Charles Sumpter '07
Union College is many things to many people. To Charles Sumpter ’07, it’s a place of self-discovery. And a place where his life’s work began.
“I came out at Union and learned more about myself than ever before. My experience at Union helped me learn how to embrace my own difference while expanding my appreciation for the vast differences of others,” he explained. “I was elected freshman class president in 2003 and served on Student Forum for most of my time at Union. This gave me a unique perch to assess matters of equality and inclusion campus wide. I saw that much more work was needed.”
He didn’t see many people how looked like him, for instance, either on the faculty or in his classes. This inspired Sumpter and a friend, Niya Brooks ’07, to think about what they could do to change things.
“Together, we created Union’s first-ever Black Student Union (BSU) organization to help foster a more inclusive environment for black students, allies and other students of color,” he said. “Our effort to promote inclusivity at Union through BSU was greatly inspired by the work of the late professor Twitty J. Styles through his organization, UNITAS, and other supportive allies like professors Deidre Hill Butler and Erica Bell.”
Today, Sumpter is senior director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He joined WWF this past year and previously worked in government at both local and federal levels. He also held positions at private firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and Deloitte. In both fields, he helped his employers think more strategically about transforming their operations to “attract and retain a more diverse workforce.”
Sumpter is looking forward to seeing what he can do in the non-governmental organization. His responsibilities with WWF include overall development and implementation of strategies and initiatives that advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) internally, while also making WWF an employer of choice for diverse populations. Sumpter’s team helps foster a workplace culture in which employees feel safe, respected and included as well.
“I thought WWF would be a unique, but suitable challenge for me to combine my experiences in the public and private sectors to make a lasting impact at one of the world’s leading environmental conservation groups,” Sumpter said. “Additionally, environmental conservation is a space that has traditionally not attracted a lot of BIPOC talent (Black, Indigenous and people of color). I want to change that.”
“I often say that we do not have a planet B, so we are all in this together. Many of the effects we now see from climate change are directly impacting BIPOC communities across the country and even globally,” he continued. “The task ahead for all of us is incredibly daunting, but I am hopeful that through inclusive solutions and engagement we can tackle those challenges more effectively with diverse groups of folks around the table.”
When he’s not working, Sumpter, who majored in political science and East Asian studies at Union, enjoys cooking and spending time with his husband, Jordan, and their English bulldog, Bo. He serves on the LGBTQ+ task force for his home city of Alexandria, Va. In 2016, he helped found Safe Space NOVA, which supports LGBTQ+ youth in northern Virginia.