Ken James became Muskegon Community College’s first-ever chief diversity officer (CDO) on Sept. 20, 2021.
As a member of the President’s Cabinet, James will implement a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy and serve as a catalyst to leverage best practices and resources across campus to promote a culture of inclusion. The goal is to ensure that individuals of all racial and ethnic identities, ages, nationalities, social and economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religious, political and ideological perspectives, and physical and mental abilities are able to thrive and be engaged.
“Ken James is a highly skilled and experienced DEI professional,” noted MCC President Dale K. Nesbary. “He will add tremendous value to the College and our region. We are fortunate to have his talents back in Muskegon.”
“The role of chief diversity officer will be a driving force in supporting MCC’s constituents in attaining their individual, community, and global needs,” said James. “My goal will be to continue supporting the existing efforts that promote inclusion for all, by building on successes and addressing any challenges that may arise.”
“Over my professional career I have striven for and continually supported the betterment of organizations by initiating and maintaining dialogue of underserved and mainstream populations in whatever role I was in. The experience I have gained from my time working with the business community, municipal governments, healthcare systems, nonprofits and higher education have allowed me to see multiple facets on approaches to building consensus while providing me with the knowledge to navigate any barriers to teamwork.”
The director of inclusion for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce since 2018, James brings a wealth of DEI experience to his new role. He served as the affirmative action director for the City of Muskegon from 1997 to 2005 and was appointed to a statewide committee that piloted a Michigan State Department of Civil Rights program to create engaging communities.
James was director of management learning and development at Hackley Hospital for a year before becoming assistant vice president for affirmative action in 2008 at his alma mater, Grand Valley State University. He subsequently worked as an independent consultant with Meijer, Inc. as a general training specialist and part of a team that developed, implemented, and piloted comprehensive regional ethics training initiative that was adopted organization-wide in 2012.
He joined Spectrum Health University in 2012 as a senior learning advisor and was a key contributor to a corporate university team that garnered two national awards for Best Corporate University and Excellence in Leadership Development. In 2015, he became a senior recruiter for Spectrum Heath Talent Acquisition and led a team that developed and implemented an organization-wide, paid internship program for 100-plus summer interns annually.
A native of San Diego, CA, James earned a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Kentucky State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Grand Valley State University.
“MCC is a huge part of my professional foundation,” added James. “I served as director of the Intercultural Community Leadership Academy, a community program that operated out of MCC. I was honored to be a recipient of the Love in Action award in 2007, presented by MCC. Also, as past chair of the Muskegon County Diversity Committee, I was part of numerous Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day Breakfasts held in Collegiate Hall.”
Named to the Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 in 2007, James has been active with Leadership Muskegon, Leadership West Michigan, and Leadership Grand Rapids. He has been an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University and serves as a deacon and board member with Renaissance Church in Grand Rapids. He serves on the boards of Home Repair Services and Cascade Community Foundation. He is the African American Heritage Fund Chair for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, the diversity chair for the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, and co-chair of the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute Advisory Council. A Legacy Lunch Committee member, he is a Diversity Council member with the Grand Rapids Young Professionals.
He and his wife, Tamasha, are the parents of three teenage daughters.