Making Equity and Justice an Integral Part of the Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA Experience – Starting at Orientation

September 7, 2021

By Bridget Vis

Smiling woman in wheelchair in sunflowers

As issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion continue to be top of mind at business schools and in the workplace, the Full-Time MBA Program at the Ross School of Business added engaging and informative sessions focused on DEI to its weeklong student orientation this year.

The sessions — part of an expanded DEI onboarding program — explored topics related to why business students should care about DEI, how to be an ally, and how to build an anti-racist framework. The goal was to provide a platform for incoming students to build on students’ DEI awareness and knowledge, wherever they are in their personal DEI journey, and have authentic conversations around DEI and its role in society and business.

“We put a lot of thought and planning into building the DEI-related content for the Full-Time MBA Orientation this year,” said Soojin Kwon, managing director of Full-Time MBA Admissions and Program at Michigan Ross. “I was really happy to see the students how engaged the students were in the sessions. ”

About the new DEI Journey sessions

The foundation for the new DEI Journey programming was a session on identity, in which students examined their own identities, intersectionality and the way it impacts their views and experiences. This session was co-facilitated by DEI leaders at Michigian Ross including  Carolyn Yoon, associate dean for DEI,  Thomn Bell, director of diversity and inclusion, and  J’Taime Lyons, MBA ’22, and Christina Weiberg, MBA ’22.

Why DEI from an Academic, Corporate, and Peer Perspective

This interactive panel discussion delved into the role of and case for DEI in organizations, and in MBA programs. The panel, moderated by Kwon, included Michigan Ross Professor Scott Page, author of The Diversity BonusTamika Curry Smith, BBA ’95, former vice president of global diversity and inclusion at Nike, Mercedes-Benz, and Target, and Taylor Clark, MBA ’22, who serves on the Ross student DEI Committee and is co-director of allyship for the Black Business Students Association at Michigan Ross.

Allyship 101

This session provided students with insight into how they can act as agents for positive social change; what aspects of identity grant power and privilege; what to do in common scenarios to show up as an ally; and how to advocate for marginalized groups in social and professional contexts. The session was facilitated by Anthony Berryhill, associate director for diversity admissions of the Full-Time MBA Program, and Diana Economy, director of admissions of the Full-Time MBA program.

Building an Anti-Racist Framework

In this session, MBAs started the initial conversation around building an anti-racist framework. This initial conversation included moving from ally to accomplice as well as a discussion of building coalitions to address racial inequity. This conversation, led by Bell, was intended to be a jumping off point for an anti-racist series that will run later this year.

“Our goal was to provide a platform for the incoming students to start conversations around DEI, and they did begin those discussions as well as demonstrated they are ready to dig deeper,” said Bell. “I am excited for the opportunity to engage with them further, as we continue to make equity and justice an integral part of the Michigan Ross experience.”

Important learnings and conversations with classmates

After participating in the DEI sessions during orientation, students had positive feedback about the events.

“I appreciated how forefront Ross made inclusion during orientation week,” said Ash Martinez, MBA/MS ’24. “The opportunity for people to come from different starting points on the inclusion conversation and all be welcomed to engage is pivotal to driving long-lasting change.”

Likewise, Soha Khedkar, MBA ’23, said she enjoyed the DEI components of orientation and the ability to engage with her classmates.

“Specifically, I valued the intentional safe space in which we were encouraged to connect with each other and share vulnerable stories amongst peers who are empathetic and kind,” explained Khedkar. “I look forward to having more of these spaces and opportunities to continue these conversations.”

In addition to the DEI sessions, the Full-Time MBA Orientation included programming on leadership led by the Sanger Leadership Center at Michigan Ross, career recruiting, and a trip to the University of Michigan’s Challenge Course. There were also snack breaks with Ross alumni and entrepreneurs who launched their ventures while in business school hosted by the Zell Lurie Institute at Michigan Ross. 

Click here to read this piece on the Michigan Ross website.