A Look at the Ross Community
People often say one of the things that sets Ross apart is our strong sense of community. Often they can’t quite put their finger on what’s different about our culture; it’s a feeling, an attitude, a spirit, or some indescribable quality that’s apparent the moment you set foot in the Winter Garden.
This year, Ross is co-sponsoring the University of Michigan’s Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Symposium keynote speaker, Harry Belafonte. Belafonte, a well-known entertainer, worked with Dr. King, President Kennedy, and Nelson Mandela in advancing social justice issues, and his work has been recognized by numerous organizations, including the NAACP, the State Department, and the Peace Corps. As we prepare to honor Dr. King through Belafonte’s words, I am inspired to reflect on the Ross community and how we are furthering Dr. King’s goal of an inclusive society.
Some of the very qualities of our culture that people observe are the essence of what Dr. King stood for: openness of thought, acceptance of difference, and encouragement of diversity. One of the hallmarks of Ross is our boundaryless approach to education, and a philosophy of inclusion permeates our culture. Students, faculty, and staff actively promote collaboration and the integration of difference in intellectual inquiry throughout the school. One manifestation of the importance of diversity of thought and perspective at Ross is the fact that, in the past two years, the number of BBA students pursuing international experiences has more than doubled, while the number of MBA students doing so has nearly doubled. Similarly, we have a very high number of MBA students who are pursuing joint or dual degrees.
Whether through classroom discussions, action-based learning projects, international experiences, or the Ross Leadership Initiative curriculum, the concepts of collaboration and inclusion turn into vibrant action at Ross. At times our encouragement of diversity of thought can be uncomfortable; it forces us to think about life from different perspectives. But ultimately, diversity of thought drives advancement for business and society, and our goal at Ross is not to make all individuals agree all of the time, but rather to enable all individuals to respect differences, learn from them, and leverage them.
The principles of our inclusive culture manifest not just in our curriculum but also throughout our extracurricular opportunities. Ross has more than 70 student groups, many of which work specifically to advance diversity and inclusion. For the past two years, Ross Student Government Association presidents have been African American, and while women make up 33 percent of our MBA students, more than 33 percent of our club and section leaders are women. Beyond graduation, we are proud to be a leader in closing the gender pay gap among MBA graduates: according to Bloomberg Businessweek, women graduating from Ross made 99.1 cents for every dollar men made in their first jobs in 2012. Ross is one of just two top-30 schools where women are very close to achieving pay equity with men.
Historically, we were one of the first business schools to incorporate diversity in a holistic admissions process and promote a culture of inclusion. Ross was an early participant in the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and the Forte Foundation, alliances of business schools advancing the visibility of underrepresented students and women in MBA programs. We have regularly had the largest group of students among all of the schools that participate in the Consortium.
In the BBA arena, we have long been a participant in LEAD, a program that partners with top U.S. business schools to create a more inclusive workforce by focusing on developing high potential high-school youth of diverse backgrounds into high achievers and responsible leaders. We have also developed the unique MREACH program that focuses on working with high school students in under-resourced school districts to develop their interest in attending college and entering a business career. Many of the students served by MREACH are first-generation college students.
The platform of inclusion and collaboration that defines Ross propels students to be highly successful in today’s global economy. Diversity of thought and perspectives is the lifeblood of innovation, and as our world becomes increasingly interconnected, business demands collaboration across cultures, geographic boundaries, and ideologies more than ever before. The cross-cultural awareness, openness of approach, and acceptance of difference that characterize the Ross philosophy of a boundaryless education are vital elements of continued progress for business and society.
While Ross has a strong, inclusive community, we strive to make even more strides. We continue to ask deep questions about how we can improve the school to attract even more students from diverse backgrounds and further advance the goals of inclusion and principles for which Dr. King stood. As we continue on our path for progress, I am proud of the impact Ross is making in helping us realize a society where the contributions of all people are encouraged, valued, and celebrated.
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