By Jenn Doane
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
In both business and academics, it’s no secret that diversity breeds innovation, attracts top talent, and drives competitiveness.
As such, the Foster School of Business (FSB) at the University of Washington (UW) has developed a wide array of programs and services aiming to recruit and retain a diverse student body. In May of 2015, in a ranking for business schools with the most perceived diversity, Businessinsider.com placed the UW 17th in the nation with a diversity score of 9.2 out of 10.
Diversity initiatives at the UW first kicked-off in 1970 with the student activism of the Graduate Association of Black Business Students (GABBS), and has since evolved into an eclectic mix of programs and services. From successful high school outreach programs, to invaluable corporate partnerships, FSB boasts a well-rounded, holistic approach to not only increasing campus diversity, but enhancing opportunities for historically underrepresented groups. Per their mission statement, their main purpose is to serve as a resource for students of color, equalizing the gender imbalance in business, and supporting student veterans and the LGBTQ+ community.
“The research continues to validate that nonhomogeneous teams are simply smarter,” said Pamela Lacson, Associate Director of Undergraduate Diversity Services at FSB. “They challenge our brains to think and stretch in new ways and sharpens overall performance. Understanding the value that comes from employing teams from a wide range of intersectional identities is a sound business decision. Here at the Foster School, we are working to ensure that underrepresented students have the opportunities and support necessary for success in the business world.”
In the forefront of undergraduate initiatives at FSB is the Young Executives of Color (YEOC) college pipeline program, a nine-month program serving 170 high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors from 75 schools in Washington. The program offers a comprehensive curriculum focusing on college preparation, professional development, leadership activities, and business lectures. The YEOC program also provides participants with invaluable mentorship and networking opportunities, pairing each student with a FSB undergraduate student mentor who helps provide guidance on the college application process. YEOC seniors have historically maintained a 100 percent college acceptance rate, and many successful participants have returned as college mentors, enrolled at prestigious institutions, and accepted positions at highly reputable corporations.
Additional college pipeline programs include the Business Educational Opportunity Program (BEOP), Business Bridge, Alliances for Learning and Vision for Underrepresented Americans (ALVA), and the annual Women’s Leadership Summit. Once on campus, students receive robust academic retention services, scholarships (Foster awards over $800,000 in scholarship money a year), professional and leadership development, and a community of support once they arrive through to graduation and job placement.
The Consulting & Business Development Center (CBDC) is another impressive program offered by FSB diversity services. Established in 1995, the program gives students the opportunity to utilize what they’ve learned in the classroom to help solve real-world business challenges in communities throughout Washington state. The program allows students the ability to gain real-world consulting experience solving actual business challenges, while helping business owners and nonprofit leaders in underserved communities gain access to invaluable business education. Students provide consulting services ranging from six weeks to six months. For nonprofit organizations, the Board Fellows program places MBA and MPA students in local nonprofit organizations as non-voting board members — allowing them to attend monthly board meetings, join board committees, and complete board-level projects. In turn, the nonprofits gain fresh perspectives from MBA and MPA students, the ability to recruit and work with young leaders, and the opportunity to influence the next generation of board leadership.
Research shows that there are systemic challenges that minority-owned businesses face compared to businesses in general. Businesses owned by people of color have gaps in access to Management education, Money (access to capital), and Market access (access to customers and clients). The Center is building a holistic approach that address all three Ms at the same time. For businesses that are seeking to grow the Center offers consulting and business education classes suited for all stages of business development. Since the program’s inception, it has successfully created and retained over 100,000 jobs and helped generate more than $100 million in revenue.
The Foster School has a strong team of individuals driving these initiatives. Lacson, a UW alumna who received her BA in Business Administration from Foster, credits the diversity programs offered for much of her academic and career success. Lacson and her team at Undergraduate Diversity Services have played a key role in spearheading new college pipeline programs, securing new corporate sponsorships, and deepening existing corporate partnerships.
Melissa Uyesugi was recently hired on as the Associate Director for Diversity & Inclusion for the portfolio of Masters programs at the Foster School. Uyesugi boasts an impressive 17 years working as a higher education professional, with much of her work dedicated to closing educational opportunity gaps for underrepresented groups, student engagement and leadership programming, and diversity and inclusion efforts. With support from Associate Dean Dan Turner, Melissa recently facilitated a partnership with the prestigious national organization Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), a nonprofit organization that is transforming the career and life trajectories of a new generation of diverse leaders — while expanding the talent pipelines at more than 100 leading businesses, social-sector organizations, and universities.
“We are beyond thrilled about our new partnership with MLT, and we are ready to join in the movement to diversify corporate senior leadership,” said Uyesugi. “Equity work is about decision-making and by impacting leadership at the top of the management structure, we work to ensure that a diverse array of voices are part of the decision-making process regarding things that affect the entire company and beyond.” The impact of this yields a financial benefit as well. A recent report from global management consulting giant McKinsey & Company found that companies in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above the industry mean.
For more information on diversity programming and initiatives available at FSB at both the graduate and undergraduate level, visit foster.uw.edu/diversity.
Jenn can be reached at email@example.com.