Scouting fosters the spirit of diversity and inclusiveness among its youth members and adult volunteers, as well as among national and local council employees. To continue our legacy of serving youth from different ethnicities, faiths, and backgrounds, the BSA recently appointed Ron Oats as our Chief Diversity Officer. In our latest 5 Questions feature, we got to know Ron and what his role means to the BSA. Continue reading to learn how Ron is ensuring that more of America’s youth have the opportunity to experience Scouting.
What’s most exciting about your roles with the BSA?
I’m honored to serve as Chief Diversity Officer and Regional Director of the Southern Region. As Chief Diversity Officer, I am most excited about the opportunity to lead the organization in the development of a comprehensive diversity plan that will position the organization to capitalize on the strength of diversity and serve more youth from our underserved communities.
What is your Scouting background? What drew you to the BSA?
I was not a Scout as a youth. Frankly, I don’t recall knowing anyone in Scouting. I was an assistant manager at a Red Lobster in Miami in the early 1980s, when I responded to an ad for an associate district executive position. I had worked with a diverse staff at the restaurant — some of whom did not speak English — and that allowed me to learn about different cultures and work with people with different perspectives and backgrounds. Little did I know how that wonderful experience would prepare me for my journey in Scouting. By working as a ScoutReach DE, with responsibility for growing Scouting in the Housing Authority throughout Miami, I developed a true passion for and understanding of Scouting. I later went on to serve as a senior DE, district director, field director, finance director, and director of field service, all in Miami. In 1997, the good Lord blessed me and I was selected to serve as Scout executive in my home town of West Palm Beach, Florida, where I had five exciting years of growth. I then became Southern Region deputy regional director and, in 2005, I was selected to serve as Scout executive in the Central Florida Council in Orlando following Wayne Brock … now I am here.
What’s your favorite Scouting memory?
As part of the 2010 100th Anniversary of Scouting, the Central Florida Council set out to raise funds to refurbish a primary school outside of Nairobi, Kenya, near where Lord Baden Powell is laid to rest. Joined by a ScoutReach volunteer from the council, I went on a mission trip to Nairobi to determine how we could partner with local agencies to refurbish the school once we raised the funds. While there, Scouting magic just happened. Two hours from Nairobi in a small rural village, a Scout troop sponsored by a boarding school got wind of our visit. The only thing they asked was for us to stop by and conduct a troop uniform inspection. Obviously, I was pleased to do so but was not sure what to expect. In this very small township, to my surprise, was a very proud Scout troop in full Scout uniform. My jaw dropped. The Scoutmaster was Wood Badge trained and had been beaded by the president of Kenya. It made me grateful and humble.
What role does diversity play in Scouting?
Diversity is the key to growth in today’s fiercely competitive and changing marketplace. Organizations that seek market relevancy must embrace diversity — in how they think, act, and evolve. It is a time-sensitive business imperative that cannot be ignored. Together, we must build a transparent culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the organization … one where we engage collaboratively with all parts of the organization to build the necessary infrastructure to attract more youth, families, and communities to the benefits of the Scouting program. It is my aspirational goal to work directly with each region, area, council, group, department, and team to develop our organization’s plan to reach our collective goals.
And, most important, what’s your go-to campout food?
That’s an easy one … almonds. Almonds and whatever I can get my hands on if I am hungry!
Save 5 Questions!
Save the 5 Questions infographic and then share with your Scouting network on social media using #BSA5Questions! You can also get to know our previous 5 Questions Scouters by checking out features on our new National Commissioner, Corporate Engagement Dept. Mgr and Sustainability Director, Scoutbook Team Lead and Product Owner, Director of Health and Safety, and Directors of STEM Programs. Know a Scouter who should be in the next 5 Questions? Comment with your suggestions below!