June 4, 2020 | By Vallabh Sambamurthy | Back to blog

A flag with the UW crest flies against a blue sky

Like many of you, I have watched with horror the killing of George Floyd, as an ugly chapter of our history repeats itself. Despite being a man of color and an immigrant, I cannot pretend to understand fully what it means to live as a Black person in America today.

On behalf of WSB Leadership, I acknowledge the profound pain, despair, and outrage caused by the acts of racism and violence that plague our country. While these recent occurrences have accelerated a movement to demand justice, we have grappled with racial tension for some time, but we have miles to go and we must make greater efforts to keep moving forward.

At the Wisconsin School of Business, we aspire to be an inclusive and diverse community that learns and grows together. We strive to foster a culture where each person is valued, respected, and cherished. We are taking steps to translate those aspirations into actions, remaking the Wisconsin School of Business into a safer, more inclusive, more welcoming place for all.

What we have done

With input from our entire community, we recommitted to Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as one of the pillars of our Roadmap 2025 strategic plan. That prominence reflects our belief that this must be part of our daily consciousness—a continuous thread in the fabric of our engaged learning community.

As part of that renewed commitment, we have reconstituted the WSB External Advisory Board—prominent business leaders who provide advice and counsel to me and other WSB leaders—to have a broader, more diverse composition. Engagement, diversity, and inclusion is one of the strategic topics for this new board, and we intend to benefit from the group’s insights in launching actionable school-wide initiatives. We welcome the opportunity to implement fresh ideas and evaluate their impacts.

Even before my arrival as Dean, the school was implementing promising initiatives to diversify enrollment into our programs. We are taking steps to recruit more students of color by investing in our undergraduate direct admit Program, Business Emerging Leaders Program, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, and partnerships with campus programs like Chancellor’s Scholars and Posse. While significant progress has been made in the past three years, we have more work to do to ensure we are a welcoming place that celebrates diversity and helps all students thrive.

Immediate next steps

Diversity and inclusion must be part of our DNA, so we will invest in changes to the WSB student experience, enhancing the curriculum and media resources to facilitate more candid conversations. We will enrich how our courses promote inclusive mindsets.

We have heard and will respond to our students who have asked for a multicultural center in the school by creating one this year.  This center will be one step toward building community and a sense of belonging in our school for students of color and promoting the value of inclusive leadership that our country needs. We are also expanding and investing in our affinity group program to help students connect within their salient identities and find community.

In addition to preparing students to lead inclusively, we want to ensure that faculty and staff are modeling behaviors that cultivate inclusion, so we will expand training in areas such as implicit bias, cultural dexterity, and partnering across differences. Equally important, we will demand accountability for inclusive behaviors, beginning with my WSB leadership team.

Plans for the next two years

We will be more intentional about diversifying our faculty and staff. We will begin by identifying barriers that keep people of color from being hired and retained as faculty and staff at our school. As we hire new faculty and instructors over the next two years, we commit to a process that is blind to bias and attracts a more diverse pool of qualified candidates. We will also explore partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to further diversify our WSB classrooms.

If you would like to read more about how our campus is responding to our current climate, I commend to you the statements from Chancellor Rebecca Blank and Deputy Vice Chancellor Patrick Sims.

These are trying days, to say the very least. Wherever we are, let us collectively honor the memory of all those who have fallen and let us turn this moment of despair into one of promise, as we pledge to build a brighter future.

 

This message was updated on June 5, 2020.