A native Grand Rapidian who graduated from Creston High School announced recently the release of her first book. Sandra Upton has spent the past 25 years researching, training, speaking and implementing DEI methodologies, and her book on the subject touts an “evidence-based, proven change management strategy.”
Impressively, her work spans the globe with Fortune 500 companies, universities, and nonprofits. In light of the book’s upcoming release, Grand Rapids Magazine asked her some questions:
GR Mag: Have you always been a wordsmith?
SA: Not sure I would call myself a wordsmith, but I am a good communicator and believe I have something to say that will add value and help move the DEI work forward.
GR Mag: How long did it take you to write this, your first book?
SA: It was a two-year process.
GR Mag: In a few words, describe yourself as a young girl:
SA: Growing up as an only child and being raised by a single mother, I spent a lot of time by myself. My mother was very caring and present. I also had my grandparents, friends and was grateful for those relationships but the introvert in me very much enjoyed my times of solitude. I loved school and performed well academically. But I also had a good “school and extracurricular activities” balance. Because of my high value for education, college and a successful career were not optional for me.
GR Mag: What motivated you?
SA: At my core I am a teacher. So, I enjoy facilitating learning and the process of getting information to others and helping them understand and apply it practical ways. The reward for me is seeing them learn, change, and benefit from it. At the end of the day, consulting is teaching, which is why I’m so motivated and energized by what I do.
GR Mag: What did you want to be when you grew up?
SA: I’m not sure if I articulated it or knew for sure I wanted to be a teacher, but I always enjoyed teaching others, including lining up my dolls for class.
GR Mag: What aspects of your personality have you maintained throughout your life?
SA: I am an eternal optimist and a very positive person. I always see the glass as half full versus half empty. I have a high level of cultural intelligence and am effective at building relationships.
GR Mag: Was there any defining incident that prompted you to set out to make educating people about DEI your life’s ambition?
SA: In my early days as a consultant with a boutique consulting firm I worked with many clients who were missing out on the benefits of a diverse team and inclusive work environment. I wanted to help change that. Also, as a woman of color I understand the plight and challenges underrepresented groups face in the workplace.
GR Mag: I understand you attended Creston High School. Is there a teacher or other academic figure who stands out in your mind that helped shape your path?
SA: When I attended, Creston was incredibly diverse, both with students, teachers and administrators. I had several black female teachers and administrators to look up to. Two that stood out were Margo Anderson and Doris Ward. They were phenomenal role models and they very much helped shaped by path.
GR Mag: What do you hope to be remembered for?
SA: A kind and caring person who put her faith and family first but also worked tirelessly to help make the world a more just place, one organization at a time.
GR Mag: What’s the next big thing on your agenda? Another book?
SA: For now, I’m focused on getting the information in this book in front of as many people and organizations as possible. My consulting practice continues to thrive, and I look forward to working with more organizations and helping them to move the needle on DEI.
Upton’s book is called: “Make It Last: A Roadmap and Practical Strategies for How to Do DEI”.
The book is geared toward chief diversity officers, members of DEI councils, leaders of employee resource groups, human resource professionals, middle managers, and department heads who need support to create and implement DEI strategies to make and sustain change.
Book Launch Gathering
There will be an event and Book Signing at Atomic Object, 1034 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, with Upton, hosted by TaRita Johnson, Senior Vice President, Talent and Diversity, The Right Place and Shawn Crowley, Co-CEO, Atomic Object, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 3-4:30 p.m. and another session starting at 6 p.m. To sign up, click here.