University Introduces Construction Diversity Initiative

Columbia’s School of Professional Studies is teaming up with Facilities and Operations to launch a new program to promote and sustain Minority, Women and Local (MWL) economic development in New York’s construction industry.

August 06, 2019
Representatives from SPS and Facilities and Operations meet with city officials

The Construction Diversity Initiative (CDI) would be the first of its kind, and its research agenda would be oriented towards three principal domains:  learning, training and development; investigating key diversity research questions; and data collection and analysis.

Dr. Jason Wingard, Dean of the School of Professional Studies (SPS) and David Greenberg, Executive Vice President of Facilities and Operations (CUFO), hosted a breakfast to introduce the CDI program and gather feedback from key construction industry and diversity leaders from across New York.

Former Governor David Paterson gave the keynote address, and emphasized the importance of MWL economic development. “A nation’s heart is where is puts its resources,” Paterson said, adding that government and educational institutions have a responsibility to engage with under-served communities.

Francisco Pineda, SPS Faculty and Director, MS Construction Administration, and Tanya Pope, CUFO Assistant Vice President for University Supplier Diversity, in collaboration with Dr. Renee Sacks from Diversity Agenda, presented an overview of the program, explaining that the CDI is a way to consolidate and formalize many of the efforts already happening at Columbia University and bring together government, educational and construction partners to collaborate on research, policy and training.

Dean Wingard discussed SPS’s place as the school whose main focus is the intersection of scholars and practitioners, and discussed Columbia’s long history in providing educational access and opportunities for continued and lifelong learning.

“The Construction Diversity Initiative shows not only that there is an immediate and local impact, but also the opportunity to continue to improve, investigate, and inform the development of best practices through applied research and knowledge sharing,” Dean Wingard said. “With this first research and training program of its kind, we are well positioned to begin researching critical themes and delivering on the sort of training and workforce development that will be needed to support the large-scale construction projects underway, and will contribute to the diversity agenda and the University-wide mission we are fulfilling.”

Greenberg remarked on the number of multi-year programs CUFO has implemented that are designed to build capacity or teach business systems to MWL firms that do business at Columbia or with other large institutions, including CU Grow and the Pre-Apprenticeship Program, and shared CUFO’s goal for CDI to ensure the portfolio of programs is as effective as possible.

“Are there ways we can do even more to support the minority-, women-, and locally owned businesses that we work with or hope to work with?” Greenberg said. “CDI’s evidence-based approach will help Columbia, New York City, and other institutions build on the successes we are already creating.”