MULTIPLYING IMPACT BY ADVANCING TO LEADERSHIP, PART 2
With well over 100 of its participants now in higher education leadership positions, The PhD Project has seen its impact grow wider than its founding members imagined.
About 10 percent of the more than 1,100 minority business professors created since The PhD Project’s launch have advanced to roles in administration. Interviews revealed several ways the presence of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans at that level is changing the landscape of business academia:
■ Attracting minority undergraduates to matriculate, and becoming their role models
■ Driving (and funding) diversity and inclusion initiatives at their colleges
■ Enhancing the undergraduate experience for all students
■ Recruiting, encouraging and inspiring minority faculty members
■ Bringing deeper managerial experience to the business of running a college
The State University of New York’s Plattsburgh (SUNY Plattsburgh) campus wants to enroll more minority students, especially from New York City, which is 300 miles away. The PhD Project Professor Dr. Rowena Ortiz-Walters, dean of the School of Business and Economics, actively engages in recruiting, believing her presence as a minority sends a strong signal to prospective minority students.
She develops strategies and programs to make studying business in a small town far from home more attractive for urban minority students. Relating personally to their culture, she understands that many aspire to serve their communities. So, she frames her recruiting pitch to present business as a way to do so.
Driving Diversity and Inclusion
Dr. Ortiz-Walters encourages white faculty to mentor minority students, asks faculty members to set yearly personal diversity and inclusion goals and has embedded inclusion as a core value of the business school. “That would not have been in the discussion had I not been here,” she says.
Dr. Jenkins observes that the mere presence of a person of color at a meeting can change the conversation. Monocultural groups often think monoculturally, and even if inadvertently, can think non-inclusively. But when the group is diverse, she notes, “People naturally slow down and think more inclusively.” (Not that Dr. Jenkins is a passive presence: as chief operating officer of Gatton she oversees management, financing and budgeting of a $45 million program, while also driving a college-wide inclusion initiative.)
Enhancing undergraduate experiences
Dr. Ortiz-Walters has established meaningful internship and extracurricular opportunities for minority students and engaged local businesses in town-gown activities to make them feel more “at home.” Dr. Lisa Ordóñez, vice dean at the University of Arizona Eller College of Management, personally coaches and supports undergraduates from underserved communities in job interviewing soft skills, like business etiquette and flying on airplanes, which some have never done.
Recruiting and inspiring minority faculty
“The PhD Project professors in administration are leading faculty as well as students,” says Dr. Eli Jones, dean of Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. “In our new strategic plan, we made diversity and inclusion our first priority. It applies to recruiting and retaining faculty and students.” Professors of all races on the job market take note and are inspired when they see a business school run by a person of color. At SUNY Plattsburgh, Dr. Ortiz-Walters is developing a long-term strategic plan to expand minority faculty representation.
Applying business experience and skills to academia
Dr. Jenkins notes that The PhD Project professors tend to acquire more experience working in business prior to academia than the general population of faculty. Higher education today is big business, and the skills in management, marketing, human resources and accounting they hold enable them to excel at academic management: “It’s not the first time you’re managing people and organizations. It informs the decisions you make.”
As more time unfolds, tens of thousands of students will be influenced by The PhD Project professors. It is now reasonable to project that with more of them moving into administration, the numbers will climb into the millions.
“Moving up the ladder is how we change things,” says Dr. Ortiz-Walters.