Diversity and Inclusion Makes an Impact on Orr Fellowship

Hannah Scifres
By Hannah Scifres

Orr Fellowship’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) team is less than two years old, but is already making an impact in Orr Fellowship.

While there has always been high interest and sincere recruitment endeavors in the pursuit of a more diverse organization, a few years ago Co-founder and President, Scott Brenton, and Executive Director, Karyn Smitson, worked with Orr Fellows to form a task force dedicated to lifting these efforts to a whole new level.

The D&I team was formed as a response to this strategic initiative. In its first year, the team primarily focused on increasing representation from underrepresented groups in recruiting new Orr Fellows. In order to accomplish this, the team traveled to nearby universities to form relationships with key D&I stakeholders at these schools to leverage recruitment opportunities in the years to come.

In mid-2018 Orr Fellowship hired Jen Agnew as Director of Programming & Engagement. Jen brought her expertise in D&I initiatives in the academic world to Orr, where she enthusiastically oversees the efforts of the D&I team.

This past year the team grew by more than 50% to a team of 14. With the growth, the team has been able to greatly expand its efforts. After just one season of new and increased efforts to increase diversity in recruiting, the number of Fellows self-identifying as racially/ethnically diverse in the incoming class increased from 10% in 2019 to 19% in 2020, nearly doubling in one year. In addition to focusing on diversity in recruitment, the team has also hosted monthly roundtables for Fellows to openly discuss issues pertaining to D&I such as access, volunteerism, and political discourse.

Additionally, this year the team focused more on the “inclusion” half of D&I. All Fellows were encouraged to give anonymous survey feedback on how to increase inclusivity in Orr. The suggestions received could impact nearly every team in Orr, and steps are already being taken to implement these improvements.

In late fall, the D&I team began lobbying for an official Director of D&I position on the Fellow Leadership Team (FLT). The FLT is a peer-elected team of Fellow leaders in the areas of recruitment, finance, curriculum, marketing, Fellow & alumni engagement, civic engagement, and infrastructure & technology. In conjunction with the Orr staff, the FLT helps make major decisions about ongoing priorities, events, and goals of the Fellowship. The D&I team recognized the importance of having a seat at the table.

With less than a month before elections, current Fellows recently voted to approve the D&I FLT position. There are only a handful of FLT positions in Orr Fellowship (with the last addition being Director of IT three years ago), making this a major decision for Orr Fellowship in solidifying its commitment to strengthening D&I initiatives.

First year Fellow and D&I team member Lem Turner recognizes the importance of the decision. “Having an FLT position will not only solidify the strength and importance of upholding a high standard of Diversity and Inclusion within Orr Fellowship, but offers an incredible opportunity for Orr Fellowship to gain tools to carve a path as a thought leader within the Indy tech community.”

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