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Crystal Burns Manages Supplier Diversity Initiatives at Johns Hopkins University
Crystal Burns Manages Supplier Diversity Initiatives at Johns Hopkins University
Crystal Burns, Supplier Diversity Manager, Johns Hopkins University

How did your path wind its way to Johns Hopkins University?


I came upon a job listing that interested me and seemed ideal for the skills I have attained over my 10 year career. I applied and was thrilled that I was selected for an interview and eventually offered the position.


Why is supplier diversity so important to Hopkins and you?


As the largest private anchor institution in Baltimore City, Johns Hopkins embraces the role as an economic engine to create lasting opportunities for residents and businesses in the city. There is a firm commitment to leverage the economic power of Hopkins to expand participation of local and minority-owned businesses in construction opportunities; increase the hiring of city residents with a focus on neighborhoods in need of job opportunities; and enhance economic growth, employment, and investment in Baltimore through purchasing activities.


Our commitment is indeed worthwhile. According to a 2014 study by the National Minority Supplier Development Council, minority businesses produce more than $400 billion in active revenue and actively employ 2.2 million people, either directly or indirectly. These businesses also contribute close to $49 billion in local, state and federal tax revenues. The fact that these businesses may not receive the same visibility of their larger, more affluent competitors is absurd to me. As an African American woman, I am proud to work in an area I am helping those who look like me overcome barriers and reach their full potential.


How has your career experiences prepared you for this new role at Hopkins?


I have learned a great deal about how supply chain works and what opportunities are available for women- and minority-owned businesses. I have also learned what barriers often keep diverse businesses from making it to the next level. Bringing this knowledge to an educational environment proved to be somewhat of a challenge because these are two different monsters. However, pulling from my experience and learning more about how things work within university administration has allowed me to figure out what works and what does not.


Tell us what a supplier diversity manager does and what do you manage?


A supplier diversity manager creates and/or implements a supplier diversity program. Management duties consist of overall management of the program, including program framework, delivery, training, outreach, and reporting on expenditures.


Does your role cover all institutions under Hopkins footprint or just the medical and university? Explain?


Johns Hopkins University and Hospital System together make up a very large institution, so we have administrators and staff who are responsible for managing the three parts of HopkinsLocal/BLocal (build, hire & buy) on the university side as well as people who perform those responsibilities on the health system side. My role covers university buying. However, I work very closely with my counterparts in the health system. My overall responsibility is to ensure the success of the local/diverse program, as far as the dollar spend, across the university.


Being that Hopkins is the unequal leader in Maryland and Baltimore for economic inclusion, what can other major corporations learn from you?


I believe we can all learn from each other. What one should know about supplier diversity is that what works for one organization may not work for another. We can pull nuggets from what has contributed to the success of each diversity program and build programs that work for our own organizations. Hopkins has always made strides toward becoming an institution that supports our community, but there is always more we can do.


What are some new opportunities our diverse supplier network can see coming out in 2018?


Hopkins is always looking for suppliers that can support our business needs. As you can imagine, our needs at the university vary as do the times when we have need. Suppliers located in Baltimore City can always reach out to us at to see if any opportunities are available for their businesses. We also have events throughout the year that can get local products, services and in front of university employees with purchasing authority. If business owners or representatives would like to be invited to these events, they can send an email to and ask to be notified of upcoming opportunities.


What must diverse suppliers do to prepare for doing business with Hopkins and what type of minority business certifications should they have to meet Hopkins criteria?


We always welcome businesses to meet with us and present their products or services. As a matter of fact, I get excited to see local and diverse business owners at the table introducing themselves to Johns Hopkins. One of the recurring issues we see is that a business is not large enough or have enough products or employees to fulfill our requirements. The biggest tip I can give is to make sure that you have the capacity to support an institution of this size.



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