Dean's Corner: The Diversity Challenge and Compatability of Globalization Strategies

Within American education, perhaps no issue has been discussed and debated more over the last 25 years than the area of diversity and inclusion. Despite significant intellectual discourse, efforts, strategies, and well-debated programs, the impact has been negligible, to say the least.

Within American education, perhaps no issue has been discussed and debated more over the last 25 years than the area of diversity and inclusion. Despite significant intellectual discourse, efforts, strategies, and well-debated programs, the impact has been negligible, to say the least. The issue of diversity and inclusion has been institutionalized in higher education as important and necessary, but not successfully actualized, especially when you compare it with the diversity of the nation.

The Issue

Diversity in the U.S. continues to grow and is one of this nation's dominant attributes. Minorities make up more than 30 percent of the nation and are responsible for more than 60 percent of its population growth. Institutions of higher education still have a long way to go to reflect this attribute. Although most universities use mission, vision, and value statements to convey the importance of diversity, the reality is these statements do not result in actions that generate significant impact to diversity populations in classrooms, nor does it eliminate barriers for inclusion. One of the great challenges of higher education today continues to be how to develop effective diversity and inclusion programs, how to sustain these programs, and subsequently incorporate them into university and college life.

The business case for diversity regarding race, gender, age, and ethnicity has been examined, debated and made. Diversity in the workplace is still a competitive advantage and continues to differentiate average organizations and average corporations from outstanding organizations and outstanding corporations. Diversity in the workplace makes its contribution to the organization in decision-making effectiveness, responsiveness, innovation, and to their bottom line. Diverse perspectives are able to provide unique insights, approaches, and innovation that are developed from a diverse population and thereby are able to address complex problems of today.

Growing Pains

The topic of diversity and inclusion for most administrators at top institutions of higher learning is a difficult and painful discussion. Although most universities can share information about their Offices of Diversity, diversity programs or activities, discussions are made more difficult due to the lack of significant results and progress. Universities and colleges fail when they struggle to outline a coherent strategy for diversity and inclusion and to situate it as a continual element of continuous improvement. The key is not only to have a coherent strategy, but the strategy must be coupled with active and consistent engagement.

Unfortunately, the same is true for most business programs here in the U.S. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, although business schools continually talk about their diverse student body and their unique and special strategies that increase their minority enrollment (particularly those of underrepresented minorities in the United States) the top business programs are woefully underrepresented by ethnic and racial minorities. Many top MBA schools will report in a number of journals and publications their minority representation in their graduating classes ranges from 24-30 percent. But when you look at the percentage of underrepresented minorities, such as African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans, those percentages drop precipitously to 7-9 percent. Thus, real progress on diversity and inclusions continues to be a significant challenge for business schools and universities as a whole.

The lack of diversity problem for business schools is further exaggerated by these facts:

1. The percentage of underrepresented minorities in the United States is approximately 28-30 percent, including African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans.

2. Diversity and inclusion throughout this nation continues to be a national priority.

3. Although not reflective of the nation's diversity, the top medical and law schools in the U.S. are able to report that 15 percent of their graduates are underrepresented minorities. That is more than 60 percent better than most business schools.

Elusive Sustainable Success

The lack of success is a result of multifaceted factors, both internal and external. Some problems are overtly obvious, while others are multi-layered and therefore more complex. Take, for example, a recent article on business schools and their diversity efforts through their web presence. A consultant was asked to assist the organization to improve their websites diversity content. The consultant, who is an MBA graduate of a top-ranked MBA program, had also previously served as director of diversity admissions for an Ivy League MBA program. As a way of gleaning some of the best examples of diversity content on websites, the consultant surveyed a number of organizational websites including approximately 140 U.S. graduate business schools. After examining the sites she found nearly 60 percent fail to devote a single page to diversity. Further, the sites also failed to encourage underrepresented minorities or women to seek admission. As a result of her research, she concluded that while business schools seemingly would prefer more women and minorities, they can exist without them. I am confident that this is certainly not the message business schools want to convey to the diverse community concerning their desire to have diverse candidates in MBA programs.

There are many arguments afloat about why higher education institutions cannot make significant and sustainable progress when it comes to diversity and inclusion. One argument being made as to why the minority enrollment at top business schools remains significantly low over the last 20 years places blame on the obsession with MBA rankings. Business schools have been so focused on recruiting only the students with the highest GMAT scores and undergraduate grade point averages in order to maintain or improve their position on a variety of national and international MBA rankings that it has been harder to make any significant increases in diversity. Most ranking organizations do not consider diversity, or include it in the criteria for ranking MBA programs. Therefore, schools will continue be concerned with the elements that produce the highest rankings: GMAT scores and grade point averages.

Another major argument resides in the fact that business schools are, and have woefully been, devoid of diverse faculty. Despite the extremely successful efforts of the PhD Project, this remains a long-term problem for most business schools and the number of minority faculty will remain minimal in the foreseeable future. It is important to note there are effective diversity and inclusion programs and activities undertaken by business schools. As already noted, the PhD Project has reached tremendous benefits regarding diversity. Other examples include the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Management Leaders for Tomorrow, and the University of California Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders to name a few.


The globalization efforts expended during the last 12 to 15 years by business schools have been significant. These efforts have focused on providing opportunities and linkages with programs that promote and provide globalization and international position of their curriculum and programs.

Some of the more impressive examples include developing collaborative partnerships, establishing exchange programs for students as well as faculty, and guest lecturers from global universities. The efforts also include hosting programs for students in foreign countries and international cities, hosting visiting partner universities from foreign countries and international cities, as well as establishing joint degree programs and campuses in foreign counties. One would unequivocally state that there is a tremendous focus and effort—not only on the part of the leadership of business schools—but also among faculty and administration to harvest global education experiences.

The successful globalization strategies of business schools have required the coordination of the following actions to ensure that success of these programs:

• An active involvement of the business school dean, associate or assistant dean

• An active involvement of faculty

• Development and implementation of attractive programs

• Dedicated staffing for international programs

• Providing special assistance to international scholars to ensure a successful experience

    • Ensuring a welcoming atmosphere for global visitors

    • Special advising and counseling

    • Hands on approaches

Looking Ahead

I wonder what would be the result if we were to turn this paradigm on its edge: use the same or similar resources and strategies used to internationalize our business schools to diversify our learning environments and include more marginalized and underrepresented populations. We have a host of effective techniques that we have honed in on with our quest to fill our campuses with international students. Might we not use these same techniques for diversity and inclusion? Might we not appropriate funding to support a diversity office or diversity director? Might we not partner with urban or HBCUs and Hispanic serving institutions to develop a sustainable pipeline of diversity candidates? Might we not create faculty exchanges that encourage a broader range of intellectual curiosity, research, and development? I don't see these initiatives as impossible. We have proven the strategies are highly effective in one environment; all we have to do is execute them (with some tweaking) in the other environment.

As a suggested facilitating step, there is a need to find a forum, mode or mechanism to share diversity initiatives, best practices, benefits and sustainability. This can be done—both informally and formally. Investigating strategies for information sharing of best practices involve website or dedicated web pages, periodic publications, workshops and research forums; as well as templates, program descriptions, and pro forma agreements.

Business schools have continued to be problem solvers and consistently address the needs of our core constituencies, including the business and professional communities. Providing focus and several potential outlets of information sharing is a great step in increasing enrollment of underrepresented minorities, increasing diversity, and increasing the quality of business schools and programs.

HarveyBarron H. Harvey PhD, CPA
Dean and Frank Ross/KPMG Endowed Professor, School of Business, Howard University

This article was originally featured in the June 2013 issue of eNEWSLINE.