1 Year Later: Angela Spranger Reflects on DEI Work
Friday, April 21, 2023
By Wade Rupard
One year in, Senior Diversity Officer Angela Spranger reflects on the work that’s done and what lies ahead.
A lifelong Southerner, Angela Spranger is embracing a new (and very Minnesotan) phrase. “There’s no bad weather, just bad gear,” she says, reflecting on the state’s famously frigid winters. She’s proud to say that she, and her husband, Keith, have now survived their first Minnesota winter. As spring arrives, Spranger is hitting the one-year mark in her role as the Carlson School’s inaugural senior diversity officer and founding director of the Center for Inclusive Excellence. It’s been 12 months full of transition: new knowledge, new relationships, and new experiences—yes, she fell in love with Minneapolis’ Chain of Lakes, ate her first Jucy Lucy, and even received her first cabin invitation!
Spranger came to the Carlson School from Christopher Newport University (CNU) in Virginia where she served for two years as the chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. There, she worked to cultivate a welcoming culture on campus, recruit and retain top talent, expand community engagement, and effectively communicate the university’s efforts for inclusive excellence. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor at CNU’s Luter School of Business, where she taught management and marketing courses, facilitated two study abroad experiences, and offered external consulting services to regional corporate and nonprofit clients. Those experiences provided her with the foundations of a roadmap for getting up to speed in her new role. Spranger reflected on the past year, its highlights, and how she sees DEI and her role expanding at the Carlson School.
As you look back, what surprised you the most?
I was amazed, when I first got here, at both the breadth and depth of the DEI ecosystem at the Carlson School, throughout the University of Minnesota, and the Twin Cities as a whole. There was so much work already being done here and it was exciting to see all of it. Honestly, it was almost overwhelming. You didn’t need to sell anyone on the importance of DEI or the importance of starting a Center for Inclusive Excellence. Having worked in this field for some time, that’s pretty rare to see.
What is Inclusive Excellence and how is it driving change at the Carlson School?
Inclusive Excellence is a nationally recognized framework for organizational change. It is providing the foundation for our cohesive strategy to unify our DEI efforts across departments, units, and programs. Inclusive Excellence has five pillars and we are trying to build a thoughtful, deliberate approach to our DEI initiatives around those pillars.
Through the Center for Inclusive Excellence, we’re serving as a resource hub within the Carlson School for both internal and external stakeholders. This involves efforts to increase equity-mindedness among workplace leaders and equipping and supporting faculty and staff who interact with our Carlson School students, our future business leaders.
What are some of the accomplishments that you’re most proud of in your first year?
One of the highlights was “Live Into It: The Carlson School DEI Conference,” hosted in October 2022. More than 200 people from the community came together and talked about ideas of inclusive excellence and promoting equity. I’m proud of our growing DEI Community of Practice, which hosts monthly workshops for faculty and staff. Also, to see increased scholarship support for students who come from diverse backgrounds while we’re working hard to ensure that these students can thrive here too. DEI is embedded into the MBA and Undergraduate Program curricula, and we’re partnering with businesses throughout the community to explore DEI best practices. Inclusion is often about small steps and small efforts that lead to transformative change. While this takes time, I appreciate that sometimes the most impactful and rewarding moments are those in which one person tells you they feel seen, safe, and valued where previously they didn’t.
As you look ahead, how do you see your role at the Carlson School?
I aim to be the first learner, the first stumbler, the first questioner—so others can learn, stumble in safety, ask, and challenge. In promoting inclusion, trust is key. We have to trust no one intends to hurt, that feedback given is received.
My work requires meeting people on an individual level, acknowledging their intent, and then opening their eyes to the impact of their words, policies, and actions. These are crucial conversations. And yes, they can be exhausting! But, it’s tremendously fulfilling. I’m proud of the people here and the work we’ve already done, and I’m committed to growing with this amazing organization.
This article appeared in the Spring 2023 alumni magazine
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