Champlain College Dedicates Diversity and Inclusion Monument and Tree

Intercultural U Cohort III with the magnolia tree and granite monument.

Champlain College dedicated a magnolia tree and granite monument to the continued efforts by staff, faculty and students to increase awareness of diversity and inclusion on campus.

Thursday's dedication was the culmination of efforts by graduates of the College's Intercultural U training program. Intercultural U is designed to help faculty and staff learn about cultural and diversity issues and then apply that to peer and mentoring opportunities in the workplace and classroom. This dedication was a gift by cohort three of Intercultural U; the program is currently on cohort six.

Chief Diversity Officer Ame Lambert spoke at the dedication about the need, especially in the academic setting, to develop more opportunities to identify diversity and inclusion. "Inclusion and equity work is hard. It is uncomfortable: it is inconvenient and it is exhausting. This is my job because these are values I hold deeply and yet, I am constantly surprised at how exclusive my thinking can be and how much I need to unlearn things I have passively picked up about other individuals, groups and the way things should be," she said.

President Donald Laackman echoed Lambert's sentiments, saying that bringing a heightened awareness of diversity and inclusion is "vitally important work for the College." He helped members of the cohort cut the ribbon and unveil the stone.

Intercultural U, designed by Lambert, has provided a 10-week, 26-hour training program for over 100 individuals at Champlain. Lambert explained that participants get an interactive learning experience to better understand how the personal, cultural and societal aspects of diversity show up in our daily lives. Members of the Cohort III organized the project to plant a magnolia tree and place a granite stone and plaque on Finney Quad next to Juniper Hall.

Diversity & Inclusion monumentThe plaque read: "As this tree continues to grow and flourish, so will our inclusion and diversity at Champlain College. We will seek out, value, support, and celebrate our differences. We will intentionally appreciate and include with open-hearted compassion, respect, and understanding."

Members of the Cohort III are:

  • Cheryl Taylor
  • Christine Hutchins
  • Fran Estes
  • Jessica Chappel
  • Kimberly Jordan
  • Kyle Dodson
  • Maggie Melvin
  • Mary Lee
  • Molly Ritvo
  • Morgan Ford
  • Nicole Holtz
  • Rachel Desimone
  • Rebecca Schwarz
  • Rowshan Nemazee
  • Sue Powers
  • Susan Lindberg
  • Ted Laskaris
  • Thomas Bonnette
  • Sarah Gibson

Diversity and inclusion is one of five pillars of the 2020 Strategic Plan, Champlain has taken impressive strides to become an inclusive and diverse campus in the last several years. In addition to Intercultural U, policies related to recruiting and performance management have been updated, curricular and co curricular offerings have been created and expanded, partnership with high schools and college access organizations have been developed, a pre college program has been created, new diversity positions and/or responsibilities have been added across divisions and there has been broad leadership engagement in discussions and initiatives.

Speech by Ame Lambert, Chief Diversity Officer:

