Organization strategy

Hudson Valley organization strives to increase diversity on boards

The first board of directors on which Freddimir Garcia sat was that of the Catharine Street Community Center.

He was working at Marist College as a presidential member when he was asked to join. The offer, which he described as a “unicorn opportunity”, took him by surprise.

What Garcia thought the boards were looking for were “people in decision-making positions; they are looking for people who serve or work for large institutions because of funding and resources ”.

Instead, what Garcia had to offer, besides having worked at Marist, was the experience of growing up participating in programs like those offered by the community center. He also livedin the town of Poughkeepsie at the time.

It was about ten years ago.

Since then, he has served on several boards of directors, including that of Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, where he is nowan advisor for a training and placement program for people of color on boards of directors across the region.

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The program, called The Board Institute, was designed by Garcia and Jonathan Drapkin, the president of the organization that reports on topics such as the housing market, diversity, education and health care.

At the time, the organization was considering how to respond to the social justice movement in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

Freddimir Garcia in a boardroom of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors in White Plains, December 16, 2021. He is a board member of Pattern For Progress and is leading their pilot program which will be to train and match people. colored on the boards.  throughout the region.

“I began to think, as we all read about this, about the lack of colored board members in the Hudson Valley,” said Drapkin, who resigns Dec. 31.

Garcia had “sketched out” an idea for a counseling program before 2020. Having worked at Marist and being a person of color, Garcia was always asked to be a part of the counseling. In particular, he realized that the same people of color were sitting on several boards.

“It’s demanding and it’s overwhelming. It gives the false impression that there are no people of color who can sit on boards of directors,” Garcia said. “There is a lot of talent out there, you just have to watch.”

What the program does

The Board Institute program aims to create a “positive disruption” in the way boards are populated. The program not only trains professionals to be effective leaders, but also connects them with boards of directors that seek diversity.

The first cohort of ten participants took place this summer over five weeks. During this time, members learned a variety of topics ranging from strategic planning and board finance to navigating a board room and building a pipeline of connections. Each member has also been matched with a mentor.

Ultimately, members are guaranteed to have talks on advice in their area of ​​interest from the Hudson Valley area, from Westchester Counties to Greene Counties.

“I think a lot of times people of color can be on a board, but they’re not in a leadership position. planning, ”said Shannon Jenkins, who works in public affairs for Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp.

Shannon Jenkins portrays a portrait at her home in Poughkeepsie, NY on Friday, December 17, 2021.

Jenkins had been on a board before joining the program. The experience was shortlived as there was a lot she didn’t know about being a board member, especially the time commitment.

“When I saw the opportunity to learn how to become a board member and learn all the ins and outs of being a board member. I thought to myself, ‘You know, that’ is probably where I should have started, ”she said.

While the goal may be to increase board diversity, the program is also building a stronghold of minority leadership in the region. Members learn from each other, learn from each other and build on their own networks.

Garcia plans to expand the program next year to help boards invest in their own diversity and inclusion efforts. Organizations looking to have board members sit on their board will also need diversity training.

Catharine Street Community Center Board Vice Chairman Freddimir Garcia speaks at the 29th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast on January 24, 2020.

“(The participants are) not the doors to diversity, equity and inclusion. It is not their expertise. It is not what they do regularly,” he said. declared. “The idea here is that we have to see them as board members, not as board members of color.”

To learn more about the program, email [email protected] or call 845-565-4900.

Saba Ali: [email protected]: 845-451-4518