Glimpses of Diversity

Four schools, four approaches to bringing diversity to campus.

Today’s multicultural, globally connected corporations require diverse employees who are comfortable working in high finance on Wall Street or on microfinance projects in emerging economies. And those MNCs are looking to business schools to produce graduates who not only reflect a broad ethnic mix, but also have experience working with all kinds of people from all parts of the world.

Business schools are responding by identifying and educating diverse students to prepare them for business careers. But their challenge is not a simple one. As ESSEC Business School’s Pierre Tapie notes, “There is a diversity of human diversities in the world,” and business schools focus on different ones. Some countries struggle with ethnic diversity; others must see to the needs of aging populations; and others look for ways to serve disadvantaged communities.

Here, BizEd presents glimpses of how four universities from four different regions of the world are working to improve diversity. These educators explain what diversity means at their schools and how they’re addressing it through outreach programs and on-campus initiatives. Whether they’re mentoring Native Americans in New Mexico or recruiting Maori in New Zealand, these schools are determined to diversify their student bodies—and prepare the next generation of business leaders to truly lead.

Beyond Black & White

By Alan Rothberg

Given South Africa’s history, and especially our more recent history, I don’t believe any university in our country today can avoid dealing with the issue of diversity. Here, historically white universities, and in particular white Afrikaans universities, have been very conscious of the need to transform and embrace the diverse nature of our society. However, for the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), an institution that currently serves about 29,000 students, opposing apartheid and other forms of discrimination has been a proud part of our 90-year heritage.

During the days when there were quotas on the numbers of black students who could attend university, Wits did whatever it could to show opposition. Subsequently, both staff and students became involved in “the struggle,” as it has come to be known. Several were detained and tortured by the police, and some went into exile, only returning after the release of Nelson Mandela.

Since the end of apartheid, Wits has launched a concerted effort to develop a demographic profile that matches the national profile as closely as possible. At the moment, white students represent about one-third of the student body. That’s still not a perfect match for the country’s demographics, where whites represent about one-fifth, but we are making progress. To get to our goal, we have to address a number of issues.

For instance, we need to make up the educational deficits faced by students from disadvantaged communities where education was—and to some extent still is—suboptimal. To do that, we must find ways to identify, assist, and develop students in those communities who have potential. We do this in several ways.

Our Targeting Talent Programme focuses on “feeder” schools in rural areas to identify promising students, and we bring them and their teachers to the university for a few weeks a year for special assistance. We help the teachers understand the requirements of higher education, while we expose the students to the types of degrees and courses that are available. By the time they finish secondary school, we hope they will know if they’re interested in higher education in business, health, engineering, or some other field.

We have also tried other initiatives, such as a bridge program that allowed students to take two years to complete their first year of studies while we supplied them with academic support. But this was less successful. We found the extra time gave students a false sense of security, and it was very stressful for them once they were thrown into the regular academic environment.

To provide access to higher education for the many students who are unable to afford university fees, Wits also enjoys the benefits of bursary programs, awarded to students in need, and scholarship programs, awarded to those who have excelled at secondary school level. We also participate in the Leadership Education and Development (LEAD) program, in which universities such as Wits and the University of Cape Town work with tenth-grade students to develop their leadership capabilities in business, engineering, science, law, and the arts.

Even with initiatives such as these, there are huge challenges. We can’t always provide sufficient accommodation for students who live far from the university. The luckier ones can stay in our residences or on nearby student-centered commercial properties. But many of the rest must travel long distances to the university, often relying on generally inadequate public transportation. This makes their academic lives difficult, particularly during examination times.

Despite these obstacles, overall Wits has been successful in bringing in disadvantaged students and assisting them once they’re here. We don’t have a policy of taking in 1,000 students and relying on examinations or attrition to eliminate those who are not coping. If we accept 400 students at the beginning of the year, it’s our policy—and, we believe, our obligation—to end the year with as close to 400 students as possible.

While we lose some students between admissions and graduation, the greater likelihood is that they will finish their courses, but they might take four or five years to finish a three-year degree. We’re working on improving our throughput rate—making sure that students who start don’t drop out along the way, and that they complete their degrees in the minimum amount of time.

There are different challenges at the graduate and post-graduate levels. We encourage master’s and doctoral candidates to apply for national and international grants or participate in partnership agree institutions. We believe we’re producing high-quality students, and our graduates have generally done quite well in their careers. But there’s another hurdle. Once candidates have made it through doctoral programs and achieved the level of excellence that would allow them to start contributing academically, they’re enticed away by the higher salaries in law, commerce, and industry. This makes them quite difficult to retain.

