Diversity in MBA Programs: Building Inclusion at Foster

Black lives matter. Always. The current pandemic and social unrest have once again called attention to the systemic racism deeply rooted in our society. This cannot be reduced to a “political issue.” No one should be dehumanized due to the color of their skin – whether in regard to policing and criminal justice, health, economic systems, or in any other context.

Diversity Across MBA Programs

The representation of Black students in business schools remains low, despite volumes of research demonstrating that companies with diverse leadership outperform their counterparts by significant margins. We also find ourselves in the middle of a pandemic, and data continues to show how black and brown communities are 2-3x more likely to die of COVID-19. As future business leaders, we know there is a lot of work to do in affecting change. We are responsible for amplifying unheard voices, listening, learning, and taking action on solutions to develop new systems that promote a truly inclusive and equitable society – solutions informed by the authority of those whose lived experience reveals societal injustice.

Foster MBA Inclusion Efforts

Over the past few years, Foster has taken great steps to invest in building a diverse MBA community by partnering with organizations like Management Leadership for Tomorrow, The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Reaching out MBA, and Forté. These partnerships are important in promoting access to business schools through coaching, connections, and scholarship funding. Still, progress takes time and we know we can do better. Our Full-time Class of 2021 parallels broader representation issues in corporate America, with an underrepresentation of women, BIPOC, and the LGBTQIA+ community – to name a few.

Our collective student body understands the urgency of taking steps to focus greater energy on creating a more inclusive environment that attracts a diverse student body and ensures all students are psychologically safe and thriving. That includes changing the historical ‘culture’ of typical business programs that center on young, white, cis-male, and affluent students. As Dean Hodge reminds us, we should continue striving to be ‘Better Together, Better Tomorrow’.

Meeting the Moment

Our first step is to listen. In early June Full-time MBA students attended a town hall called Say Their Names. The space gave BIPOC students space and a platform to voice their thoughts on the murder of George Floyd and the national dialogue it has sparked around systemic racism and police brutality. The event was facilitated by the MBAA VPs of Diversity (Kelly and Bryan) and co-sponsored by a coalition of student groups: MBAA Executive Committee, Diversity in Business, Out in Business, Women in Business, Foster Veterans Association, and MBAA International Affairs. We listened, we cried, and we began to heal together as a Foster community.

We recognize the importance and momentum of this societal inflection point. And while there is a lot of work to do, we are eager for change.  We will share our journey as we work towards racial equity and promote the stories of the MBAA leaders and clubs on campus that are helping push this change forward.

Until then, we encourage you to read the action plan Dean Hodge announced earlier this month and to learn more about the organizations Foster has partnered with to promote diversity in business: Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Reaching out MBA and Forté.

Resources for Prospective and Current Students

If you’re a prospective student reading this, I encourage you to connect with current students to get a sense of the school culture and reflect on what Foster’s values of integrity, excellence, and ‘we > me’ mean to you.  Melissa Uyesugi (Associate Director – Diversity & Inclusion), Kelly Yu (VP, Diversity), and Austin Marple (Diversity Events Coordinator) would love to hear from you and answer any questions.

To current students: stay well, take time away from your screen, wear a mask, and don’t forget this initial list of diversity and inclusion resources that Kelly shared after the town hall.  We look forward to seeing you all and continuing to drive this conversation forward come autumn.

This article was co-written by Kelly Yu & Sergey Koretskov, Class of 2021