How Columbus is Committing to DEI

A Sponsored Message From Experience Columbus

Author: Jessica Poitevien       

National Veterans Memorial and Museum exterior from air at night

At Columbus’ National Veterans Memorial and Museum, an ongoing calendar of programs and exhibitions — like the recent “Legacies of Black Veterans” event — highlights the integral role service men and women from minority groups have played in U.S. history.

Columbus is a city “that celebrates the diversity of our community in all its forms,” said Shannon Jones, Ph.D., the director of DEI programming at Experience Columbus. A recent recipient of Columbus Business First’s Diversity in Business Awards, Jones has firsthand knowledge of what her city values. And Columbus’ top priority? Creating an environment that is welcoming and accessible for people from all walks of life, whether they’re a visitor or a resident. But don’t just take Jones’ word for it, below are two initiatives that demonstrate Columbus’ commitment to DEI.

musicians performing on stage at CBUS Soul Fest Columbus

Held for the first time last August, the new CBUS Soul Fest in Columbus celebrates Black culture, music, art, food and more.


Launched in February 2022, CBUS Soul is an online platform that puts the spotlight on the historic, innovative, and forward-moving Black culture in Columbus. CBUS Soul is an ongoing collaboration between Experience Columbus, as well as local community leaders and influencers, showcasing the city’s multicultural experiences in four categories: arts and entertainment; food and music; community and business; and people and history.

For meeting planners looking to infuse unique activities into their attendee experience, CBUS Soul offers curated two-day itineraries, featuring Black-owned restaurants, shopping, and other businesses. Planners will also find one-of-a-kind activities and events that support local Black art and culture.

Diversity Apprenticeship Program

The tourism and hospitality scene is flourishing in Columbus, but the industry still lacks a level of representation on par with the city’s multicultural population. That’s why the Diversity Apprenticeship Program (DAP) was born. Aimed at closing the significant racial equity gap in the Central Ohio hospitality community, DAP offers hands-on experience and job opportunities to local students, recent graduates, and professionals who identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and have a passion for tourism. Upon completion of 600 hours of apprenticeship, participants earn associate or mid-level positions at their host sites, which include prestigious institutions like the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

Eleven apprentices have completed the program so far, with another cohort on the way. The success of this program is what earned Jones recognition for the Diversity in Business Awards. “I love that the Diversity Apprenticeship Program is getting the recognition it deserves,” Jones said. “Although I may be leading the efforts, the true champions are the apprentices and host sites that are participating in the program.” Read more about the program from Convene deputy editor Barbara Palmer’s 2022 story, “Experience Columbus’ Return on (Diversity) Investment.”

Between CBUS Soul, DAP, and other citywide initiatives (like the new Accessibility Guide), meeting planners can rest assured that Columbus offers a perfectly welcoming environment for attendees of all backgrounds.

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