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Carolina Espinal addresses diversity’s impact on business and society at Robertson School Speaker Series

Oct 21, 2019

Posted in: News

By Taylor Burress, Communications Intern (text) and Alix Bryan, Instructor (photos)

The Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture welcomed Carolina Espinal, founding principal of Mozaic Strategies, for its speaker series last Tuesday. More than 100 students, faculty and guests from the community -- including the School's namesake Richard T. Robertson -- attended the talk "Opportunities at the Intersection: How Diversity & Inclusion are Transforming Business and Society.”

 

Speaking on the two-year anniversary of the #MeToo hashtag going viral, Espinal crafted her discussion around its impact -- from hashtags to prosecution -- and that of other social movements, in business and leadership. Journalism instructor Vivian Medina-Messner, who teaches the Robertson School's Diversity in the Media course this semester, moderated a discussion following the event and Espinal answered questions from the audience.

Espinal detailed a timeline since the first tweet about Black Lives Matter that showed how social issues in the media have sparked heated conversation and social change which has affected corporations for better or worse. 

"I think my biggest piece of advice is, get it together; for lack of a better phrase," Espinal said. 

She said that companies need to be engaged, informed and connected -- not just hidden behind diversity managers. She said leadership needs to go beyond just connecting with shareholders, but also with consumers, employees and public partners to build a more inclusive culture “inside and outside." 

 

"That's what's going to ultimately build your connectivity to society because society is not waiting,” Espinal said. “Society is moving at lightning speed when it comes to passing judgment on whether you get it or you don't get it."

She pointed out the purchasing power consumers have to create dialogue on diversity and inclusion with the companies where they work and shop. She said consumers have access to more information than ever before. 

"There are things called corporate social responsibility reports or social impact reports that are kind of the numbers of how much companies are investing in communities and how they're investing in communities," Espinal said. "Get smart, read up on the companies that you're investing in, because you are investing in them and you should anticipate getting a return."

 

Espinal, an Arlington County resident, began her career as a civil rights advocate at UnidosUS working on behalf of Latino communities and later led the NAACP’s civic engagement policy platform. She also worked on political campaigns leading engagement strategies for federal, state and local campaigns. Espinal is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Harvard University.

Espinal said in retrospect she feels her transition from social advocacy to the private sector was seamless. Whether in the private sector or working on political campaigns, she said her job has always been focused on connecting with communities and helping them access information or build platforms to share their content and perspectives. 

She noticed nobody was on that side doing the work that needed to be done.

"I thought, these skills have to be transferable in some way, shape or form," she said. "I've never worked in the private sector, but if I can get on the other side of the fence ... then maybe that's a worthy endeavor for me to undertake."

 

Earlier this year, Espinal was appointed to the VCU Board of Visitors. Each year the governor of Virginia appoints members to the board, which is the university’s governing body. 

"I love the fact that there are so many positive threads about the essence of who VCU is, as an institution," Espinal said. "The fact that there's so many first generationers for example, the fact that there are so many women at various levels of the organization, the fact that there's an Office of Diversity, Excellence, things like that, that I think from a communications perspective, make such a great story."

Espinal, who herself was a first generation college student, said she’s excited to bring that experience to the board in addition to her experience as a communications advisor. 

"I'd love to bring that sort of perspective as we think about what are the ways that we engage and celebrate and challenge students," Espinal said. 

Espinal’s appointment was in June. She said she is still becoming familiar with the position.

 "I hope that in that learning, I'm drawing out questions that maybe are representative of what we need to be answering or investigating for students," Espinal said.

 

Please view additional photos from the event on the Robertson School Facebook page. The next event of the Robertson School Speaker Series will be on Thursday, Nov. 21, at 6 p.m. in the Student Commons Theater. Former Washington Post columnist Bob Levey will be the speaker. His talk is tiled "From Nixon to Trump: Why our democracy needs strong journalism."