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Diversity Summit 2018: Embracing diversity in the military

  • Published
  • By Jasmine Bourgeois, AFCLC Outreach Team
Dr. Angelle Khachadoorian is a self-described “unicorn” in the Department of Defense. An anthropologist with knowledge on indigenous and tribal cultures, she has been called upon by the Air Force years ago to use her expertise at the Air Force Culture and Language Center at Air University.

The culture and region division chief and an associate professor of anthropology at AFCLC, Dr. Khachadoorian is the only person in the DoD with this job title and she fully embraces it. Working at Maxwell Air Force Base, she has been able to use her unique background in anthropology to improve decision-making and provide critical perspectives.

“Anthropologists look at the culture of living people,” she said, “at my job, I am an ‘outsider’ working for the military. I am able to bring that lens, a different view, to the table and offer my input as needed”.


Along with sharing her knowledge within the DoD, Dr. Khachadoorian is a published author who speaks at different events about diversity and innovation. At this year’s, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity Summit, she encouraged business owners and academics to embrace diversity and follow the military’s lead. During her time at AFCLC, Dr. Khachadoorian has led seminars, delivered lectures, and developed cultural curricula that has reached thousands of students and distinguished leaders DoD-wide.

“I love the Air Force’s definition of diversity. It recognizes all the ways that we are different, including, but not limited to: personal background, socioeconomic background, educational background, religion, and race. In your business, in the military, having diversity and having a range of perspectives is very important. This doesn’t mean you are always going to agree with this person. But, to be able to recognize and have a diversity of opinion is meaningful,” Dr. Khachadoorian said.

The crowd at the Diversity Summit laughed as Dr. Khachadoorian used anecdotes to describe terms like “culture”, “diversity”, and “cultural relativism”; explaining that we are all different in all different ways and that’s what makes culture so rich and interesting.

“I lived in California for years and when I moved here, I quickly realized the many cultural differences. People in the South are very nice and very touchy,” she chuckled. “They hug, they pat, and that’s okay. I’ve also realized that it’s okay to say, ‘I grew up doing things one way, but, I like this way too’”.

Her “assignment” for those attending this year’s summit: learn from each other and encourage diversity in the workplace.

“Diversity is an amazing tool,” Dr. Khachadoorian said, “it’s the cultures we’ve been raised in, it’s the values we’ve been taught or adopted and it truly is a path to innovation”.

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