BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Carmund White has performed on some big stages around the world. Sometimes he’s been out there alone and other times he’s been part of an ensemble.
An opera tenor, White’s sung the roles of the smuggler character “Remendado” in Bizet’s opera, “Carmen.” He’s been the villain “Monastotos” in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” He was in the world premiere of an opera based on Thornton Wilder’s classic, “Our Town.” He’s sung before audiences in Washington, in South Africa, Indianapolis and across the country.
Today, White is undergraduate director of diversity initiatives for the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. While the venues were different, White’s experience as a vocal artist enables him to understand the pressures of his students to also perform well. He also understands the importance of having a mentor.
“I think that it helps to have some perspective,” he said of his previous career.
“I know that I put more pressure on myself than my parents put on me, and I know that my students put enormous amounts of pressure on themselves,” he said. “They’re driving themselves so hard. I can relate to them and I try to help them realize that while they are exceptional if they pull it back a little bit, they’ll be fine.”
White grew up in Washington, D.C., attending DeMatha Catholic High School — the same school former IU basketball star Victor Oladipo attended. He came to IU and its Jacobs School of Music for graduate school after graduating with a degree in music from the University of North Carolina in 2002. He received a master’s degree in vocal performance from IU three years later and is working on completing his doctorate at Jacobs.
“Yes, I am a student like the students I see,” he said.
White came to Kelley in 2014 as an academic advisor and later became assistant director responsible for guiding the school’s Fry Scholars and the Dean’s Council Scholars. He was appointed to his current role in February.
“Carmund is the right person at the right time to lead the Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives and maintain the positive momentum that we have experienced on both the recruitment and retention sides of this integral operation,” said Josh Perry, Glaubinger Chair for Undergraduate Leadership, chairperson of the Undergraduate Program and associate professor of business law and ethics.
“His enthusiasm, patience, and vision make him the absolute perfect match for overseeing such a visible and important Ugrad team,” Perry added.
White advises the students involved with the Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives, which has organized Kelley United Week during the first week of April. Activities will include a Diversity Town Hall Meeting, a cultural spotlight dinner, and a cross-cultural “show-and-tell” event.
He said an experience he had as a singer underscores the importance of his being a thoughtful, caring mentor to his students and also the value of networking. At the Berkshire Choral International Festival, he met Timothy Noble, Distinguished Professor of Music at Jacobs. White was working as an intern and somehow got Noble’s attention at a master class.
“I just introduced myself to him. I don’t remember there being any kind of extended interaction where I was sitting and talking to him. Then he came back the next year. I spoke to him again,” White recalled. “I don’t remember anything big happening but it ended up being significant.”
Noble asked White to sing for him and his wife and later invited him to visit his studio at IU.
“He’s an amazing man and he just loved me like I was his own kid,” White said of his mentor. “He never pushed me, never projected anything onto me that I was ‘supposed’ to do or ‘needed’ to do. He’s always been incredibly supportive … His family feels like my own family.”
“He changed my life because he brought me here. He definitely was the driving force behind my getting my first professional gig,” White added. “Everything I’ve gotten in singing has been a result of him.”
White said he’s never shared that personal story with his students – who likely have never heard of Mendelssohn, Berlioz or Bizet — but he emphasizes with them the importance of relationship-building and what it might lead to.
“From the time that I recruit them, I want our students to know that they have an ally and someone who they can come to, regardless of what they think they want to come to me for,” he said. “Professor Noble’s been as significant a part of my life, psychologically, emotionally and professionally, and without him even knowing it at times, and it has nothing to do with music … I want my students to feel the same way about me.”
It’s clear that they do, as shown in the image below, taken at last year’s Kelley Office of Diversity Initiatives awards ceremony.
An important aspect of White’s role at Kelley is to recruit more students of color and others from underrepresented groups to apply to study business. Over the last five years, the number of underrepresented minority students enrolled in the undergraduate program has doubled. The percentage of underrepresented students has gone from just below 9 percent to 12 percent, which is significant because overall enrollment has grown from 5,500 to 7,500 over the same time period.
To hear White sing and learn more about him, check out this recent We Are Kelley staff video.