AACSB recognizes Foster School’s nationwide Ascend network among “Innovations That Inspire”

Ascend NYC businesses meet with procurement leaders from anchor institutions and corporations to discuss contracting opportunities.

The University of Washington Foster School of Business has been recognized by AACSB International—the world’s largest business education alliance—for producing one of this year’s “Innovations That Inspire.”

Foster’s innovation providing the inspiration is the nationwide Ascend network, created by its Consulting and Business Development Center (CBDC), in partnership with JPMorgan Chase.

Ascend convenes and coordinates local collaborations of business schools, community lenders and suppliers focused on accelerating the growth of businesses owned by people of color.

Operating in 12 cities across the United States, Ascend represents the evolution—and expansion—of the CBDC’s M3 Model, developed from groundbreaking work by the late Thaddeus Spratlen, professor emeritus of marketing, and Dean Emeritus William Bradford. Spratlen and Bradford, along with their research colleagues, determined that minority-owned businesses underperform versus white-owned businesses due to systemic gaps in access to management education, money and markets.

Emeritus Dean Bill Bradford with Consulting and Business Development Center co-founders Thad Spratlen and Michael Verchot.

The Ascend network aims to close these gaps. In each member city, Ascend businesses receive high-quality management education through local business schools, access to loans and other investment from non-profit financial institutions, and market access through contracts with universities, hospitals, government agencies and large corporations.

Progress toward more welcoming, inclusive spaces requires action, and the UW Foster School’s Ascend program demonstrates leadership in this important effort.” – Caryn Beck-Dudley, AACSB president and CEO

Over the past two years alone, Ascend has helped more than 500 businesses raise $60 million in capital, generate $670 million in revenue, and create and retain more than 5,500 jobs. By 2025, the program plans to create $1 billion in value through the growth of businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color—helping 400 surpass $1 million in annual revenue, 75 exceed $5 million and 25 top $10 million.

That’s the kind of impact sought by the AACSB for its annual Innovations that Inspire program, which recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in the business education landscape. In 2022, the highlights feature efforts to elevate diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB), which is a key feature of AACSB’s accreditation standards.

“Progress toward more welcoming, inclusive spaces requires action, and the UW Foster School’s Ascend program demonstrates leadership in this important effort,” said Caryn Beck-Dudley, AACSB president and CEO. “Through collaborations—among business schools, businesses, and communities—we will create a strong global society and equip leaders for positive impact.”

Now in its seventh year, the Innovations That Inspire initiative has highlighted nearly 200 business school efforts that exemplify forward-looking approaches to education, research, community engagement or outreach, entrepreneurship, and leadership. Support for the 2022 Innovations That Inspire member spotlight program is provided by the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).


Learn more about the Consulting and Business Development Center and its growing Ascend network.