Meet Veronica Michael, One Of The Chamber’s Professionals Of Color

Written by: Andrew Jason

The demographics of Fargo- Moorhead are changing before our eyes. While U.S. Census data still states that the population of Fargo is predominantly white (86.2 percent), according to demographic information from Fargo Public Schools, 28 percent of the students there are nonwhite. In fact, from 2011 to 2015, Moorhead Public Schools increased from 19 percent to 25 percent of its student population being a person of color.

This change can already be seen in the workplace as more people from across the world come to Fargo-Moorhead to work. To celebrate this growing diversity, the FMWF Chamber of Commerce recently launched a new program called Professionals of Color. We talked to four of their members to see why this is a needed addition to the business community.

Title: Director of Career Development Center
Company: MSUM
Role with Professionals of Color: Member of the Planning Committee

This is one of the first groups of its kind in the area. Why do you feel this program is needed?
We want to retain the best professionals. We don’t want to lose out to the competition based on individuals feeling like other communities are a better place to work and live. Most often, I am the only person who looks like me in my workplace or space. I grew up in Climax, Minn., so that isn’t a new experience – being the other. Unfortunately, being the other can sometimes have you feeling like an outsider. Even worse, others can perceive you as an outsider.

Building networks, collaborating with other professionals, passionately volunteering with awesome organizations in our community is the recipe to building a good life. We all want these things. We all want places to connect and grow. This organization is providing a great first step for a portion of our community to connect with the vibrancy of our regional economy.

What feedback did you receive after the initial launch meeting?
Very positive feedback. Networking with other professionals in an environment where my racial or ethnic background doesn’t separate me from the group is an opportunity I don’t get often in our community.

Here’s a challenge: take 48 hrs of this week and count how many times you are the minority in a public situation. What is that like? Reflect on how that may impact your life. I know that being perceived as different has only made me more resilient. How does that make you feel?

As the demographics of Fargo- Moorhead change, why do you think this organization is good for the business community?
A vibrant business community is about a commitment to democracy through the promotion of free enterprise and individual opportunity. With the creation of this organization, The Chamber is finding a way for all professionals to connect with community and engage in citizenship. Success isn’t just about excelling in the workplace, but also continuing our professional development, networking with other professionals, volunteering in our community and spending time with our loved ones.

What do you hope will come as a result of the group?
I want to be in less rooms where I am the only person who looks differently. My hope is that all kids in our community will grow up and consider completing their education or training here. I hope all graduates will consider our community as a great place to work and live their best life.
I want our community to be a place that can attract and keep all types of high quality professionals from all kind of backgrounds.

Are there any businesses, community leaders or organizations in town that you admire?
The Sons of Norway – Kringen Lodge 25. The Sons of Norway was founded in Minneapolis by 18 members in 1895. These men formed the organization to insure each other when they were unable to secure life insurance on their own because as immigrants they were viewed as distrustful. Their membership was originally open to males of Norwegian descent between the ages of 20 and 50 who were capable of giving proof of being morally upright, in good health and capable of supporting a family. As an immigrant myself, I connect with their history. Resilience, perseverance, the quest for free enterprise and individual opportunity.

Business owners and businesses often have a tendency of hiring people similar to them. Why do you think it’s good to have diversity in a workplace?
Diversity in a group increases viewpoints. Increased viewpoints increase potential creative outcomes, increase success. When making important decisions, you want to hear a variety of ideas. Innovation in business requires imagination, vision and risk-taking. Our differences can make our teams better. “If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.” – Gen. George S. Patton

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