5 questions with…faculty diversity leader Robynn Strong

When Insight Into Diversity magazine honored Case Western Reserve University with the inaugural Higher Education Excellence in Diversity award last month, one initiative stood out to the judges: the Train the Champion program, managed by Robynn Strong and her colleague, Melissa Burrows.

Throughout the program, which is accepting applications until Friday, Dec. 21, employees meet monthly to discuss topics that cover the spectrum of diversity, from disability issues to cultural, racial and intergenerational differences. Strong firmly believes Train the Champion helps foster an inclusive environment, retain and recruit diverse faculty, staff and students, and encourages workplace satisfaction.

This is just one of many initiatives Strong leads as manager of faculty diversity and development in the Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity. In addition, she works to increase the diversity of faculty applicant pools and helps faculty search committees navigate government regulations and university guidelines in the process. Her work helps ensure top candidates are applying to Case Western Reserve and, ideally, joining the faculty.

Strong became manager of faculty diversity and development earlier this year, though she has worked at Case Western Reserve for more than 18 years in departments such as undergraduate admissions and alumni relations. Throughout her time, she has worked with virtually every group related to the campus community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, donors and more.

And while she’s been able to learn from everyone with whom she’s come into contact, she’s also taken advantage of even more chances to gain knowledge—namely, completing the Women’s Staff Leadership Development Initiative certificate program earlier this year. “I truly value the importance of the various program opportunities CWRU has to offer its staff and faculty, allowing us to broaden our awareness and personal growth outside of our day-to-day work,” Strong said.

These extra opportunities are what make Strong such a champion of Case Western Reserve. In fact, having these chances to learn and grow is her favorite thing about the university—just check out question No. 5.

Read more about her in this week’s five questions.

1. What are you reading—and how are you reading it (print vs. digital)?

I am currently reading quite a bit of articles related to yoga, both printed and digital literature. I’ve found a new love interest for yoga, particularly hot yoga (Vinyasa), which warms the body to facilitate sweating and increases flexibility, allowing me to perfect my yoga positions (called Asana). The room is usually about 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It may sound a little uncomfortable, but after a 75-minute class, I feel great. I spend a lot of time reading about the language of yoga (Sanskrit) and the true philosophy and ethics of yoga. Yoga to me is more than just fitness. It is a great stress reducer and mind-body practice. Hot Vinyasa has also helped me to learn to find my inner strength, stability and center.

2. What can’t you live without?

I recently stepped into the 21st century and purchased an iPhone. Before I made the purchase, I thought folks made too much of a fuss over smartphones, but now that I have one, I don’t know how I ever lived without it. I love communicating via FaceTime, Siri is my new best friend and I’m having fun downloading the many apps offered. There’s nothing like being able to retrieve the Bible scriptures within seconds after my pastor announces the chapter and verse—although I still keep my hard copy handy.

3. What’s your favorite spot on campus?

I actually have many favorites. During the spring and summer months, I love sitting on the benches that are in semi-secluded areas. There is a bench next to the Eldred Theater, one on the side entrance of the molecular science building and by the School of Law. I go to these spots during my afternoon break when the weather is nice.

I also really like facilitating training sessions in the [Biomedical Research Building] room 1100. Not only is it a great conference room, but it also has a view that overlooks the campus quad area and downtown Cleveland.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Some time ago, an alum of CWRU sent me a book titled Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff…and It’s All Small Stuff. I keep the book within an arm’s reach at my home. Every now and then I will read certain chapters from the book, which helps me stay focused on the present moment and not worry and ponder on circumstances that I can’t control.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve University?

I tell everyone that the beauty of working at CWRU is the many opportunities the university has to offer—if you are willing to take advantage of them. Throughout the year, many guest speakers are invited to campus, lecturing on various topics, which are usually free. Veale Center and 121 Fitness are great workout facilities for employees and students to maintain their health and wellness. The Kelvin Smith Library is a beautiful library, where I often go while on my lunch hour to enjoy some quiet reading time.

Really, I guess my favorite thing about CWRU is being able to choose from many favorite things. I can go on and on: the historic buildings, the “elephant stairs,” Amasa Stone Chapel, the Mather arches—I love it all.

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