MCC’s new chief diversity officer promotes celebration of all cultures

Ken James, Muskegon Community College’s inaugural chief diversity officer, a position that began nine months ago under the leadership of recently retired president Dr. Dale Nesbary, looks at his new role as a homecoming of sorts.

James previously lived in Muskegon for 11 years, when the San Diego native
served as the director of affirmative action for the city of Muskegon and spent three years in a learning management role for Hackley Hospital. 

His most recent role was director of inclusion at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, so training and leading others in issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is not new to him.

Reaching out to stakeholders

With nearly 30 years as a DEI professional, James says he is honored to bring his experience to MCC by “bringing the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion” to the institution’s four stakeholder groups.

First are the students, regardless of their backgrounds – from traditional and returning students to veterans and individuals seeking training. 

“We want them to achieve whatever their version of success is,” James says.

For faculty and staff, the second group of stakeholders, James brings this
question: Are we culturally competent? In addition, he stresses the importance of the workforce culture and ensuring everyone can get along in the workspace.

James also would like for the college to leave a lasting impression on the third group of stakeholders – the community at large. 

“When people in our community think of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I want
them to feel that MCC is a pillar institution,” he says, adding that “we can take the lead in having crucial conversations.”

Finally, members of the business community – large or small, nonprofit or for-profit organizations – are stakeholders to whom MCC offers services that include implicit bias training and the training in the benefit of an inclusive workforce.

Extensive educational, work backgrounds

James, who obtained his bachelor’s degree from Kentucky State University and his master’s degree from Grand Valley State University, is an executive certified diversity coach through the Coach Diversity Institute, in partnership with the Howard University School of Business, and is skilled in customizing training programs to help the business community reach DEI goals. His career background includes work in the municipal government, health care, nonprofit, and corporate retail environments, 

James says he is looking forward to moving these DEI initiatives forward this summer under the leadership of new MCC president Dr. John Selmon, whom he says offers his full support.

Married and the father of three daughters, James wants to be a community resource incorporating celebrations of all cultures, including recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month, the significance of Juneteenth, and more.

MCC already is known for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Unity Breakfast, which this year featured Donna Brazile, Washington political strategist and national news contributor. James says the college will continue to grow its presence in DEI as its calendar expands with diversity events that it will share with the community.

“If we go through life not knowing our contributions, then it keeps us in the blind spots,” James says. “I like to let people know and want us to celebrate all history and contributions and cultures.”
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