Engaging Students in Diversity and Inclusion Efforts Critical for Change

AACSB and Susan McTiernan, dean of the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University, discuss the importance of championing diversity and inclusion in business schools and business.


Susan McTiernan: [00:16] I've always looked at the work that we've done in terms of gender and other types of diversity within AACSB as work that I've been fortunate to be part of.

[00:26] There are a number of very dedicated people within this organization and there have been historically who view diversity and inclusion as critically important factors for business schools and for AACSB.

[00:34] I attended this function just recently for new deans and I noticed that about 35 percent of the people in the room were women—which was very exciting—and I would estimate about 40 percent of the people in the room were from outside of the United States.

[00:53] Nelson Mandela had a saying that our chief diversity officer at Roger Williams University likes to use. I'm borrowing it from her. Probably not as well as she would deliver it. But he talked about how hard the work is until it's done.

[01:09] We continue to make progress and it's great to see the proof of that progress in something like the New Deans' learning community meeting with such a diverse group of attendees.

Michael Wiemer: [01:20] We're very fortunate to have you visibly leading and supporting these efforts. They're significant, and we will continue. In engagement of students, how can business schools engage students in diversity and inclusion efforts?

[01:33] Ultimately to help to prepare them to be leaders of change in today's workforce but perhaps, more importantly, in workforce or workplace of tomorrow.

McTiernan: [01:42] I think as we have seen a change and an evolution of the appreciation for diversity and inclusion in our organizations—like AACSB—and within our business schools and our universities. We've also seen that among our student bodies.

[01:58] They're not, at least in my experience as dean of the Gabelli School at Roger Williams, such that I am happy with our level of diversity. We have a lot more work to do as far as that goes. But I think we're moving in the right direction. I think our students come to us now with an appreciation for how important that is, more so than even five or six or seven years ago.

[02:22] I don't know to what I would attribute that specifically, but I think on a fundamental level diversity and inclusion is good business. We all are working in more and more diverse teams and more and more diverse environments.

[02:38] It's important for us to be able to interact with people who don't come from the same backgrounds as we do and be able to meet them where they are and understand where they've been and really be able to form effective teams in doing that. I think our students come to us with a different sense of appreciation than they have in the past. We try to build on that.

[03:00] We have some efforts underway at our university, at Roger Williams University, that I am just very pleased to be part of. It's a major diversity and inclusion effort which we have gone to great lengths to make sure that students are involved in.

[03:16] It's been great to be witness to that student involvement and how meaningful that is for the students and the ownership that they're taking of that effort at our institution, both at the university and the business school level. We are emphasizing that more and more.

[03:32] We now have a lean in circle at the Gabelli School to encourage women to have a forum for discussion of their challenges as business students. We're in the process of starting a couple of other organizations for different affinity groups within the business school that we hope are going to help in our own individual diversity efforts.

[03:51] I know there are a number of schools who are doing some very exciting things in this area. We all want to do it, we need to do it, and there's a lot of passion out there about doing it and doing it right and doing it successfully.

Filmed February 2018 on site at AACSB's annual Deans Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.