"Diversity" was not a word you'd hear-- or see with your eyes-- often in business schools when they were first established. Schools were filled with people holding similar backgrounds and viewpoints -- and no understanding of how attainment of diversity can help an organization succeed (let alone create greater good).
Fast-forward to 2016 at the Fisher College of Business. In addition to various recruitment and retainment efforts aimed at making the school representative of the world outside its doors, diversity is infused into the curriculum. A popular class, taught by Professor David Greenberger and Associate to the Dean Francisco Gomez-Bellenge, is Managing Diversity. Both are proud of this unique class and what it offers students-- and share their insight below.
Tell us more about your academic journeys that led you to the Fisher College of Business and share with us your teaching style.
Gomez-Bellenge: My academic background is in anthropology, where we study cultures as well as human biology. I have worked extensively around diversity & inclusion (D&I) in higher education for 25+ years and been involved with a business group, the Central Ohio Diversity Consortium, for more than five years. This has made me well aware of issues and practices related to D&I in the private sector.
Greenberger: I teach courses in organizational behavior and human resource management, but have an academic background in social psychology; this is my 35th year at Fisher. If you look at some of the contemporary work on such topics as implicit bias, you will see that it is based on something like 50 years of extensive research in social psychology. Most recent research has pointed to the unconscious biases that we all possess and how this impacts our activities. Coming from a very traditional background, I believe that I have to enable students to apply theory to practice. So, I want students to understand the disciplinary work because having this understanding enables them to derive creative solutions to unique problems. We bring in practitioners, too, because it is important to hear how individuals in business are approaching such important issues as diversity and inclusion. This is a rapidly changing field and thus, issues continue to evolve.
You "co-teach" Managing Diversity. Any graduate student can choose to take the course as an elective. What's the purpose of the course? What sort of topics do you tackle? How long has this course been offered at Fisher?
The purpose of the course is to introduce students to the main components of D&I that impact all functional areas of business. With an increasingly global economy and a population that will become majority-minority within their careers, all our students will have to deal with several dimensions of diversity and inclusion throughout their careers. Our course follows the value stream of companies, from supplier diversity through strategy. Whereas courses on diversity and inclusion 20 years ago focused on individuals' feelings, ours points to the tangible benefits that D&I provides all organizations.
Why do you think this course resonates with students? What is it that makes them feel it's relevant and impactful?
It gives them tools and makes them aware of opportunities they will face in their careers. A simple example might help: we see in the November 2016 presidential election how salient demographics are to the discussion about the election and how this will impact elections in the future. These rapidly changing demographics are naturally on the minds of executives-- from the changing workforce to new markets to different suppliers.