A concern for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues is embedded in Fuqua’s DNA. For students, it shows up in both their curriculum and co-curricular activities. Our core class Leadership, Ethics & Organizations (LEO), helps students understand the psychology of stereotyping and organizational processes that reduce bias; a second core class, Business and Common Purpose (BCP), helps students think through ways firms can approach and address social issues such as inequality. It’s also woven into numerous co-curricular activities throughout the school year, with Assistant Dean Stephanie Robertson and MBA leadership leading students through programs such as “Courageous Conversations,” in which students openly discuss their diverse backgrounds, including both challenges and opportunities they encounter.
So when we announced this spring that Fuqua was adding a DEI concentration, it wasn’t an out-of-the-blue decision for the school, but rather a natural next step–an acknowledgment of a strong set of DEI diversity and inclusion activities that already exist at Fuqua. In fact, several of our graduating MBA students had already fulfilled the concentration requirements and that achievement has been added to their transcripts.
As Fuqua’s associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, I see a strong and robust interest in DEI among our students. They want to make a difference both here at Fuqua and in their future jobs. And inclusive leadership has become a primary concern for firms, as key societal events such as #MeToo and George Floyd’s murder have led firms to reflect on their relationship to society, and to increase their focus on finding managers and leaders who have a broad vision of how to build diverse teams in organizations and effective relationships with larger communities.
The heart of the concentration is two electives: Women and Leadership and Diversity and Talent Management. These electives have been taught in recent years by two award-winning faculty: Daisy Lovelace and Jeanne Holmes, respectively. The concentration serves several goals for our students. First, it provides specific skills for students who want to work directly in the DEI space in their future jobs. Second, it is a way to clearly signal future employers that a student has both an interest and expertise in DEI; our students with a passion for DEI have long been engaged in co-curricular activities and classwork, but now the concentration spotlights what they can bring to their future jobs. Fuqua allows students to have two concentrations. I think of the DEI concentration as a powerful complement to other concentrations, such as finance, marketing, and strategy, that allow students to show they are prepared to be inclusive
I was part of a committee appointed by Dean Boulding that recommended we add the DEI concentration to our list of offerings. Before making that recommendation, we spoke with many of our alumni who consider DEI a core challenge and competency in the business world today. We also considered the fact that with so many students already involved in DEI co-curricular activities, there was a desire–maybe even an unstated demand–for such a concentrated focus.
We will continue looking at ways to add new curricular and co-curricular options to complement this concentration and will keep working with alumni and practitioners on creating new learning opportunities for our students.
We’ve received a lot of positive feedback from students and alumni since the announcement this spring. With so many students caring deeply about DEI topics and seeking them out, this concentration on their academic record lets the world know they not only have a desire to make a difference in this space, but they also have a skillset, an expertise, that firms will value.