Hope Felton-Miller was born in the Deep South during Jim Crow days, but in the eclectic port city of Savannah, Georgia. She was first introduced to Chautauqua in 1981, fell in love with the Institution and has been coming here with her husband, their four children, and now 10 grandchildren in the years since. She described Chautauqua as her, "happy place on Earth," but says "it has always been a sorrow that it is less diverse than I would like. I've become increasingly concerned that [lack of diversity] is THE existential threat to Chautauqua."
Hope is not alone in her concern. Following community input, one of the imperatives of the Institution's strategic plan is a commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility (IDEA). Hope generously named Chautauqua as a beneficiary for a planned gift to support diversity initiatives and provided seed money to advance immediate priorities, including the hiring of a new full-time chief diversity officer position.
She wanted to ensure Chautauqua had the resources to attract someone with a unique skill set. "Cultural change is hard. Chautauqua has a very strong culture and the vast majority of that culture I find to be terrific, but going out to seek and make diversity a priority has not been a part of the culture. It's more than just intent. We really have to be very smart about how we approach this challenge."
Hope has a background in business and science, and is co-founder and principal of Felton Willis, a global market research firm. She sees opportunities at Chautauqua for one's sphere of understanding to expand outwards through this community's dedication to lifelong learning. She believes that hearing, learning, and being in conversation with those whose views are different helps build empathy — and emphasizes that it's not just racial, it's also religious, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity that are key.
Chief of Staff and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Shannon Rozner, describes Hope as someone who is a true partner in IDEA. "She dreams with us and then helps us craft a plan to make the dreams we have for this organization become reality."