobs and  education, politics will become a complex mix of leadership styles that symbolize communities along with the body language, word choice, and facial expressions that resonate specific communities. Policy positions and biographical details will be less relevant as they are filtered through the lens of each group.

Continue reading Tribalism and The Vote – by Deborah Levine

Perspectives: ADR Advisors and Colleagues

Perspectives and Quotes

Editor’s Note: In these challenging times when race-related issues are at the forefront of American society, the American Diversity Report is pleased to share quotes from our advisors and colleagues. I have no doubt that their words of wisdom will stick in our readers’ minds.

Continue reading Perspectives: ADR Advisors and Colleagues

What is Juneteenth and Why? – by Vincent I. Phipps

Foremost Happy Juneteenth to Everyone!

On January 1, 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation was the judiciary treaty signed by President Abraham Lincoln which was the country’s official acknowledgment to abolish slavery.

But did it?

Many of us were taught in school the importance of dates:

*1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue
*1920 Women’s right to fight, suffrage allowing women voting
*1969, Moon landing, “One giant leap for mankind”
*2009, America’s first president of color, Pres. Barack Obama

*1863, the ending of slavery, right?

Am in being picky about a date? Darn right!

Although the Civil War ended in April 1865 when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, enslaved people in Texas didn’t learn about their freedom until June 19, 1865.

About 2.5 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, it was Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger of the Union army who finally arrived in Galveston and issued General Order No. 3 that secured the Union army’s authority over Texas.

The last city in the United States to be informed of the ending of slavery was in a small town called Galveston, TX, in 1865!

How could this have occurred?

The same way we have the losses of the lives of Mr. George Floyd, Mr. Eric Garner, Mr. Rayshard Brooks, and hundreds more!  The same way we have yet to properly prosecute those who fail to protect.

People who could help stood by and did or said nothing.

Juneteenth celebrates human freedom.  Slave owners in 1865, knowingly broke the law-keeping their slaves in bondage through the Fall of 1865 to capitalize on more free labor.

Consider this?

**What if the minimum wage was increased to $100 / hour but for 2.5 years you were paid at your current rate?

**What if a mysterious stranger paid your rent for the next 2.5 years and your landlord forgets or chooses not to tell you?

**What if your mortgage or car note were paid off and your lender kept taking your monthly payments for almost the next three years?

Get the point?

In “Lone Star Pasts” Susan Merritt reported:

“Lots of Negroes were killed after freedom…bushwhacked, shot down while they were trying to get a way. You could see lots of Negroes hanging from trees.”

Freedom is not an African-American right.  Freedom is a human right.  Juneteenth is more than slaves being freed. It is recognition of a system’s acknowledgment about how immoral, unjust, and unethical the ideology that people could own other people was wrong.

Juneteenth (annually June 19), is to be celebrated by everyone.