Diversity and Inclusion Officer Sees His Work as Both ‘Scientific and Spiritual’
March 25, 2021
Oliver C. is a renaissance man.
He’s a Baptist minister, neuroscience enthusiast, military officer, counselor and training expert.
Yet his current role, Diversity and Inclusion Officer for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A), may be his most important. And one his whole career has been pointing to.
Oliver grew up in the Edgar Allan Poe housing projects in Baltimore, which was a tough environment. After high school, he attended Frostburg State College and majored in Political Science. After graduating he joined the Army as an intelligence analyst. He subsequently enrolled in the Washington DC National Guard Officer Candidate Program and for 20 years served as a logistics officer. He received the award of Commander of the Year in 1994. Oliver also received graduate degrees in Management and Divinity.
From there his career progressed to stints in the private sector as an accounting manager and government contractor, and continuing to serve in the DC National Guard where he also held positions as Director of Family Readiness and Contracting Officer. This was during the height of the War on Terror in the early 2000s, and he counseled countless families whose sons and daughters were heading off to war.
In 2010, Oliver was then recruited by DHS I&A to work as senior acquisitions analyst, and also taught a class on diversity and inclusion. His success in that area led to his current position, which he’s held since September 2020.
So, what are the current initiatives, goals and activities of I&A’s diversity and inclusion program?
“Currently, I am working on three immediate goals,” Oliver says. “First, an overall strategic plan for diversity and inclusion in DHS I&A. Second, instituting a diversity council. And third, bringing together an equity advisory group.”
Oliver says the strategic plan begins with tweaking existing DHS I&A programs on wellness and work-life balance, in addition to training and mentoring, to make sure everyone considers inclusivity and diversity. However, like any plan, there needs to be overall goals to shoot for. These include:
- Inspiring the collective power and potential of shared human experience
- Creating opportunities for optimum and progressive engagement
- Leading by valuing people, building trust and instilling purpose
The diversity council, however, is an initiative to offer Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), encouraging employees to advocate for themselves through group-sponsored training events, presentations, summits, mentoring, sponsorship, panel discussions and more. There are several ERGs, including ones for African Americans, Asian Americans, LGBTQA, Latinos and Women.
Oliver says that, first and foremost, members of these groups can support each other by telling stories, sharing strategies and listening.
“It allows a space for them to have fellowship with one another,” he says. “It allows them to feel free and helps them to work at their optimum potential.”
The third item on his to-do list is starting the equity advisory group. Beginning in 2021, every federal agency must produce an equity assessment.
“This entails conducting surveys of current employees, assessing all current programs, brainstorming how to make things better and always improving.” he says.
These three items will keep Oliver busy for the rest of the year and beyond. What keeps him going is the success he sees in implementing these programs. For example, he often sits in various ERG meetings and witnesses the camaraderie and support the members give each other. Not only does it create a better culture, but it also keeps the country safer as these folks work every day on protecting national security.
“It may not seem quantifiable, but as a Baptist preacher, doing this program has become very spiritual for me,” he says. “Yet in many ways, it’s also scientific. Acceptance is not necessarily soft emotional intelligence. We all have biological--cognitive, sensory and neuro—responses to being accepted or not.”
With all the goals and plans Oliver has on his plate, he says it really boils down to creating a system where all employees are empowered, engaged and free to do their best work.
“And that all starts with trust,” he says. “Building trust is the best and most important thing I do.”