July 9: Lehigh alumnus Norm Rumpf

By: Lucy Zhou

We were fortunate enough to meet and talk with Norm Rumpf, who actually graduated Lehigh in 1959 with an engineering degree. He is interested in learning more about mountaintop projects, but he also wants to share his own thoughts and get us thinking about different paths we could take and different questions we could be asking. He told us his purpose is to “disrupt” our flow so we are being more open-minded and widen our possibilities and thoughts.

After learning more about our topic and what we have been doing, Rumpf shared with us his own experience and thoughts about inclusivity. He said people tend to be around their own kind–people who share the same views or people of the same ethnicity or people they feel comfortable around. The most crucial aspect we have to look into is how to get people to converse with and be associated with people who are different from them. How can we get everyone to feel accepted and included in the community even though everyone comes from different backgrounds and everyone has different opinions? The root cause or underlying theme of this is what Rumpf calls “Norm’s Rule.” This rule states that emotion often overcomes or overrules logic. No matter the circumstance or the person, emotion wins in the end. Discriminating and only being around people who are like you stems from emotions of power, superiority, ignorance, fear and an unwillingness to be more open-minded. How can we encourage people to act less on emotion?

Specifically, minorities struggle to find their own spot and home because of language barriers and cultural differences. Rumpf said they tend to socialize only with similar people or people of the same ethnicity because they are more comfortable. However, this limits their ability to succeed. A question we should consider is how to break down these boundaries and avoid using labels because once we use labels, we cause separation.

Rumpf told us the key is communication. He defined inclusivity as human beings working together, and ethics are more important or more considered than knowledge. People, especially employers or business owners, want to see team players and collaboration. No one is willing to work with someone who does not show the capability of listening and working with others, no matter how intelligent they are or how advanced their education is. People can never stop learning. Furthermore, we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Rumpf clarified that we don’t learn from making the mistakes, but we learn from actually reflecting on those mistakes and improving so those mistakes don’t happen again.

Having an informal but informative conversation with Rumpf really opened our eyes to factors and things we haven’t really delved into yet. He got us asking ourselves questions about our project, our direction and our goals. We want to find out what works in being inclusive and what needs to be done for all to be more inclusive. Hopefully, we can collect enough data and use our research to create a “cookbook” for people to follow so not just South Bethlehem, but others around the world can learn to be actually inclusive. This does not just extend to businesses and entrepreneurs. This issue of inclusivity and more accepting way of thinking applies to every individual.

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