Toppel Career Center @ University of Miami

Toppel Career Center at the University of Miami Builds a Culture Wall? to Create Unity Around Diversity and Inclusion

Toppel Career Center at the University of Miami is dedicated to helping students make educated decisions about their careers. Led by Associate Dean & Executive Director Christian Garcia, the forward-thinking team strives to innovate and add value to the services it offers students. Diversity and inclusion (D&I) were identified as central to this goal.

D&I is a highly sought after an initiative in the corporate world. Higher education is no different.
But many companies make the mistake of treating D&I like something that is solvable through training. Every year, millions of dollars are spent with very little change or outcomes. In some cases, training actually makes the problem worse.

The question that the team at Toppel Career Center had to answer was how to align around D&I in ways that went beyond training or through a generic process that resembled a box-ticking exercise.

Garcia expressed the challenge this way, “It’s one thing to say that you believe in diversity and inclusion, you hear those words thrown out a lot. It’s another thing to really have an exercise where you can think critically and be intentional about it.”

For D&I to Thrive, Organizations Need to Design a Diverse and Inclusive Culture

D&I is less about process and more about creating a more diverse and inclusive culture. As such, the concepts that create context around the pillars of diversity and inclusion are human-centered and personal. This led the team at Toppel to re-engage Gapingvoid Culture Design Group to create a dedicated D&I Culture Wall? and spark a new movement toward diversity and inclusion.

Gapingvoid and Toppel Career Center’s work together goes back to 2014. Toppel is home to an impressive 123 piece Gapingvoid Semiotic Installation and Culture Wall. This successful Culture Design work has helped Toppel transform the way they work, how they interact with students and employers and how they are viewed and valued within the university. This has led Toppel to become a “destination” for forward-culture-thinking within the institution.

Toppel’s D&I challenge was a natural progression in the evolution of designing a High Purpose Culture. Gapingvoid and Toppel then set a goal for a dedicated D&I Culture Wall to align the team around a core set of values and beliefs that guided their work. Additionally, the Culture Wall? was designed to articulate an intentional D&I narrative and belief system that created an engaged community beyond the career center, comprising of students, campus partners as well as the University at large.

“I believe it’s very important for Toppel to specifically say what we care about and what we do about diversity and inclusion,” expressed Jose Arce, Coordinator, Career Readiness & Inclusion Initiatives. “We wanted to make sure that all of our students, campus partners, and community members know where we fall in line with our values.”

The Road to Toppel’s Culture Wall

To design a culture of diversity and inclusion, Gapingvoid employed its Culture Design? process to establish fundamentals of Toppel’s culture, including the organization’s mission, vision, and values. These pillars were then visualized as Semiotic Management Systems?, a powerful tool to execute Toppel’s D&I culture at scale.

The Gapingvoid team interviewed Toppel executives to understand its D&I goals as well as identify the foundation for its unique vision for a more diverse and inclusive behavior.

As part of its highly customized Assessments powered by Culture Science? approach, Gapingvoid guided Toppel toward its North Star and also lead the articulation of its D&I value and belief system.

40 bespoke images and meaningful messages were selected and created as 12”x12” tiles.

Gapingvoid and Toppel facilitated a live collaboration session to select the final 20 images that represented the views, vision, and sentiment of the team.

Team members, students and the University of Miami community were then invited to participate in the installation of the Culture Wall to celebrate the design and social debut of Toppel’s diverse and inclusive culture.

The Culture Wall? proved transformational, Toppel and its community, celebrate their culture of diversity and inclusion and are reminded of their mission every day.

“The Culture Wall? not only serves as a reminder but also for accountability; to live our work according to our values,” shared Ismaris Ocasio Assistant Director, Graduate Student Programs. “We made a commitment, we deliberated, we chose images that will remind us of what we stand for and what we are going to put into practice. It holds us accountable by giving us a visual representation of those pillars…and we get to see it every day!”