Innovations That Inspire

The Lerner Diversity Council

Recognition Year(s): 2022
School: Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, University of Delaware
Location: United States
The Lerner Diversity Council is a student-staff-faculty group guiding the College’s equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives. It advocates for a culture that celebrates the shared and unique attributes of all members of the Lerner community. This is achieved through various activities on DEI topics and opportunities.

Call to Action

In 2016, the University of Delaware (UD) launched a university-wide initiative to address issues and concerns related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Chief diversity advocates were appointed in each of UD’s seven colleges, and it was under the direction of the college dean and chief diversity advocate to establish a program within each college.

That same year, the Lerner College formed the Lerner Diversity Council (LDC) comprised of students, faculty, and staff representatives and appointed Dr. Jennifer Joe, the Whitney Family Professor of Accounting, as its chief diversity advocate. Joe is also the Cohen Family Lerner Director of Diversity and oversees the LDC. The LDC studied the UD diversity action plan (DAP) and other materials on the UD diversity website to build an understanding of the university’s goals and objectives related to diversity. The LDC then selected three core principles from the DAP for focus within Lerner.

Under Joe’s leadership, the LDC focuses on building community and college climate, transforming curricular and co-curricular activities, and strengthening outreach and engagement. The LDC ensures that the Lerner College and everything that happens in it reflects our values and instills a sense of belonging. Cultivating diversity and building an inclusive community are key elements of the Lerner mission statement.


The LDC established subcommittees to develop goals and objectives, action plans, and metrics to monitor progress on each of the core principles. The council includes faculty, staff, alumni, and graduate and undergraduate students.They meet monthly throughout the academic year to discuss the needs of the community and identify speakers for upcoming LDC Lunch and Learn events. Companies that actively recruit our students, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, have sponsored these educational lunch events.

The LDC receives funding from KPMG, its founding corporate sponsor. In light of the events of 2020, including the race-related riots and protests, the LDC stepped up and spearheaded listening sessions within the college, speaking with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, and alumni to get to the heart of where the college has fallen short in supporting underrepresented communities and work to make long-lasting improvements.


UD’s educational mission is to offer learning experiences that prepare our students to live in an increasingly diverse and global world. Inclusiveness and diversity among our students, faculty, and staff are central to that mission. The LDC provides the Lerner community the opportunity to understand and appreciate both the shared and unique background and talents of its community. Here are some examples of the organization’s impact since its founding:

  • The LDC Lunch and Learn events and other listening forums—three events a semester where faculty, students, and staff discuss issues related to equity, race, inclusion, and representation.
  • UDREAM (“U” Develop Resources for Excellence in Academic Management) provides academic support services to Lerner undergraduate students through the Academic Coaching Program and Peer Mentoring program.
  • The LDC provides support to student-run organizations that support diversity initiatives in various fields of business.
  • Hiring committees for faculty, staff, and administrative searches are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion and are tasked with identifying and attracting a diverse pool of candidates.
  • Through the PhD Project, Lerner supports underrepresented minorities (URMs) pursuing PhDs in business disciplines.
  • Lerner Career Services supports URM pairings in the Lerner Executive Mentoring Program to help students learn from professionals facing similar challenges and opportunities.
  • Business Discovery Camp inspires high school students from URM populations and first-generation college student households to learn about business.

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