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Community Highlights: Meet Mary “MJ” McConner of Inclusive Excellence Consulting

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mary “MJ” McConner.

Hi Mary, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
Absolutely! I am excited to introduce myself and share details about my personal diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) journey.

When I think of my childhood, I typically reflect on how much I loved spending time with my friends. We grew up together in the same neighborhood on the west side of Detroit, Michigan. My friends and I shared common interests and engaged in similar activities such as family cookouts, regularly changing our hairstyles, and wearing our “Sunday best” attire for church services every Sunday morning. Our ethnicity, race, and social class influenced a lot of the cultural commonalities we shared.

Growing up in an urban community with one of the highest percentages of Black Americans in the country, I had never had a friendship with someone of a different ethnic background during my childhood. It was not until I started my undergraduate studies at Grand Valley State University (GVSU) that I truly experienced what it felt like to be a member of an “underrepresented” group. Also, for the first time in my life, I had friends who were of different ethnicities. It was during this period at GVSU that I learned to appreciate diversity, inclusivity, and the benefits of interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds.

After completing my undergraduate studies at GVSU, I went on to pursue a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership/Student Affairs at Central Michigan University where I worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of International Programs.

My graduate student experience was a particular turning point in my life because (1) my assistantship made me realize how much I enjoy working with individuals of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds, and (2) it was at Central Michigan that I became involved in different social justice initiatives. Seeing firsthand the positive effects of fostering a diverse campus climate ultimately influenced my decision to work in the international affairs and diversity, equity, and inclusion fields.

I worked in international student advisor roles at multiple universities after completing my master’s program before deciding to pursue a doctoral degree in Higher Education Administration. During my doctoral studies, I discovered that I could combine my academic, research, and professional interests to better understand and serve individuals with historically marginalized and minoritized identities.

As I reflect on my journey of learning to value and teach others about the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I can say without hesitation that it was my collegiate experiences that led to my awakening in appreciating and promoting the “beauty in differences”.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Consultants and practitioners who work in this space know that change takes time and oftentimes organizations want to see fast results. Many chief diversity officers will say that the role is one of the hardest jobs you will ever love, and they are correct.

One of the biggest challenges of being a DEI leader and consultant is being at the intersection of having to create well-developed DEI programs or strategies and people wanting to see change right away. Embedding DEI into the core of an organization’s functioning is absolutely possible and should be a goal of every organization.

But it is a process that requires patience, time, learning (and often unlearning), resources, and a commitment from organizational members at all levels.

As you know, we’re big fans of Inclusive Excellence Consulting, LLC. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
I founded Inclusive Excellence Consulting in December of 2021 because I am committed to helping organizations foster inclusive and equitable organizational cultures where diversity and inclusion are valued and celebrated.

Inclusive Excellence Consulting is a national consulting firm that provides clients with tailored strategies, resources, training, and professional development opportunities that enable organizations to incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into the core of organizational functioning.

The services we provide:

1. Organizational Culture & Climate Assessment.
A commitment to inclusive excellence requires assessing an institution’s culture and climate. This is achieved by evaluating institutional practices; examining and understanding the experiences of individuals within an organization; and identifying areas of cultural strength and weakness.

2. Strategy Design.
Every organization needs a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy aligned to its values and goals. Strategy design can provide clear direction, outline measurable goals, guide day-to-day decisions, and demonstrate an organization’s long-term commitment to DEI. Inclusive Excellence Consulting is here to assist your organization through the strategy formulation and implementation process.

3. Education and Development.
Inclusive Excellence Consulting develops tailored resources, workshops, and professional development opportunities to meet the unique needs of every client we serve. Our workshops include introducing DEI principles, equity-centered culture development, inclusive leadership training, anti-bias education, and more.

4. One-on-one Consulting and Coaching
One-on-one coaching is a great personal development tool that allows you to increase your knowledge and launch your own DEI journey.

5. Keynote Speaking.

What are your plans for the future?
The primary reason I wanted to have my company headquartered in Memphis where I reside is because of the amazing programs and resources that are available for small businesses and Black women entrepreneurs.

For example, when I initially contacted the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chief Economic Development Officer – Ted Townsend – to inquire about specific resources available for Black women entrepreneurs in the startup phase, not only did he inform me of the Greater Memphis Chamber’s “Memphis Moves” Initiative, but he also took the time to connect me with other local and Black entrepreneurs in Memphis.

Additionally, I have received support from many leaders in the Memphis community including Tabitha Glenn (CEO of Peer Power), Jeremy Calhoun (Founder and President of STS Enterprise Corporation), Lynn Page (Vice President, Program Strategy and Development at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – ALSAC), Beverly Word (Owner of BJ Word LLC) and many others.

It is really important to be in a community where I feel supported and have the relationships and resources I need to be a successful entrepreneur. I intend to continue growing my network locally and nationally.

Contact Info:

Image Credits:

Grand Valley State Universities of University Communications Department and Baris Kopruluoglu

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