Posts Tagged ‘global competitiveness’

On the importance of minority faculty

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

I was recently asked to answer a series of questions on why it is important to have minority faculty represented at business schools. While it seemed like the answer to the question would be obvious, I was happy to go through the exercise, and found that it may not be as straightforward as one might think.

Minority representation among our faculty is essential because we know that being competitive in the global business school market means getting smarter and smarter about how we create high quality learning for an increasingly diverse student body.   Having excellent minority faculty means that we are better able to leverage the diversity of background and perspective among all of our faculty colleagues to create that high quality learning environment.  Here are a few examples:

a)     Our faculty collaborate extensively in teaching.  In our teaching meetings, everything from the selection of cases to the pedagogy we use to teach our students is informed by the multiple perspectives of our faculty teams, many of which are racially and culturally diverse.

b)    In the classroom itself, our minority faculty serve as role models, not only for our minority students, but also for our majority students.  Students and typically build strong learning relationships together and when the faculty member is a minority, students are exposed to perspectives that expand their models of who they can learn from.

c)     Our faculty collaborate extensively in conducting cutting-edge research.  Our minority and majority faculty work together to produce new research ideas that contribute to academic scholarship and to our mission of informing practicing managers.  For example, I’m working with a colleague on a new research project explaining what prevents organizations from developing minority and women managers sustainably.

I can’t help but reflect back twelve years ago when I came to Darden from Tuck as the only minority faculty member at Darden. In twelve years since, five more minority faculty have joined our faculty (raising our percentage of minority faculty well above industry averages).  More significant, five of the six minority faculty member at Darden have earned tenure (the sixth is a junior colleague) and all continue to thrive at the institution.  The absolute numbers are impressive; the retention is remarkable.

This success has been achieved for several reasons: 1) the three deans who have led Darden during the past twelve years have consistently supported the hiring of minority faculty; 2) our current dean, Bob Bruner, has overseen the promotion of 4 of the 5 tenured faculty at Darden; 3) the school—faculty, students, and administration—has embraced eagerly the trend toward increased diversity among faculty.  Most important, the environment at Darden is welcoming.

I’m afraid there is likely to be a shortage of minority faculty in top 20 business schools and in international business schools because networks that provide talent to these institutions have not yet been widely opened to U.S. minorities. So one of the most important goals 21st century business schools must achieve is to develop and transform their way of doing business education;  business schools have to be “fluent” in diversity because our global stakeholders—students, recruiters, faculty, alumni, donors—are demanding this of us.  U.S. minority faculty have a critical role to play in helping business schools gain this fluency. Together, members of a culturally diverse faculty can create “laboratories” to help everyone learn how to build processes and organizational cultures that better produce relevant, high quality business education.