Supporting Prospective and Current Students With Diverse Abilities

Students talking in the Winter Garden

The Ross School of Business attracts the best and brightest from across the globe to join the Full-Time MBA Program. As an admissions team, we focus on the concepts of equity and diversity, which we believe positively impact the representation of diversity in our students. Our school’s mission is to build a better world through business, and we can only accomplish this through student representation.

One area of diversity that often goes overlooked is the representation of individuals with varying abilities, which includes physical ability, cognitive differences, chronic illness, and neurodiversity, to name a few. With 38% of the workforce made up of people with varying abilities, this is an important group of talent and future leaders, especially when professionals with certain varying abilities often over-index in fields such as entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology.

In 2022, Kris Lopes, MBA ’23, recognized a need for education and support in this area, and a new club, Business Leaders for Diverse Abilities at Ross, was born and led by Kris and her Michigan Ross classmates. The club’s mission is to make Ross a leader in disability inclusion, admission, and recruiting for top MBA programs. The BLDA Club has 59 members and won the 2023 Michigan Ross Club of the Year and the DEI in Action Club Award in 2023.

In addition, it has received multiple grants and has been contacted by other top business schools that want to create a similar club in their MBA programs. The club has also worked with U-M on its DEI 2.0 Initiative and has created an internal Slack channel to share resources and support with the community.

Under the leadership of current president Alex Perez-Garcia, MPP/MBA ’24, the BLDA Club works with all three major MBA offices, including the Career Development Office, the Admissions Office, and the Program Office, to reduce stigma and ensure that stakeholders, whether they are employers or prospective students, are aware of this talent pool. In partnership with the Career Development Office, students gain access to prospective employers who have made it a priority to recruit students with disabilities.

The club also works with the Admissions Office to host virtual “ask me anything” events to answer prospective student questions. Lastly, the program has been supportive of the club by making sure accommodations are available for school-wide events, and the club participates in both diversity and wellness week.

Students with varying abilities are supported not just by their peers at Ross but also by U-M through the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (SSD). The SSD Office determines what accommodations students are eligible to receive. For instance, academic coaching is provided for executive functioning skills, and students could be eligible for additional time to complete assignments. Once those students are approved for accommodations, they work with the dedicated Michigan Ross accommodations coordinator, Katy Reeves, to assist with testing, professor coordination, and advocacy.

Over the years, Katy has seen an increased number of students who have gone through the process with SSD and utilized those accommodations. Katy coaches and advocates for students and helps them and the general population understand that receiving accommodations is not an advantage but levels the playing field. Students can meet with Katy face-to-face or via Zoom.

At Ross, we continue to reflect on how we can better support prospective and current students who have a disability. Alex notes that there is still room for improvement to make sure that all of the resources that are available are more readily known to students. This, in part, has led to the creation of a new role, one of its first among top business schools, the director of student wellness, who is focused on the overall health of the entire Ross community.

When I spoke with Kris Lopes recently, I asked her to reflect back on when she started the club to where it is today, and she shared: “It’s so heartwarming to hear the progress we’ve made. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected we’d make so much progress.”

If you are interested in learning more about the “how” and “why” of the BLDA Club at Ross, listen to this podcast: Business Beyond Usual Episode 705 - Diverse Abilities in B-School.

For more information on available services as a student, please visit the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (SSD) or contact Katy Reeves at