Chief Diversity Officer Ame LambertGood afternoon and welcome:
I start my remarks today by honoring the members of Intercultural U cohort III who drove this project to completion. Since cohort II, Intercultural U graduates have worked to collectively impact our campus in ways beyond individual spheres of influence. These projects only happen if members of the cohort put in the time and effort to make things happen. You folks have put in both the time and the effort. Thank you and congratulations to you for making sure that diversity and inclusion is literally a part of the Champlain college fabric.
Inclusion and equity work is hard. It is uncomfortable; it is inconvenient and it is exhausting. This is my job because these are values I hold deeply; and yet, I am constantly surprised at how exclusive my thinking can be and how much I need to unlearn things I have passively picked up about other individuals, groups and the way things should be.
So why stick with something so frustrating and often downright painful? I believe it is the vision for what we can be that causes us to fight through the discomfort, engage in dialogue when we want to attack, stay till the work is done when we want to run and get back up and try again when we get knocked down. It is the hope for what we can be that keeps us working even when we are not. It is the realization, on some level, no matter how small, that it is better for us when it is better for more of us. This is what this vision reminds me of. That this hard work is critical, meaningful and valuable. And that while it is work that leaves no one unscathed; I am certainly angrier and more jaded since I started engaging in it; it is work that leaves us better and more whole.
I recently had the honor of hearing author David Brooks speak at the college for every student conference. I highly recommend his 5 minute ted talk. Mr. Brooks inspired us by reminding us of the difference between resume virtues...the things that help us advance in the marketplace and help us achieve material and societal success eulogy virtues...the ones that remain and people remember after we are gone- our relationships, character, the way we positively impacted others and our world; the deeper things. We live in a world that yells for resume values and quickly and visibly rewards them. Indeed, as a college, we have a responsibility to help develop resume values in our students so they can have opportunities and choices in life. And yet....our world is in dire need of more spaces that honor eulogy virtues so we commit and we work to find space for these values as well. The reality though, for most of us, is that the pursuit of resume virtues- which let me be clear, are not bad, often leaves little room for the Eulogy virtues. So for most of us, in the quiet moments between the racing and the striving and the conquering and the competing, there is a yearning in us for more eulogy values type pursuits. I am certain that at Champlain, we do not have a heart problem or a desire problem. We are awesome people who care about each other and want to do right. It's the road between will and outcome that gets murky and treacherous because it is a road fraught with reflection, stepping out of our comfort zone and looking under the rocks. Additionally, it takes a lot of time, which none of us have and it's incredibly hard to remember the deeper stuff in the frantic pace and crush of our daily lives.
And yet remember and prioritize we must! Moments like these help us. We need many more. Today, we, I, recommit to finding a better balance between my pursuit of resume values and of eulogy values and closing the gap between the values I espouse and the ones I live in practice.
The work for equity and inclusion falls into eulogy virtues space. It has increasing utility in the resume space as the world and workplace become more multicultural, global and interdependent and we are using more of resume virtues type language in our efforts to engage students. But at its core, this is self-work for the purpose of first other and then self lifting. This is work in the deeper space. This is work that outlasts us and our memories. Doing this work in an organizational context calls to what is best in us and calls to the best of us. So, as we celebrate this vision, I hope for a reality where diversity, inclusion and equity are central to what we do and who we are. I hope for a reality where an inclusion and equity lens drives all we do. I hope for a society where people have equity of opportunity to develop their capacity and equity of opportunity to use that capacity. I hope that for a reality where students from underserved and marginalized backgrounds graduate ready to lead because of the life changing experiences we have facilitated during their time here. I hope for a world where people are empowered and shine rather than shrinking into nothingness because of bias, fear, lack of self efficacy, lack of affirmation, structural inequity, backlash, and a sense of powerlessness. I hope for a reality with more room at the table for more of us.
I end with the words originally brainstormed by the Intercultural U III cohort members on the last day of their session. I join with them to dream of a world that is:

  • Safe
  • Visibly and invisibly diverse

I join with them to dream of a world:

  • Where Dominant and non-dominant groups (however that is defined) have reciprocal trust and move forward together 
  • Where Dominance is not power over, but power to......
  • Where Honesty, authenticity and transparency are the status quo
  • Where there is Common purpose and shared vision to create positive change
  • Where People are thriving and able to reach potential

This is the world I want to live in. The world I hope my soon to be one year old daughter gets to live in.

Thank you.


Founded in 1878, Champlain College is a small, not-for-profit, private college in Burlington, Vermont, with additional campuses in Montreal, Canada, and Dublin, Ireland. Champlain offers a traditional undergraduate experience from its beautiful campus overlooking Lake Champlain and over 90 residential undergraduate and online undergraduate and graduate degree programs and certificates. Champlain's distinctive career-driven approach to higher education embodies the notion that true learning occurs when information and experience come together to create knowledge. Champlain College is included in the Princeton Review's The Best 382 Colleges: 2018 Edition. For the third year in a row, Champlain was named a "Most Innovative School" in the North by U.S. News & World Report's 2018 "America's Best Colleges," and an "A+ School for B Students" and is ranked in the top 100 Regional Universities of the North. Champlain is also featured in the Fiske Guide to Colleges for 2018 as one of the "best and most interesting schools" in the United States, Canada and Great Britain and is a 2018 College of Distinction. For more information, visit  www.champlain.edu.