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Broad College takes intentional steps to advance diversity, equity and inclusion

By Chelsea Stein
Monday, November 14, 2022

At the Broad College of Business, we are committed to building an inclusive environment — one that recognizes and respects people of all backgrounds and experiences. We strive to build a community grounded in mutual respect where everyone feels valued, supported to do their best work and able to advance.

Although furthering diversity, equity and inclusion has been one of five themes outlined in the college’s Strategic Plan, guiding our intentional work in this area for years, we have taken numerous steps recently to expand our efforts to foster a community of belonging and success for all Broad Spartans.

Creating a baseline

In October, the Broad College distributed its first school climate survey to all students, faculty and staff to assess our current climate and culture. The survey, championed by the college’s internal Culture and Climate of Belonging and Success Strategic Initiative Working Group, will ultimately create a baseline to inform our next steps.

“For the last several years, we’ve been providing a slate of opportunities for students, staff and faculty to grow and support each other. At the same time, we’ve recognized that we didn’t have a clear baseline or sufficient metrics to ensure we were having the desired impact,” Cheri DeClercq, assistant dean of MBA programs and the working group’s lead, said. “Having data from our community is essential and will guide us toward more focused and intentional outcomes.”

The school climate survey is something that DeClercq and the working group have put effort into for more than a year — and they’re eager to see the results, which are expected in early 2023.

“Many faculty and staff have been driving toward this survey for years, and it’s great to see the efforts come together,” she said. “We are looking forward to diving deeply into the outcomes, to conversations with our community around this and to the future actions that will come from this work.”

The work on the school climate survey has been made possible through the support of alumnus Girish Gehani (B.A. Finance ’00), chief operating officer at Trilogy Real Estate Group. His gift is helping advance the college’s DEI efforts through such climate surveys, DEI-related grants and support for Multicultural Business Programs.

“As an MSU graduate and a strong believer in the benefits of promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in higher education and the professional arena, I felt that it would be an honor to give back and help MSU achieve their DEI goals,” Gehani said.

Beyond the survey, the college’s leadership held a summit in June to dive deeply into each of the themes outlined in the Strategic Plan. Matt Anderson, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and professor of accounting and information systems, led the group through a cultural assessment to assess how the college’s leaders might interact with different cultures and diversity.

“I define culture somewhat as the rules of the road, as to how an organization or entity decides how it does business within itself and how it interacts with other organizations,” said Anderson, a certified Intercultural Development Inventory administrator. “We want to think about ways that we can sit down with people from other cultures and either adapt what we are doing or at least be open to thinking in a different way to achieve a more satisfactory set of outcomes for all parties involved in exchanges. The main objective of the assessment is to get a feel for that.”

Anderson deployed the assessment to Broad’s leaders, helping them understand how to use the tool and the importance of its exercises, including self-perception and the ability to be open-minded with other cultures and communities. Understanding and respecting other cultures is important for students as well, and Anderson has also worked with student leaders to complete the exercise.

“The goal is to change procedures and processes to help us avoid outcomes that don’t move the needle,” he said. “We want to ask questions about faculty recruiting, for example, through a diversity and inclusion lens. This will help us to enhance culture and create an environment, a feeling of inclusion.”

With tools like the school climate survey and the cultural assessment, Broad Spartans can begin to understand where we are now and where we need to improve to move forward.

Expanding resources and partnerships

MBP has been a hub for DEI since 1986, offering academic services to all students regardless of their ethnic or cultural and religious backgrounds. When it comes to student-facing initiatives, this has given Broad a strong historical grounding as a leader in emphasizing diversity and inclusion in the learning environment.

“If we’re going to do this right, it’s not just about the DEI label. It’s truly about intentionally and effectively serving a multicultural community,” Ed Tillett, director of MBP, said.

Since he came into this role in 2021, Tillett and his dedicated team have applied their professional expertise and energy to elevate MBP’s work in numerous ways. They have prioritized identifying new partners across campus and with the surrounding communities, including launching the Empowerment Closet with the college’s Russell Palmer Career Management Center, running an Entrepreneur Leadership High School Camp with the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and finding ways to collaborate with MSU Athletics and student athletes. Under Tillett’s leadership, MBP has also expanded the scope of its student organizations, growing from four to seven.

“Expanding our student organizations was intentional,” he said. “I see MBP’s student organizations operating like employee resource groups within a company; they’re a way for students to plug in and find where they belong. We want to include groups that were already existing outside the MBP umbrella and help create new groups when the need and interest is there to give students a home at Broad.”

MBP boasts numerous resources, like its Multifarious Speaker Series, Wednesday Wisdom videos and Summer Business Institute, which all leverage MBP staff talents and skillsets to support student success. Looking ahead, Tillett has plans to expand the MBP staff to hire a recruiting manager to engage in targeted recruitment in Michigan high schools.

“In the past year, we’ve been trying to expand what MBP offers so that when students are recruited to MSU and Broad, they can see the community and where they belong in MBP,” Tillett said. “The recruiting manger will help prospective students see the value that is here.”

Bringing all of the college’s DEI efforts together is also important for us to continue to make progress. As such, at the start of the 2022–23 academic year, Scot Wright was hired as the college’s inaugural DEI program manager to coordinate and support DEI educational programs and initiatives.

In this role, Wright will help connect the dots across the college and be an additional resource to plan and uplift DEI activities — working with DeClercq, Anderson and Tillett, among others.

“We need a compelling vision for what we want the Broad College to be around DEI and what success will look like,” Wright said. “My passion in DEI is more about embracing collaboration and bringing more people to the table.”

Wright joins MSU from Indiana University, where he was an academic adviser and diversity specialist in the Groups Scholars Program, which works to increase college attendance among first-generation, underrepresented students attending IU.

As a former small business owner, Wright also brings an entrepreneurship lens and grassroots approach to his work. He hopes to develop accessibility pathways at Broad and champion initiatives that tie into our mission and foundation.

“What excites me most about my role at Broad, and in particular here at Michigan State, is our history in being one of the premier land-grant institutions,” he said. “Such histories, while complex and oftentimes unfair, are rooted in the establishment of accessible pathways and opportunities within education. I’m looking to expand Broad’s reach and societal impact by honoring the best of ours.”

Across each of these efforts, the Broad College’s focus on DEI is enhancing. We are creating baselines and starting points that will give us momentum to bring this work front and center.

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