The death of George Floyd last year in 2020 has brought about some change in America over the past year, as people and companies are talking more and more about diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Companies are embracing change and implementing diversity, equity, and inclusion policies and training as a part of their corporate culture. For example, goodwill Industries International, Inc. (GII) recently hired Dr. Samantha-Rae Dickenson, EdD, MPH, as the new Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). She will oversee diversity, equity, and inclusion for Goodwill organizations in the United States and Canada.
Dr. Dickenson is a DEI strategist whose personal experiences and research in the field have made her passionate about helping those who are most marginalized, mainly African American women. Throughout her career, Dr. Dickenson aims to create systemic change for people without a voice and says that Goodwill’s mission aligns with her values and passion for helping people. She started her career in the accreditation field, which focused on ensuring that public health schools and programs were diverse, inclusive, and maintained cultural competencies.
The Critical Race Theory, Intersectionality, and the Black Feminist Theory were the frameworks Dr. Dickenson used in her doctoral research. She says she has experienced some microaggressions throughout her career. “I have experienced microaggressions in previous roles and my personal life. The shootings of Black people, namely Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, affected me as a Black woman,” Dr. Dickenson said. “My research coupled with my passion for advocating and fighting for those who don’t have a voice or have access to opportunities is what is most rewarding for me. I’m using my skillset to be intentional about DEI.”
She received her certificate in diversity and inclusion from Cornell University. In addition, she has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Winston Salem State University and a Master of Science in public health from UNC, Charlotte. She got her Doctorate from the University of New England from the Educational Leadership Program, focusing on leadership and organizational management. She currently works at the Rockville, Maryland, location.
“At Goodwill, I’ll be working in collaboration and supporting the 156 individual community-based Goodwill organizations,” Dr. Dickenson said. “The mission of Goodwill has been to advance people of all backgrounds while eliminating barriers. I will help elevate what Goodwill is already doing to serve the community by providing a strategic plan and providing tools and resources that empower member organizations to improve their processes.” Dr. Dickenson said that Goodwill organizations in Georgia and metro Atlanta also have access to her and those resources. Additionally, she has direct reporting lines to the CEO of Goodwill Industries International. She has previously worked for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as the principal strategist for the Black employee portfolio during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Dickenson also shared that the DEI field serves people who are marginalized and helps people deal with their traumatic experiences. She says that her work is never turned off and that there are also iniquities in the DEI space today. However, her focus has always been centered around people and serving others.
Speaking about her new role at Goodwill, she says she wanted to be in a space where she can feel comfortable working in a position that aligns ethically and morally. “I want to help GII be more strategic about DEI,” Dr. Dickenson said. “My DEI framework has five phases that ensure DEI is interwoven in all aspects of the organization’s operations and that employees feel included and are happy. I’m bringing accountability and strategy to this role.”
Last year Goodwill organizations collectively provided services to more than 220,216 Black workers, more than 92,689 Hispanic workers, more than 409,647 women, and more than 149,338 youth (ages 16-24). Local Goodwill organizations offer employment opportunities, job placement and training services, and other community-based programs funded by selling donated clothing and household items in nearly 3,300 stores. For more information, visit www.goodwill.org.