When Dionne Jenkins became vice president of diversity and inclusion at $2.6 billion asset Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union nearly six years ago, she decided against hiring others to grow her department.
“I’m a department of one,” she says. “I want our managers and our team to see the role they play in diversity and inclusion, and not say, ‘That’s the diversity department’s responsibility.’ We all have a role to play.”
Jenkins is a dynamo, building programs that stress diversity, inclusion, and talent development.
For example, the Chattanooga, Tenn., credit union this year rolled out a paid summer internship program during which five college students from underrepresented groups learn about human resources, diversity and inclusion, real estate lending, commercial lending, and marketing.
“Our real estate intern learned how to process a loan from soup to nuts,” she says. “They’re doing meaningful work.”
Under her leadership, Tennessee Valley Federal also established a six-month mentorship program that connects employees seeking a greater depth of knowledge with trained co-workers who can help them achieve preestablished goals.
“I want to create an inclusive culture where everyone is learning to work together in harmony despite any differences we bring to the table,” Jenkins says.
The credit union’s inclusion council, made up of Tennessee Valley Federal employees, discusses diversity issues, produces videos about inclusion and highlights observances such as Black History Month, Pride Month, and National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Tennessee Valley Federal also provides diversity training to small businesses and nonprofits in the community that can’t afford a diversity officer or consultant.
“If we can provide education for people on how to treat others with dignity, regardless of differences, it impacts our members, our staff, and our community,” she says.
Jenkins is a force in the community, championing many causes. She’s campaign chair of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, and she sits on the boards of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, and the public library. She chairs the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Chancellor’s Community Council.
“Servant leadership is at the core of who I am,” she says. “Being able to work for an organization that believes in community involvement and engagement is why I’m here. I want to be in a role that allows me to serve this community on behalf of the credit union.”