Adjunct Business Law Instructor and Executive Partner James Boswell, BA ’86, recently assumed chairmanship of the Raymond A. Mason School of Business’s Diversity & Inclusion Climate Subcommittee. The first initiative he will lead is establishing the business school’s D&I Ombuds Panel, which will serve as a sounding board for all members of the Mason community including faculty, staff, students, and Executive Partners. The Ombuds Panel will work as an objective third party to resolve misunderstandings that occur in the workplace around inclusivity and equality and belonging.
“This panel will give people who have specific D&I concerns an opportunity to express their feelings and have a confidential nonpartisan go-between to work with and safely address their concerns,” he said. “We have so many people who are involved in moving this project and the larger D&I initiative forward. It should be a signal that the Mason School and the university overall are taking diversity and inclusion very seriously. This is a continuously evolving, improving, and refining process that will never be fully completed.”
The subcommittee will be enlisting the help of Executive Partners to serve on the panel. EPs are not paid employees of the university, making it easier for them to remain unbiased. Many EPs have years of professional experience in coaching, mediation, facilitation, and conflict resolution. It’s a lane that is familiar territory for Boswell as he has not only served as a coach embedded in the first-year full-time MBA Principled Professional course, but he also has an extensive background in commercial litigation strategy, particularly in dispute resolution, arbitration, negotiation, and strategic thinking within the context of business law.
“After graduating from William & Mary as an undergraduate, I went on to law school and spent twenty years marrying my academic background with dispute resolution and consensus-building skills,” Boswell explained. “I moved on to work in more collaborative settings by helping nonprofits, sitting on some boards, becoming involved with the Williamsburg Planning Commission, and the Executive Partner program, which is one of the jewels in the crown of the Mason School.”
Academia and Becoming an Executive Partner and Faculty Member
Boswell received his Bachelor of Arts degree in English from William & Mary before going on to earn a master’s degree in Government from Harvard University and his JD from the University of Georgia. His early law career includes serving in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as in varying legal capacities in the corporate world.
Eventually, he returned to Williamsburg and co-founded a consulting business that provides a variety of personalized advisory services to individuals and families looking to sell antiques and other items of value. The business also serves as agents for institutions, dealers, and auctioneers.
An academic at heart, Boswell began teaching Business Law at Rollins College in the early 1990s. He currently teaches Ethical Accountability at the Mason School. He also leveraged his interest in history to facilitate a popular course titled “Exploring History Through Tangible Things” for the William & Mary Christopher Wren Association for several years. He joined the Executive Partner program in 2018.
“My parents were college professors and I grew up on college campuses,” he said. “Executive Partners are volunteers and I had seen growing up how students sort of tolerated anyone on campus who wasn’t a professor so I wasn’t sure how EPs would be perceived. I was positively surprised at how impactful EPs are at the Mason School on students who want to interact with them.”
As an Executive Partner, Boswell has aided students in the full-time MBA program as they navigate leadership self-analysis. He frequently interacts with students during assignment debriefings and mentoring sessions which he has found to be very fulfilling.
“I am very happy I was invited to be an Executive Partner because I’ve been deployed in many different aspects from the academic to the functional side of the school,” Boswell said. “I also serve on the personnel committee which vets and interviews prospective Executive Partners to ensure that candidates will be a good fit for the program. As a Mason faculty member, I call upon Executive Partners to speak and serve as panelists in my class. Their expertise greatly enhances the learning experience for my students.”
Supporting Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging on Campus
Boswell’s involvement with the Mason Diversity & Inclusion Committee was an organic process. After he received an email inviting faculty, staff, and Executive Partners to participate in an upcoming organizational meeting, he decided to attend to see what it was about.
“As a gay student with a reading disability at William & Mary in the 1980s, I felt like an outsider and didn’t feel like I belonged,” he explained. “I went to the initial D&I task force meeting out of curiosity and to see if I could contribute in some way to move the needle. I quickly realized there is a lot of work to be done. I love William & Mary and my goal as a committee member and now as a subcommittee chairperson is for everyone who comes here to feel like they belong, that their ideas are valued, and that their presence is appreciated.”
Boswell says that to move the process forward and implement initiatives that will have an impact and help to foster that sense of belonging, committee members will rely upon open and clear communication in addition to learning opportunities so that people can express their views in a safe way.
He believes that an organization like the D&I Committee will bring value to the business school by attracting talent, from faculty to staff to students.
“We want to have a reputation for being inclusive and welcoming. If people see William & Mary as a place that is dedicated to making those who come here feel comfortable through a determined and supportive ongoing effort, they’ll be encouraged to want to come here and feel a part of it,” he said.
A Community Leader and Patron of the Arts
Concurrently to his work with William & Mary, Boswell is serving a four-year term on the Williamsburg Planning Commission and is a prominent member of Williamsburg fine arts and cultural circles.
Boswell and his husband Chris Caracci are passionate about material culture from the 17th and 18th centuries, particularly objects created or used in Williamsburg and Jamestown. Their financial support for the new Colonial Williamsburg Art Museum is displayed on the plaque welcoming visitors to the “James Boswell and Christopher Caracci Gallery” which will host the exhibition “To Build a Town: The Architecture of Williamsburg” opening in 2021. The couple also established the Boswell-Caracci Acquisition Fund to help William & Mary’s Law School recreate the library of George Wythe, and their names will be going on a plaque at the Law School designating their support for the George Wythe room itself.
This interest in history, specifically in material culture, inspired Boswell’s recent research and his article titled, “A Chinese Export Service Ordered for Thomas Jefferson,” which will be published in the forthcoming 2020 edition of Ceramics in America.
“This article is a side project that is not directly related to anything else I do professionally, but I’m proud to have my article accepted for publication,” he said. “I try to support efforts related to scholarship, collecting, and learning because it is very much my passion outside of mentoring and educating students, and it is another way to give back to the community.”