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A Diverse Community of Thought: Speaker Series at Michigan Ross

Lecture Hall speaker on stage

Since its founding, the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan has been dedicated to academic excellence and innovation. Bringing leaders in business, entertainment, academia, media, and public policy to engage with the student body, the Michigan Ross speaker series tackle complex issues and impactful challenges that face our society.

In addition to bringing guest speakers to campus for events and courses, Michigan Ross celebrates excellence with three popular speakers series. This article explores the Handleman Lecture Series, the William K. McInally Memorial Lecture Series, and the Mitchell Lecture Series. All three have innumerable impacts on the student body, exposing them to new ideas and inspiring them to achieve greatness. 

Handleman Lecture speaker and Dean speaking

Handleman Lecture Series

In 2008, the Joseph and Sally Handleman Charitable Foundation provided a gift to establish the annual Joseph and Sally Handleman Lecture. Since its inaugural presentation, the Handleman Lecture keeps students at the forefront of unique challenges in the business world and seeks to inspire them to disrupt the status quo. From Common to Malcolm Gladwell, the series has invited a number of creatives, business leaders, authors, and entrepreneurs to campus, each providing their commentary on how business students can impact the future.

The most recent Handleman lecture guest was Nick Hornby, best-selling author and Oscar-nominated screenwriter. The discussion explored the life and careers of two industry disruptors – Charles Dickens and Prince. In the conversation, attendees learned about Hornby’s journey to becoming a professional writer, how disruptive careers can affect entire industries, and the power of dedication to a craft. 

Learn more about the Handleman Lecture Series

William K. McInally speakers on stage

William K. McInally Memorial Lecture Series

In 1966, the William K. McInally Memorial Lecture Fund was initiated to honor the memory of William K. McInally, who served on the University of Michigan Board of Regents from 1960 until 1964. The fund has supported many social justice-focused lectures throughout the years. As of 2016, the McInally fund has supported the keynote lecture for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, an annual event at U-M that brings together thought leaders in entertainment, academia, athletics, social justice, and the arts to honor the legacy of MLK.

Last year’s Keynote speakers Dr. Aletha Maybank, Edward Buckles, and Jalen Rose – addressed the symposium’s theme: “(R)evolution: From Segregation to Elevation.” Maybank explored her research on the history of racism in the American Medical Association and the steps taken toward progress and reparations. Buckles examined the inequalities exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina that he captured in his debut documentary, Katrina Babies. Finally, Rose discussed the systemic barriers to education facing people of color today. The speakers all engaged in a Q&A discussion after their individual presentations moderated by Professor Earl Lewis, director and founder of the U-M Center for Social Solutions, and Thomas C. Hold Distinguished University Professor.

The topic for the 2024 MLK symposium and sponsored speaker were recently announced. The theme discussed throughout the symposium is “Transforming the Jangling Discords of Our Nation into a Beautiful Symphony.” The McInally fund will sponsor Michelle Alexander, legal scholar, social justice advocate, columnist at The New York Times, and visiting professor at Union Theological Seminary, to give the keynote address at the Hill Auditorium. 

Learn more about the McInally Lecture Series

Mitchell Lecture Series Dean and speaker on stage

The Mitchell Lecture Series

The newest of the three major speaker series at Michigan Ross, the Mitchell lecture series was established in 2019 by the Patricia W. Mitchell Trust. The trust provided a $5 million endowment to establish the Mitchell Program for Business Ethics and Communications. The program, which sponsors a professorship, scholarships, internships, and the Mitchell lecturer series, honors the legacy of John H. Mitchell, LSA ‘39, founder of Columbia Pictures Television, and his wife, Patricia Mitchell. The Mitchell Lecture Series features lecturers from the creative industries to bolster the development of ethical and diverse business leaders.

The inaugural lecture welcomed Fanshen Cox, an award-winning actor, educator, writer, and producer, to campus. In her presentation, Cox shared her experience as a woman of color in the entertainment industry, focusing on creating more inclusive spaces through individual and systematic efforts.

The most recent Mitchell Lecture invited Tyler Shultz, a Theranos whistleblower and entrepreneur, to discuss his experience confronting unethical business practices. Living up to the goal of the Mitchell Lecture series, Shultz explored how ethical dilemmas can become apparent at any career stage. In the discussion, he encouraged the students to practice ethical business and speak up when they witness wrongful practices, even at the smallest scale.

Learn more about the Mitchell Lecture Series

100 Years of Michigan Ross

In this series