Even so, we’re aggressively maintaining our academic standards. The quality of our faculty is high, and we encourage them to take advantage of funding available for professional development. Our goal is to become a top 100 university internationally, which means we must encourage all faculty to produce high-quality research, and we must attract more international students and staff. The more we do this, the more we introduce a different kind of diversity onto the campus, one that goes way beyond a national demographic profile. At Wits, we thrive on the richness of the cultures in the world, the diversity we proudly encourage and defend rigorous, vigorous debate.

It’s interesting to see how our student body has changed over the years, as evidenced by our recent student elections. In the past, students lobbied on issues such as changing the menu in the cafeteria. Now students lobby in terms of political alignments. We have students who are Muslim, Jewish, left-wing, rightwing, and politically active. In the fall of 2011, the university mobilized to protest the news that the government was still denying a visa to the Dalai Lama—for a visit that was to include an address to our school.

At Wits, all national and international issues are recognized and voiced, but the debates usually occur in an environment of acceptance and tolerance. That’s because we know that diversity goes beyond black or white. And we want to make sure that all races, cultures, and nations are accepted and welcomed on our campus.

Serving the Underserved

By Pierre Tapie

As business educators address diversity on their campuses, I think it’s important that they all keep in mind a broad definition of the term. There is a diversity of human diversities in the world, and each school might deal with a different kind, depending on where it is located.

Some types are based on individuals’ ethnic, cultural, or national backgrounds. Others are based on gender, age, and relative health or physical abilities. But I believe the kind of diversity business schools need to encourage most is social equality between the rich and the poor. I would say that for every country in the world—whether it’s the U.S., the U.K., or an emerging economy like China or India—one of the major issues is how to ensure that brilliant socially disadvantaged students can have the best chances for a bright future.

I don’t make that argument mainly out of a sense of generosity or personal morality. I believe if we don’t make education available to all, we literally put the economy at risk. The riots in England last year echoed the riots we had in France in 2005. There is similar unrest in countries all over the world. Too many nations privatize the profits but socialize the losses. That angers the voters and causes the bottom of the pyramid to rise up in protest. Education is the best answer to social unrest.

Diversity programs are so important because every established institution—whether a school or a government—will be affected by the risks that arise when we fail to address social issues.

At ESSEC, our diversity initiatives include gender research, programs related to social engagement, and programs that improve physical access to students with disabilities. We have a chair holder in diversity who researches how diversity is handled at work and teaches the managerial implications of diversity from both a marketing and an HR point of view. We also address diversity through our social enterprise initiatives, which include an institute and a chair devoted to social entrepreneurship, an incubator for social enterprise, and a general management program geared toward executives in the nonprofit sector.

But our program that has had the most impact is the one designed to integrate socially disadvantaged teenagers into higher education throughout France. Called “Une Grande École: Pourquoi pas moi?” (“An elite university: Why not me?”), the program targets high potential high school students from poor neighborhoods. It encourages them to pursue difficult, long-term educational goals—specifically, the attainment of masters’ degrees—at one of France’s prestigious grandes écoles. Thus, students in the program not only are encouraged to continue their educations, they are prepared for admittance into some of France’s most elite schools, which typically enroll only about 6 percent of high school graduates, mostly from the upper class.

We launched the “Pourquoi pas moi?”(PQPM) program in 2002 in partnership with the local authorities and the ministry for urban affairs, with the goal of expanding it into a national program. There were 19 students in the first class. By 2011, 100 schools in the Conférence des Grandes Écoles had put similar programs in place, and today these types of programs collectively reach more than 40,000 high school students.

ESSEC relies on several initiatives to put PQPM in practice. These include tutoring programs in high schools and junior highs, which ESSEC students participate in; PHARES, a program for handicapped students, both in and outside of PQPM; and POLLEN, a program that provides academic and professional support to high school students through workshops, debates, group projects, and orientation forums.

Ambitious and motivated students join the PQPM program when they’re 15. At that time, only 5 percent to 10 percent say they want to achieve a master level degree. By the time they’re 18—graduating from high school and entering college—90 percent of PQPM students express an intention to complete studies at the master’s level. Because it takes eight to nine years for students to finish high school and college before going on to advanced degrees, it’s too soon to know how many of them actually will pursue their master’s degrees, but all signs are encouraging.

Developing this program was very important for ESSEC to achieve its mission to be open to students from every kind of background. If administrators at other schools want to improve diversity on their campuses, I would encourage them to first consider what kind of diversity they want to promote. If their schools are located in countries where there is tension between urban and rural areas, the key question might be how to educate the children of farmers. Elsewhere, they might be wrestling with the question of how their society can keep up with the influx of older citizens. Societal urgency varies from one country to another, and the framework of diversity might change depending on a school’s geography.

Next, I would urge the administration to gather an academic team and give its members the freedom to invent a program without any constraints. Let them think outside the box. At ESSEC, we put together a team of academics and a few senior staff members and asked them to imagine something that would be completely original but still very operational. That’s how they came up with the idea of “Pourquoi pas moi?” under the leadership of professor Thierry Sibieude.

