Hope College students take on Downtown Holland as a DEI project

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Courtesy Downtown Holland

Students from the Hope College Center for Leadership are partnering with a pair of experts to help Downtown Holland with its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.

Downtown Holland last week said it is partnering with the Hope College Center For Leadership (CFL) to explore opportunities for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the city’s shopping and dining district.

The CFL consulting program assigns interdisciplinary teams of three or four Hope students and a professional project coach to assist 10 to 15 for-profit and nonprofit organizations with specific projects each semester.

The teams solve real-world problems for clients, while the experiential learning and mentoring helps the students to discern their calling and develop their critical-thinking, problem-solving and team-building skills.

The CFL is led by Doug Ruch, a former CEO with decades of business experience who joined Hope College in 2015.

As part of its work with Downtown Holland, the CFL students are exploring the business case for DEI in downtown Holland to better understand the financial benefits of a diverse customer base.

The students have been working on the project under the guidance of project coach Cheryl Edwards Cannon, along with subject matter expert Robyn Afrik, DEI director for Ottawa County.

Robyn Afrik, DEI director for Ottawa County. Courtesy West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum

“This is a true win-win project,” Ruch said. “It represents a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn experientially and hone skills they will need as leaders. And I am confident the team will provide excellent outcomes that will enhance an already amazing downtown Holland.”

The CFL students have spent the semester gathering and analyzing census data for the Holland area and meeting extensively with community leaders, downtown Holland business owners and other downtown stakeholders. The students also invited many community members to complete a detailed survey about their experiences as a downtown Holland customer.

Kara de Alvare. Courtesy Downtown Holland

“As Hope College’s neighbor, we were thrilled with the Center for Leadership’s support of our DEI efforts in downtown Holland and their willingness to take our project on because of the meaningful impact it will have,” said Kara de Alvare, Downtown Holland marketing coordinator. “We’ve been nothing but impressed by the students’ efforts and professionalism throughout this entire project, and we are looking forward to seeing the culmination of their work at their final presentation later this month.”

The CFL students will present their findings at 9 a.m. Monday, April 25, at the Holland Civic Center Place, at 150 E. Eighth St. in the market view room on the second floor.

The public is invited to attend, no RSVP necessary. Complimentary refreshments will be provided by Downtown Holland.

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