by PCJ Editor Wayne Senville, reporting from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania
Linda Trompetter and Arthur Breese have taken diversity as their mission. Not an easy task in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, an economically depressed region with a largely white, Roman Catholic population.
Their aim goes beyond promoting tolerance, it also includes getting broader minority representation on county and local boards.
Trompetter, who holds a PhD in philosophy, with a focus on ethics and social justice, founded the Diversity Institute in 1992, within Misericordia University, a Catholic institution in the Wilkes-Barre area. The Diversity Institute includes a consortium of 32 member groups, including the County Commission, area colleges and school districts, and others.
Over time the Diversity Institute has developed quite a few programs, including a very well-attended "diversity camp" for high school sophmores (interestingly, 12 to 20 seniors also participate each Summer along with some 80 youth); a range of K-12 educational programs using the Anti-Defamation League's "World of Difference" curriculum; and, most recently, the Luzerne County Diversity Commission -- a board endorsed by and receiving financial support from the County Commission (i.e., the County governing body).
One of the points that Trompetter and Breese (who co-Chairs the Commission and is Director of Diversity at the 14,000 employee Geisinger Health System) repeatedly emphasized to me is the importance of diversity to a healthy regional economy.
Building tolerance and trust in the workplace leads to better morale, which, in turn, makes area businesses more attractive as places to work. They cited the work of Richard Florida (Cities and the Creative Class) and Edward Hubbard (The Diversity Return on Investment) on the economic benefits that diversity can bring.
But it also take strong community leaders to help make diversity a reality.