Diversity programs are so important because every established institution—whether a school or a government—will be affected by the risks that arise when we fail to address social issues. I think every responsible company in the world must make the pursuit of diversity a priority; it is one of the most serious issues businesses are dealing with today. That means every responsible school must consider the same issue as well.

Rich Heritage, Bright Future

By Douglas M. Brown

Diversity defines the state of New Mexico. The blend of Native Americans, Hispanics, and Anglos extends back centuries and has been augmented more recently by smaller cohorts of African Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. Some historical context is necessary to explain why the University of New Mexico embraces and cherishes the multicultural heritage that makes our state so rich.

More than a thousand years ago, when the Anasazi civilization was at its peak, the population of our state is estimated to have been as great as it is today. That civilization declined under drought conditions, but Native Americans still represent 9.4 percent of New Mexico’s population. Their 20 pueblos and the holdings of the Navajo Nation still occupy a substantial portion of the state’s land.

In 1540, Coronado led one of the earliest Spanish forays into New Mexico, and subsequent expeditions led to Spanish colonization in the area. Even though the united pueblos drove the Spaniards out in 1680, the Duke of Alburquerque reclaimed the territory for Spain in 1706. Today, it is believed that the average Hispanic family here has deeper local roots than the average Anglo one. Visitors from Spain are astonished to visit isolated villages in northern New Mexico where perfect medieval Spanish is still spoken.

With the coming of the railroad, the smattering of Anglo fur traders was broadened into a stream of settlers. These included Jewish families whose leadership in commerce and the professions led them to become pillars of our society.

All these influences have created the multicultural population of New Mexico today, which the University of New Mexico closely mirrors in the demographics of its undergraduate student body. At the Robert O. Anderson School of Management, 42 percent of our students are Hispanic, 40 percent are Anglo, 6 percent Native American, 3 percent African American, 3 percent Asian, and 6 percent other. We are especially pleased that the graduation rate for our minority students closely resembles the rate for the student body as a whole.

Native American students face strong family pressure to leave school to attend tribal ceremonies. Mentors can help them find the strength to stay on the educational path.

We believe those graduation rates are so good, in part, because we regard attracting a diverse enrollment as only the first step. At Anderson, we put a great deal of energy into retaining our multicultural students, primarily through scholarship aid, advisement, and mentoring. We also draw on the university’s resources for financial aid, mentoring, and counseling services.

Mentors can be especially critical when students lack family support for their university studies. Many of our Hispanic and Native American students are the first in their families ever to attend college. Unaccustomed to the benefits of higher education, some of these parents resist their children’s efforts to attend college. Students quote their relatives as saying, “Why are you going off to college when we need you here in the family business?” Native American students face the additional challenge of strong family pressure to leave school for days at a time to attend tribal ceremonies.

Mentors can help minority students find the strength to stay on the educational path, and so can role models among the faculty and staff. Sixteen percent of Anderson’s tenure and tenure track faculty and full-time lecturers are of Hispanic, African American, and Native American heritage, compared to 6.1 percent for the average AACSB school in the U.S. Their presence, their example, and their counsel bring comfort and inspiration.

Peers also can provide support and create affinity among minority students, particularly in clubs and student organizations. At Anderson, these groups include the American Indian Business Association (AIBA), the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA), and the Hispanic Business Student Association (HBSA).

While we honor our broad ethnic heritage at Anderson, we realize that other kinds of diversity are equally important, and we look for ways to diversify the campus in terms of gender, level of physical ability, and political orientation:

  • Twenty-nine percent of our tenured/tenure track faculty are women. In addition, women occupy the faculty chair and the chairs in two of our four departments.
  • People with disabilities are often overlooked in the workplace. Anderson’s accounting chair and I both have disabled children, and we were dismayed to learn that business schools do very little to encourage businesses to accommodate people with disabilities. We hosted a conference to discuss current efforts in the field, and we were heartened by the enthusiastic response from participants representing academia, industry, NGOs, and government offices.

For me, the conference produced three key messages. First, it brought home just how important this issue is. Especially in the U.S., companies need to plan how to incorporate employees with disabilities, because their numbers are growing rapidly due to the influx of disabled war veterans and the aging of America. Second, it showed how companies can make their workplaces more accommodating with only minor changes in policies. Finally, it demonstrated how companies that embrace diversity can reap financial benefits: People with disabilities tend to be productive and loyal, and other workers admire the company for committing to these colleagues.

  • Diversity of thought is another core value at Anderson, because students need to hear a variety of opposing views if they are to develop their critical thinking skills and learn to frame their ethical decisions. We were amused by a note sent to a professor by a conservative EMBA student: “This was what I imagined college would be like. My favorite class thus far, you commie pinko liberal.”

