MCKEESPORT, Pa. — Penn State Greater Allegheny hosted their second Crossing Bridges Summit in the Wunderley Gymnasium on May 2. The summit was designed to be an incubator for creating ways in which Penn State Greater Allegheny can serve as a catalyst for social change and bridge racial divides within the community. The event is a key initiative started by Chief Academic Officer and Chancellor Jacqueline Edmondson.
“Through the summit, we reach out to our neighboring communities to better understand the role our campus can play in addressing social needs in the region,” said Edmondson. “The Summit provides the time and opportunity for us to discuss strategies and make plans with community partners that will help us reconsider our curriculum, our role in the community, and the importance of collaboration in the process.”
The summit rendered the opportunity to hear firsthand how diversity and inclusion is defined within a Fortune 500 company like Johnson & Johnson.
Special guest Wanda Bryant Hope, chief diversity and inclusion officer for Johnson and Johnson (J&J), is an accomplished business executive with significant experience in general management, marketing, sales, commercial operations and human resources. In Hope's current role, she is responsible for globally advancing J&J’s diversity and inclusion outcomes, strengthening capabilities, improving reputation, and driving innovation and growth for future success.
“I started off as a sales representative at Johnson and Johnson and really worked my way through multiple different positions, including a district manager, regional business director, national sales director, various marketing roles, and led global teams throughout the company as well,” stated Hope. “All that experience landed the opportunity to marry it with my passion, which is around diversity and inclusion, and I’ve been the chief diversity and inclusion officer for Johnson & Johnson for over three years.”
Her passion for diversity and inclusion stemmed from a lifetime with active parents that created an upbringing around ways to assist people that are in need of additional help.
“I was probably born with that passion, and I contribute this passion for diversity and inclusion to a roll of toilet paper,” stated Hope. “Back in 1961, my mother was a college student, very active in the Civil Rights movement, and during one particular incident she wrote on a roll of toilet paper why this fight was so important to her.”
Hope quoted a passage that was addressed to her grandmother, which read, “Momma I know you told me not to get in jail, but I don’t mind being in jail as long as one day when I have children of my own, I know they will have privileges and equalities of rights awarded to them.”
Hearing those stories and learning about the value of fairness, equality, diversity and inclusion in society as a whole, shaped the way for Hope and contributed to her success.
McKeesport High School alum, Brandon Short, was the keynote speaker at the Summit. Short received his bachelor of science degree in marketing from Penn State; was a former New York Giants linebacker; and currently is the vice president of Round Hill Capital in London.
“My time at Penn State was transformative; I give credit to my mentors, coaches, professors that helped me through the difficult transition of getting into college,” stated Short. “The leadership of Penn State that showed me anything is possible.”
Looking out to the crowd and narrowing his words to the local high school students in attendance, Short spoke words of advice, motivation and experience.
“Don’t let your circumstances define you. You can accomplish anything through hard work, not being afraid to open your mind, take risks, seek mentorship, and surround yourself with like-minded people,” said Short.
Short has dedicated his life to serving his community and speaking to youth about the importance of education and working to make your dreams a reality.
“All the world’s problems can be addressed through education,” said Short. “The American dream is real; it’s tangible and people from all over the world try to achieve it.”
Short discussed his personal journey and his experiences living as a black man in the United States and abroad and how society can make changes to expand the knowledge of diversity and inclusion.
“We will never make positive change if we only surround ourselves with those that believe as we do,” said Short. “We have to have the courage to reach out to people that do not share our same view, and understand that based on your conversation, that view isn’t going to change—but over time and with more life experiences an understanding of someone else’s perspective will come.”
By holding the Crossing Bridges Summit, Penn State Greater Allegheny continues to be a catalyst for change and encourages conversations that bridge racial divide among the community. After the summit dispersed, attendees were escorted to the Student Community Center, where more conversations and questions took place.