From Detroit to Marquette down to Flint, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, TSA leaders in Michigan are taking a statewide hands-on approach to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA).
TSA teams at Michigan’s 17 federalized airports are joining forces to highlight and share their stories of what DEIA means to them and the impacts on their lives and the TSA workplace.
“Diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility are so important in today’s society, because everyone deserves to have a voice,” said Angela Osmond, TSA manager at Flint’s Bishop International Airport. “When looking at the diversity of our 17 airports, the makeup of each airport is unique and important to what we do on a daily basis. When we join together, we not only learn from one another, but we grow together.”
TSA officers traveled across Michigan with the state’s senior TSA leaders to host employee town halls, where they generated deep personal conversations, building employee cohesion and a better understanding of each other’s personal experiences.
“Having the ability to connect with our personnel across our 17 airports to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility demonstrates our workforce’s dedication to TSA’s strategic priority ‘commit to our people,’” Michigan TSA Assistant Federal Security Director-Screening Reggie Stephens noted. “The objectives of the town halls were to create a dialogue at the local airport level to promote awareness on how diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility makes us a stronger agency.”
Stephens said at the town halls, TSA Michigan launched a unique program called the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Lending Library and a DEIA book club, which he believes gives employees opportunities to invest in their own professional development.
At Michigan TSA Federal Security Director Steve Lorincz’s request, the state’s TSA DEIA Council bought 33 sets of books to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility discussions across the Great Lakes State.
“The Lending Library provides a less stressful way of promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility,” said Michigan Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director-Screening Jannetta Sewell. “It allows our teams to come and go at their own pace and provides an alternate strategy to encourage personnel to become more knowledgeable as it pertains to DEIA.”
Michigan Assistant Federal Security Director-Generalist Denise Amicucci, the state’s DEIA Council Chair, believes respecting and embracing our differences makes TSA stronger. She said, “In a recent DEIA discussion, someone said, ‘If you want to learn and grow, you need to spend time with people who think and look different than you.’ What a powerful message. How can an individual or a team get better if all they do is ask those who think like them or agree with them?”
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) TSA Manager Mitchell Larkins added, “Acknowledging our differences and better understanding what makes us unique is not only vital to ensure cohesion, but it’s important for operational success, as leaders can identify our unique talents and capabilities to successfully carry out our security mission.”
Craig LaFoille, Assistant Federal Security Director-Generalist at Traverse City’s Cherry Capital Airport, believes Michigan’s DEIA efforts are invaluable to make sure no one is excluded and employees at all levels understand the continuous need for growth and education.
“Performance enhancement and creating a positive culture are just a few of the benefits we receive from promoting diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility,” said LaFoille.
TSA employees across the state are embracing the idea.
“Candid conversations promote understanding of background and culture to cohesively bind a team,” said DTW Supervisory TSA Officer Matthew Karchnick.
DTW Lead TSA Officer Duree Miner-Johnson added, “It ensures everyone is on the same page and that our team cares about diversity as an agency. It allows individuals to feel included and important and have something different to offer on a larger scale.”
“Acknowledging our differences is helpful to us as a group, because where I may lack the knowledge, someone else may be able to provide additional insight,” said DTW TSA Officer Catina Hawkins.
Nancy Obradovich, a Lead Officer at Iron Mountain’s Ford Airport (IMT), is also grateful for Michigan’s DEIA efforts, which she believes are opening the lines of communication and doors for officers to share real-life experiences.
“Communication, listening and confidence are such a big part of our job that understanding diverse cultures and communicating strongly are key to successful processes and security,” Obradovich said.
When it comes to diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility, IMT Supervisory TSA Officer Cathy Manci has this message for TSA teams across the country as well as others in the U.S. workforce:
“Start talking! Find out about your coworkers. Ask questions!! People love to talk about these things. You may have more in common with your peers than you were aware of.”
By Don Wagner, TSA Strategic Communications & Public Affairs