Q&A with Dr. Kelli E. Palmer of CFA Institute


We are pleased to announce our second annual partnership with CFA Institute to support select 2019 Festival programming with a focus on diversity and inclusion. To view the full list of programs sponsored by CFA Institute, including their signature sponsorship event, please click here.

In celebration of this announcement, we asked Dr. Kelli E. Palmer, director of corporate citizenship at CFA Institute, to share her perspectives on this partnership and the ways in which it strengthens our communities in Charlottesville and Albemarle County… 

Festival: Why is it important to CFA Institute to support community events like the Virginia Festival of the Book?

Dr. Kelli E. Palmer: At CFA Institute, we know that conversations that broaden one’s thinking, that help support empathy, and that welcome all participants are more important to our community—and our nation—than ever. The Virginia Festival of the Book, and in particular, the initiative on diversity and inclusion, helps generate bolder conversations that challenge, educate, and inform participants of vantage points and views that may be far different than their own. We believe that diversity leads to better outcomes, in business, in society, and beyond.

As a global company with hundreds of employees and more than 142,000 associated investment professionals, how does CFA Institute’s understanding and idea of “community”—both in terms of where your colleagues live but also where people use your services—inform the work you do and your role as a supporter of programming like the Festival?

KP: CFA Institute is proud to support our 142,000 members around the globe, and to be a workplace for 600+ employees in offices from Charlottesville to Hong Kong. We know that ‘community’ is never just a single geographic location or group of people—that in an increasingly global world, we are all connected in new and exciting ways. We bring that knowledge to bear in a variety of ways—including supporting programs like the Festival that share unique ideas from experts in a variety of fields. We also empower our employees to engage with their local communities through our Volunteer Time Off benefit—two days per year of paid time away from the office to work with a nonprofit, school, or civic organization. And, of course, all of these efforts meet back up with our mission; to lead the investment profession globally by promoting the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence for the ultimate benefit of society.

Why do you feel that CFA Institute is uniquely positioned to support community events like the Virginia Festival of the Book?

KP: As Charlottesville’s fifth largest private employer, CFA Institute is committed to this community and has been here for more than 50 years. We know that events like the Virginia Festival of the Book help promote the values we stand for: diversity, inclusion, equity, and community-building. Our work to promote the highest standards of ethics, education, and professional excellence in the investment profession globally is mirrored by the Virginia Festival of the Book’s efforts to educate, inform, and engage community members around topics of global relevance.

Given Charlottesville’s complex racial and social histories—from resistance to school desegregation to the more recent events of A11/12—how do you see those narratives mirrored in the books and programs supported by CFA Institute in this year’s Festival, and what importance do you think that reflection holds for community members and other Festival attendees?

KP: There’s a quote that I think sums this up nicely: “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.” We want Charlottesville residents to know that we don’t just want to see them filling the seats for the wonderful Virginia Festival of the Book programming—we want to hear from them in these conversations with authors, publishers, and artists. Charlottesville’s history is a complex one, and we will never be able to address what we don’t understand. Learning from the global experts and leaders represented among the Festival’s authors will help make our community more empathetic, thoughtful, and aware of our shared history and the challenges and opportunities we face in our shared future.

What do you hope local residents get out of the Festival programming that CFA Institute is supporting this year?

KP: I hope that local residents are reminded of the strengths of our community—our access to world-class scholars through the University; the strength of our economy as evidenced in the strong local business support for the festival; and even the curiosity and thoughtfulness of our neighbors and peers as they engage with authors and books in new and exciting ways. I also hope that the ideas, discussions, and questions that are shared at the Festival give us fresh insights for addressing some of our community’s challenges head-on.

How do you envision that these conversations will bring people together in new and/or important ways?

KP: In an age where character limits and short attention spans can seem to dominate the media landscape, books remain an unparalleled forum for deep thinking, bold solutions, and true expertise to shine. I hope that Charlottesville residents—and the many participants who come from across the state and beyond—can learn not just from authors, but from the questions, concerns, and insights shared by audience members, friends, and neighbors.

How do conversations like those fostered by Festival programming help strengthen our local community in Charlottesville, as well as the other communities in which we share membership, whether identity-based, career-based, or other?

KP: Thoughtful conversations about challenging and engaging topics are the first step towards deriving real solutions. The initiative on diversity and inclusion includes programming that pertains to some of the topics that most intensely shape individual and community experiences: race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religious and cultural background, and more. Learning from others’ experiences and perspectives is the first step in bringing that new knowledge to bear to address some of our most critical challenges.

Personally, which of these programs are you most excited to attend, and why?

KP: I am so looking forward to attending this year’s signature sponsorship event—Segregation to Civil Rights: America’s Journey. I can’t think of a more ideal setting than the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center for such an important conversation about our country’s journey towards racial justice.

About Kelli Palmer: Dr. Kelli E. Palmer is the Director of Corporate Citizenship at CFA Institute where she is responsible for identifying opportunities to establish programs, policies, and procedures that are socially conscious relative to sustainability, corporate social responsibility, and corporate culture, as well as measuring the progress and outcomes through audit and assessment to ensure that CFA Institute exceeds industry standards. In the past, she worked at the Institute for Shipboard Education as the Director of Enrichment Voyages and at the University of Virginia as Assistant to the President. Dr. Palmer earned her Ph.D from the University of Virginia in Higher Education Administration, her M.A.Ed. at Wake Forest University in Counseling and her B.A. from Elon University in Elementary Education. She is dedicated to community service by serving on the Board of the Peabody School, and previously serving with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, Thomas Jefferson Area United Way, Center for Nonprofit Excellence, LiveArts, and the Elon Alumni Board. Kelli and her husband have four children and reside in Charlottesville.