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Around the Globe

The Importance of Inclusion

Sadie Burton-Goss

Photo: Ben Staples ’13

Sadie Burton-Goss, Babson’s new chief diversity and inclusion officer, grew up in Boston at a time of extreme segregation. “The only white people we saw were the mailman, milkman, and teachers in our school,” she says.

She wasn’t confronted with other people’s perceptions until junior high, when she realized that some people won’t like you because you’re black. “They only based this on the fact that they didn’t hang out with too many people who looked like you,” she says.

But Burton-Goss credits her community with building her foundation of strength. “On the same street, we had teachers, bankers, preachers, store owners,” she says. “There were many people doing brave and wonderful things, enough to inspire me to think I could do brave and wonderful things, too.”

During her career, Burton-Goss has worked for the state government and various companies, addressing issues of diversity, leadership, and strategy. She also applied her knowledge in her own business, Goss Associates, a training, consulting, and coaching firm. At Babson, she’s involved with all aspects of the campus community, whether creating more cultural learning opportunities for staff, examining how to attract and retain diverse faculty, or helping students value their backgrounds and identities.

Q Tell us about your work before Babson.
A I usually came into a company when it was at a crossroads. They were getting ready to strategically redefine themselves, and they were asking, who do we want to be and what is it going to take to get there? One of the answers was always around diversity. An example is Carney Hospital, where I worked. One day, this hospital that was in an all-white, Irish-Catholic community woke up, and now their potential patients were from the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Central America. They had no multilingual capacities in the hospital for pastoral counseling, for physician care, no cultural competence work. They hired me the way others had hired me, to look at the development of leaders and managers for the company they were getting ready to become.

Q Why include the word “inclusion” in your title?
A Given whatever we’re doing, we can ask the question, who’s missing? Who else could contribute to what we’re trying to get done here? How do we make it our business to include them? Entrepreneurial education is Babson’s business. How do we live that out? As everybody comes to Babson, how do we ensure that the experience is inclusive and actually values whatever they’re bringing, so that we can benefit from whatever they’ve brought? So that they can fully maximize their experience, both as members of the community here but also as contributors to the community. So the duality of inclusion is often not talked about. This isn’t just to be nice. Nice matters. But if I feel like I belong here, the level of my productivity and my joy in contributing to the positive things that happen here is far greater.

Q What do you hope students learn?
A We hope to build a uniquely qualified graduate who is undaunted by issues of diversity in an increasingly global marketplace. The ability to work with anybody is a major business asset.—John Crawford