Jessica Garcia stands at the front of a lecture hall

Jessica Garcia, assistant professor for the MSU Department of Sociology

As part of a commitment to create more inclusive workspaces, the Eli Broad College of Business welcomed 200 regional business and community leaders who participated in the diversity awareness program, “Building an Inclusive Environment.” It was offered as part of the Business and Bagels executive development series.

The Building an Inclusive Environment program quickly became one of the most popular sessions presented by the college. After a session sold out in March, a second offering of the content was opened in April, which also sold out. Attendees explored differing viewpoints, discussed unconscious bias and left with actionable ideas to improve their own workplaces.

“This content is critical for today’s workforce and it resonated with regional leaders,” said David Frayer, assistant dean for Executive Development Programs. “We are able to blend our academic knowledge with our business expertise to present inclusiveness in a way that’s approachable. While inclusiveness is a bottom-line issue in a global marketplace, it’s also the right thing to do. It’s great to see so many business people taking the topic seriously.”

The Business and Bagels series was designed as a way for regional leaders to network, with open enrollment sessions offered once per month during the academic year. Each session focuses on a specific issue with rotating speakers and topics. With inclusivity at the forefront of public discussion Broad College scheduled the program as a way to facilitate conversations with regional leaders.

“Businesses with inclusive leadership see an impact on the bottom line with a broader customer base and greater employee retention,” said Jessica Garcia. Garcia is an assistant professor for the Department of Sociology, faculty associate in the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives, and the Building an Inclusive Environment program presenter. “Think of all the tech companies who are investing billions in inclusion training. They are spending that money with the expectation of a return.”

For Garcia, fostering a sense of belonging is key. “Inclusion isn’t just about having a visibly diverse workforce. For a space to be inclusive everyone must also speak up and feel heard regardless of identity. ‘I see you’ is one of the most important things a person from a marginalized background can hear.”

During the sessions, Garcia was careful to note that the one-hour program is the start of a long journey and that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. “The Business and Bagels program is an appeal to begin this work. Every business is different, and many roads can lead to a more inclusive workspace,” said Garcia. “Slow down, stay curious and welcome opportunities to learn more.”

Each session of the Building an Inclusive Environment program held 100 attendees with Broad College faculty and staff attending additional sessions. Business and Bagels has ended for the 2018-19 academic year and will begin again in September 2019.