I think my feelings on this topic are best summed up by a statement from Isaac Pino, a regent from our downstate rival, New Mexico State University. He said, “Without diversity, the university does not reflect or relate to the society at large. As we become more global in our outlook and interconnectivity, and the world continues to shrink, those who have been exposed to and participated in comprehensive diversity programs will be the most successful.”

Reaching Out To Indigenous Populations

by Manuka Henare

Because the University of Auckland Business School is located in a region where indigenous people make up a sizable portion of the population, we believe it’s essential to reach out to potential students in often innovative ways. In New Zealand, Māori represent about 15 percent of the population and Pacific Islanders about 7 percent—and their numbers are growing. In fact, some government agencies estimate that within 20 years, Pacific Islanders will account for 30 percent of new job applicants in Auckland, the country’s largest city, and by 2050 will be one of the biggest consumer and voting groups in the city.

In the past, New Zealand’s indigenous populations have not been represented well in higher education. In 2009, 7.5 percent of Māori and 5.9 percent of Pacific Islanders had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher qualification. That’s why the University of Auckland Business School makes it a priority to target students of indigenous heritage.

For instance, we have developed a series of initiatives designed to recruit, welcome, and retain such students. These include measures that might be expected—a special admissions plan for individuals of Māori or Polynesian descent; a club for students at all educational levels; and financial aid packages offered by the university, as well as links to external scholarship-granting organizations such as the Federation of Māori Authorities (FOMA) and the Pacific Islands Polynesian Education Foundation.

As business school researchers explore the rich M¯ aori history, they are creating new business knowledge based on non-Western models.

But we also work to retain indigenous students with more in-depth initiatives:

  • Mentoring. First- and second year Māori and Pacific students enrolled in the business school can use the He Tuākana tutorial and mentoring program to participate in tutorials, labs, and workshops that help them learn core business subjects.
  • Online resources. The He Tuākana “Navigating Futures” handbook, available on the university Web site, not only introduces future students to people and programs at the business school, it has pages dedicated to successful Māori alumni who describe how their heritage and their academic studies have contributed to their success. (It can be found at ebooks. business.auckland. ac.nz/tuakana-profiles-2010/.)
  • Annual business awards. The Aotearoa New Zealand Māori Business Leaders Awards, inaugurated in 2004, provide tangible proof that students with Māori heritage can lead successful international lives that model the way for others. Among the honors given out is the Outstanding Māori Business Leaders Award, which recognizes an individual who has made a significant contribution to business enterprise. This particular award is judged on several criteria: sustainability, peer approval, and the degree to which it illustrates specific qualities of Māori tribal leaders, or rangatira. These include knowledge, mediation, courage, strategy, concern for the people, knowledge of technology, and wisdom.
  • Research centers. Indigenous scholarship is under way at the Mira Szászy Research Centre for Māori and Pacific Economic Development, named after the first Māori woman to graduate with a degree from the University of Auckland; and the Ngā Pae O Te Māramatanga-Māori Centre of Research Excellence, which is housed at the university and funded by the New Zealand government.

In fact, research done by the school and other organizations is leading to a deeper understanding of tribal enterprise and what that enterprise means to the economy of New Zealand. According to FOMA, some 60 percent of tribal assets are export-oriented. This is no surprise, because Māori have been exporting and importing products since the early 1800s. Older recorded histories show that ancestral Austronesian cultures— which were based in Taiwan and southeast Asia and ultimately settled the Pacific islands—have been trading for close to 5,000 years.

A knowledge of this history has led New Zealand to re-establish relations with many participants in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). New Zealand’s recent Free Trade agreements—signed with 22 ASEAN and APEC countries—contain specific references to M¯aori and have the full support of M¯aori enterprise.

As business school researchers explore the rich M¯aori history, they are creating new business knowledge based on non-Western models. For instance, indigenous business and economic cycles are expressed in four types of wellbeing. Spiritual well-being means that spirit precedes material worlds; environmental well-being means that Mother Earth nurtures the human and natural worlds; tribal and family well-being means that kinship and extended families matter in business transactions; and economic well-being means that the material world is part of a matrix of relationships with the spirit world, the cosmos and natural world, and humanity.

This emergent indigenous philosophy of business and economics aligns with notions of spiritual capital, environmental capital, social cultural capital, and financial and economic capitals. At the University of Auckland Business School, we know that this indigenous formula for success is also part of the overall equation for a richer curriculum for our school and a stronger economy for New Zealand.

Alan Rothberg is acting dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law & Management at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Pierre Tapie is dean and president of ESSEC Business School in Paris and Singapore.

Douglas M. Brown is dean of the Anderson School of Management at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

Manuka Henare is associate dean of Māori & Pacific Development and director of the Mira Szászy Research Centre at the University of Auckland Business School in New Zealand.