New Course Brings Diversity into the Workplace

In 2015, Professor Katherine Guthrie was honored with the two-year Mansfield professorship, and was given $10,000 worth of funds to spend on initiatives to benefit students. Guthrie used the majority of the funds to spearhead a diversity initiative in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. In the spring of 2016, an inaugural group of students were able to enroll in Diversity in the Workplace, a course aimed at providing professional development and introductory business acumen to underrepresented students populations.

Last year, Guthrie filled her class with freshman and sophomores based on recommendations from administrators across campus. She wanted students who had leadership potential, a budding interest or curiosity in business, and a strong desire and commitment to further their professional development. This semester, student nominations came not only from administrators but also from her Spring 2016 Diversity in the Workplace students.

There are two broad goals for Diversity in the Workplace: help freshman and sophomores understand the business world and give students professional development tools and advice. Throughout the semester, Guthrie brought in various professors to talk about business and what the research reveals about diversity in the workplace. Students also learned how to build resumes, create LinkedIn accounts, interview, write and time thank-you notes, and network with professionals.

The class culminated in a one-day trip to Washington D.C. at the end of March. During this trip, students heard alumni professionals speak on topics such as entrepreneurship, innovation, brand management, and public relations. They were able to hear about careers in accounting, finance, consulting, and marketing, and were able to put their networking skills into practice with our gracious alumni panelists and mentors. They also participated in a case competition, presented by Ernst & Young. Overall, over 25 alumni from various industries and firms in the D.C. area were involved with the event.

Ernst & Young, a professional services firm who has been on the forefront of corporate diversity initiatives, will fund a 3-part diversity initiative at the Business School starting next fall. The first part of this initiative in the Diversity in the Workplace course - aimed to reach students before they enter the Business School. The second part is a diversity awareness course that will be required for all business majors; the third part incorporates diversity training into the current curriculum.