Having worked in a global corporation for nearly a decade, I thought I understood diversity. In fact, at one point I was a “Diversity and Inclusion Award” winner. I earned that by simply assembling a team of varied ethnicities.
With both the benefit of hindsight as well as the learnings I’ve gleaned during my MBA experience at Fuqua, I’m almost embarrassed by the criteria underpinning that recognition. What I accomplished was a superficial ‘box-checking’ activity. I didn’t truly embrace diversity.
I don’t believe that diversity is a code that can be cracked. It’s not an ephemeral mission. Rather it’s a lifelong endeavor and one which is dynamic, ubiquitous and ever-changing. You have to commit yourself to it and constantly challenge yourself and others.
I’m reminded of how Term 3 started for our class, with each of us transitioning to a new study team. My new team was wildly different than my first. It should be noted that I was mentally opposed to the transition purely based on the fact that I loved my former team. That’s not an embellished metaphor; ”love” is accurately used here.
However, I had the epiphany—the “aha!” moment—that completely shifted my thinking. That is, this wasn’t a perfunctory administrative activity. It was a key learning experience. It was a well-thought and coordinated approach. Colloquially, there was a ‘method to the madness.’
That method is centered around the Team Fuqua spirit. Those who made up my new team were not strangers; they were brothers and sisters. While I hadn’t been in the trenches with each of them diurnally, I had been in the Fuqua vanguard with the entire cohort. I actually knew more about them then I realized at first. While I didn’t recognize (or even appreciate) it in real-time, the social events, the sports functions, the sidebar hallway conversations, the cold calling in class—they all abetted my knowledge and appreciation for each and every individual. Therefore, when my new team assembled, we weren’t starting from naught—we were well on our way and primed for success.
A Culture that Goes Beyond the Classroom
That is but one aspect contributing to the team dynamic. What I perceive to be the Duke culture is another contributing factor. It’s difficult to describe culture in words. Indeed, I have explored several unique ways of explaining my observations. While I reserve the right to edit this over time, here is my first attempt: “We at Duke are serious about the business of life.” Allow me to explain the construct. Assiduousness is palpable on campus. Those who are here work hard—very hard—and the university demands that of us.
Now, that’s an obvious platitude describing a world class university—here’s where it gets interesting. That work ethic, drive, and demand for excellence does not stop at the classroom. It extends to all walks of life. We take our social engagements seriously—ensuring that they are well coordinated and inclusive. We take our fanfare seriously—ensuring that all chants are orchestrated and effective while being respectful. So you see, there is more to life than business and we are serious about maximizing the whole of life.