A few days ago, first year UST MBA students who were awarded Outreach scholarships gathered for a potluck dinner and conversation. There, they were joined by a group that had never existed before this year—second-year Outreach Scholars; role models who could reassure them that the intensity of the Full-time UST MBA was nothing they couldn't handle. Role models who, over the past 14 months, have already established a track record of excellence, taking on leadership roles and graduate assistantships, securing internships with Fortune 500 companies and earning national recognition for themselves and the university with a top three finish in the annual NBMBAA Chrysler Case Competition.
While the Outreach Scholars program is only in its second year, every alumnus of the Full-time UST MBA program (and there are hundreds) has made lifelong connections during his or her time here. Some have the distinction of being one of fewer than 75 graduates of the UST JD/MBA dual degree program; others participated in the Aristotle Fund or the Mayo Innovation Scholars program. These shared experiences made their time in the UST MBA program memorable, but at the end of the day, the strongest bonds are reinforced by, if not built upon, the connection each student makes with classmates who have common career interests, belong to the same clubs, same team, or some other group within the larger UST MBA community.
Being a member of an underrepresented ethnic minority, for example, or an international student, a non-Minnesotan, a woman, or a liberal arts major also grants membership within a distinctive group within the larger community that is the Full-time UST MBA program and becomes a signature aspect of many students’ St. Thomas experience.
For those whose background encompasses none of those distinctive attributes, it might not be clear what the significance of that common membership might be. And for that matter, the diversity within these subgroups can be more striking than the commonalities. What does, say, an African American born of immigrant parents, who attended high school in Florida, graduated from college in New York, with eight years of experience as a process engineer, have in common with a Hmong refugee who grew up in Minnesota, graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in psychology, studied abroad in Mexico, and worked as a venture capitalist in Minneapolis and the British Virgin Islands?
More than you might think.
Each brings a breadth of experience and perspective that is far more representative of the breadth of life experience and cultural diversity that graduates can anticipate in the 21st century workplace. The Opus College of Business has long aspired to instill in its students, faculty and staff the importance of a diversity of backgrounds, experiences, thoughts and approaches. The Outreach Scholars Program is another, though perhaps more visible, element of this effort.
Bill Woodson is assistant dean for community outreach in the Opus College of Business