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Event Recaps Stories | Apr 02, 2012 |

Open your mind, open the door to success

by Claire Curry

Get a passport and travel the world.

That’s the first piece of advice Ken Bouyer, Ernst & Young’s director of inclusiveness recruiting for the Americas region, gave to Gabelli students during last week’s “Skills for the Global Workforce” lecture.

Using his own career as an example, Mr. Bouyer said he is a different person now than he was when he entered his first job out of college. The chance to travel the world and experience other cultures firsthand gave him another education entirely.

He said that instead of “bringing his New York-ness” to other countries, he needed to set his opinions aside, open his eyes and listen in order to appreciate the richness of different cultures — and to see how the world is a better place for it.

To succeed in business, Bouyer said, students need to develop an intercultural mindset and to appreciate diversity. He offered New York City as an ideal place to accomplish this. The city often is called a “melting pot,” but Bouyer said a salad is the better model for diversity. Rather than melting together into uniformity, all of the ingredients maintain their original consistency but make up a greater whole.

Is Fordham University, like the city it calls home, a well-mixed “salad”? Bouyer said it is students’ responsibility to make it so. He encouraged them to rise above the “insider/outsider dynamic” and to “have the courage and personal leadership to bring others into the fold.” Students should engage other students in conversation, ask questions and get curious about where other people come from, he said.

Bouyer also aimed to raise students’ awareness of bias. He asked if they see biases on campus or in their families. Students volunteered examples: racial and sexual biases, as well as less familiar types, such as preconceived notions that older people have about their generation’s music choices or text-messaging. Bouyer then called for ideas on how to break down these cultural walls.

Last week’s lecture came at a time when students could truly benefit from learning about diversity; several incidents of biased graffiti on Fordham campuses over the winter had left the university community concerned and the student body unsettled.

“You have much to do from this point forward,” Bouyer said. The pursuit of cultural understanding takes great effort — combining the quest for a global perspective that Bouyer referenced in the beginning of his presentation with the diligent work on campus and at home that he talked about toward the end — but is well worth it.

“Knowledge does not equal power,” he said. “Knowledge plus action equal power. You have the ability to change biases and improve cultural competence starting now.”

 

Photographs by Claire Curry.

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