Welcoming Diversity

College of Business places emphasis on diverse, global learning community

When Samad Arbi arrived in Minneapolis in September 2004 to begin his two-year enrollment in the full-time MBA program at the University of St. Thomas, he was touched and pleased to see the flag of his country, Pakistan, among five other flags displayed in the student commons. “I felt that St. Thomas cared where I came from and was welcoming me,” Arbi said.

That feeling is one that faculty and staff in the College of Business want to encourage. The recruitment and retention of students  from diverse international and domestic backgrounds is an important feature of the St. Thomas  College of Business mission to educate “highly principled, global business leaders.”

In seeking to realize that mission, the College of Business engages in a variety of student, staff and faculty recruitment efforts, community sponsorships and special events.

It Starts at the TopMotivation to create a diverse, global learning community pervades the College of Business, starting at the top. Dr. Christopher Puto, dean of the College of Business, finds that “the classroom experience of students from all backgrounds is enriched when it includes students from as wide a variety of racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic groups as possible.”

Puto added, “Diversity of perspectives drives innovation in business, creates bonds with customers from diverse backgrounds, and reflects the larger makeup of our society. A top business school should be a laboratory for business success in that society.”

David Baker, an admissions adviser and multicultural specialist for the College of Business, notes that Puto really “gets” diversity. “He shows up – he attends virtually all the events of the multicultural groups we partner with, even if it’s just to drop in and say hello. He really cares that we make progress toward becoming a college of business that welcomes diversity.”

Dr. Ernest Owens, assistant professor of management, believes “it’s imperative that the classroom dialogue reflect the many voices of difference so both majority and minority students understand the complex views held by the marketplace. Optimization for shareholders and stockholders is  predicated on understanding the many niche markets and consumer behaviors. This cannot be  done in a classroom experience devoid of cultural, spiritual, economic and class distinctions.”

Recruiting DiversityDuring the fall MBA recruiting season, Anne Engler, Kelly Koster and Julie Fullenkamp, admissions recruiters for College of Business MBA programs, head out for locations as far-flung as China, Russia, Japan, Korea, Brazil and Peru. As participants in the World MBA Tour, sponsored by GMAC, an international supplier of business school entrance exams, the UST MBA admissions staff meet with prospective students all over the world and provide information about College of Business programs and MBA career opportunities.

“Attending these events takes time, energy and money, but it demonstrates how serious we are  about recruiting top international talent to St. Thomas,” Engler said.

In addition to recruiting  international students, staff members from both the undergrad and graduate admissions offices focus a number of efforts on the recruitment of domestic diversity. Creating special brochures and advertising materials, attending events of interest to various racial, ethnic and cultural groups, as well as diversifying the faculty and staff itself are all ways the College of Business reaches out to diverse populations.

Aud Wengronowitz, assistant director of recruiting and admissions for the part-time MBA program, is of Chinese heritage and grew up in Thailand. “It’s important that potential students receive materials that reflect their community, and meet College of Business faculty and staff who understand their culture-related concerns,” she commented.

Once students arrive at St. Thomas, Owens noted, “COB leadership is actively engaging faculty of color and diverse orientations to help students from diverse backgrounds find a home here at UST that is challenging academically, yet embraces their unique perspectives and experiences. I  personally relish the chance to mentor any student, either minority or majority, who seeks to delve into the value that diversity brings to our learning community.”

Community PartnershipsThe College of Business is an active participant in a number of local and national consortia to promote successful business careers for American minority students. College of Business staff and faculty are active in the Twin Cities chapters of the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), and the National Association of Asian-American Professionals.

These organizations, consisting of business professionals and educators from the top companies and business schools in the Twin Cities area, sponsor networking events, corporate visits, panels, speakers, scholarship programs, and both local and national career fairs for business students. The Multicultural Forum, an annual event co-sponsored by the Twin Cities chapter of NBMBAA and the College of Business, and coordinated by St. Thomas’ Steve Humerickhouse, has become the premier regional event focusing on work-force diversity.

Amanda Reed, current UST MBA student of Hispanic background, is active in NSHMBA and credits contacts made during NSHMBA corporate receptions for helping her land an exciting summer internship with Target Corp. “I am the student liaison between NSHMBA and St. Thomas. Active NSHMBA membership really makes a difference in the kinds of contacts you develop and the support you feel as you begin your business career."

Sue Moyer, assistant director of the Graduate Business Career Services (GBCS) office at St. Thomas, commented, "We prize the relationships that have developed between the College of Business and groups like NBMBAA and NSHMBA. Through them, we are able to attract more students from diverse backgrounds to graduate business education and also to help students secure challenging positions when they graduate. We truly appreciate the outstanding work of these organization in furthering those goals."

To the Future All these initiatives and activities serve one goal: to increase the rich diversity of students, faculty and staff who make up the St. Thomas business learning community. Movement toward this goal is an ongoing process, but the College of Business is well on its way. As Puto observed, "The strength of our country is in our willingness to embrace diversity-and our goal in the College of Business is to lead rather than merely follow that trend."

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