News release: First-ever statewide class graduates from the Riley Institute’s award-winning diversity program


Katie Quine
Marketing and Communications Manager
The Riley Institute at Furman University




Class participants join a network of more than 2,300 Riley Fellows across South Carolina.

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Upon graduating from the Riley Institute’s Diversity Leaders Initiative (DLI) inaugural statewide class on December 17, 46 leaders from across the state have new tools and perspectives to help leverage diversity to improve organizational outcomes and drive social and economic progress in South Carolina.

Participants took part in intensive discussions and scenario analyses that allowed them to openly examine sensitive issues related to diversity and inclusion with fellow leaders, explore “blind spots,” and gain tools to develop diversity strategies within their own organizations. Since its inception 17 years ago, DLI has become a cornerstone of Furman University’s Riley Institute as more than 2,300 leaders from across the state have graduated from the program.

Graduates of DLI become Riley Fellows, members of a powerful cross-sector of South Carolinians that includes corporate CEOs, legislators, superintendents, religious and nonprofit heads, and business and community leaders.

Classes are typically organized by region, taking place in the Upstate, Midlands, and Lowcountry, but the need to transition to virtual programming as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic created the opportunity for broader convenings unrestrained by geography.

“While this difficult moment in history is one marked by physical distance and isolation, we must rise as one South Carolina to meet the challenges our communities face,” said Dr. Donald Gordon, executive director of the Riley Institute. “This statewide class is prepared to bring forth real-world solutions for social and economic divisions exacerbated by the pandemic.”

DLI is facilitated by expert Juan Johnson, an independent consultant who was The Coca-Cola Company’s first-ever vice president for diversity strategy.

Participants are selected through a rigorous application and interview process after being nominated by existing Riley Fellows. They are accepted based on their capacity to create impact within their organizations and communities. Each class is crafted to reflect the diverse demographics in South Carolina.

As part of the statewide class, participants worked together to develop awareness campaigns for five South Carolina-based nonprofits: Appleseed Justice, Engaging Creative Minds, Family Connection, PASOs, and United Ministries.

A second statewide class will take place in spring 2021.

View all graduates from Statewide Class I