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Public Affairs : 2014 Diversity Summit

Diversity Summit explores best practices for USMA 

By Kathy Eastwood
USMA Public Affairs Staff Writer
WEST POINT, N.Y. (April 10, 2014) — West Point and the Association of Graduates hosted a Diversity and Inclusion Summit April 3-4 to discuss the best practices for the U.S. Military Academy to recruit and retain more minorities and women.

Lt. Col. Donald Outing, Department of Mathematical Sciences professor and USMA Chief Diversity Officer, facilitated one of the discussions. Other speakers included Col. Deborah McDonald, director of Admissions; guest speaker A.T. Miller, associate vice provost for Academic Diversity at Cornell University; and USMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr.

“We are an all-volunteer Army and with these 12 years of war, our client is the American people,” Caslen said. “We have to earn their trust. The Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Army have made increasing diversity a priority. We are looking at the next generation and there is a gap to fill.”

Outing discussed what West Point is doing to increase diversity, which included department heads and other academy leaders.

“We are focused on improving recruiting and attracting qualified African-Americans who want to serve in the Army,” Outing said.

One slide presentation showed how West Point recruited 5.3 percent African-Americans; however, 13 percent of African-Americans are high school graduates, yet women made up about 20 percent as of the Class of 2013.

According to West Point’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan of 2014-2019, diversity is important because the military and the service academies must represent the nation it defends, including reflecting our nation’s diversity. However, there is a growing divide between the military demographic and the American people.

“We wanted to be above 20 percent in women recruits especially due to the combat exclusion for women,” Outing said. “We are off the mark with African-Americans, but when we look at women, the numbers of women, we are just about right with the current demographics considering 51 percent of the population in the U.S. is female.”

“We are trying to meet the needs if the Army, we have an all-volunteer Army. The Army is what the population gives us.”

The discussion then turned to women, who now make up about 20 percent of cadets and may increase due to the combat exclusion being repealed and, according to one participant, that ought to tell you that this decision lets us know what are goals are. 

“We are developing a Diversity Office to become the focal point of diversity at West Point.” 
— Lt. Col. Donald Outing, Department of Mathematical Sciences professor and USMA Chief Diversity Officer

Some discussion revolved around sexual assault, in that many women may have, somewhere in the back of their minds, the sexual assault issue. However, according to one participant, theoretically, if you get women in a corporation of up to 30 percent, they have the ability to change the corporation.

“We know 20 years from now that there’s a high likelihood there will be more women in leadership positions,” Ressler said. “How do we set the target so we have a good chance? Nobody is going to be disadvantaged to having too many women, but we will be disadvantaged if we do not have enough.”

Outing said recruiting efforts help when we inspire children in the middle schools.

“We have this approach where we establish relationships early,” Outing said. “The primary focus is the middle school age children workshop. The workshops were for high school juniors, but we expanded this to include middle school children.

“We have a number of programs and we maintain that contact,” Outing continued. “We did start tying them to other programs, such as junior leadership experience. We are getting them internships in Army labs, to keep them connected to the Army and to West Point. We sustain this by partnering with West Point Societies and leverage their networks to gain access to these groups. We stay in contact and we monitor and stay on track with the middle school.”

One participant talked about the difficulties of talking to the Congressional Black Caucus. There is a perception that they are not assisting and sometimes appear to be blocking recruiting efforts of minorities. What is West Point doing to get some of our graduates and have people sit down with the CBC?

“To a degree where we can have a discussion with the CBC, all the service academies don’t do this,” the participant said. He suggested identifying African-American graduates to become better acquainted with the CBC.

Outing said the West Point staff is recruiting, hiring and retaining a faculty that supports diversity and West Point is creating a diversity office with a chief of diversity position to oversee West Point’s recruiting of minorities and women.

“We are developing a Diversity Office to become the focal point of diversity at West Point,” Outing said. “Every department and organization is involved in this; they produce their own supporting plans. These departments will perform analysis tracking women and minority retention.”