New Full-Time MBA Event Series at Michigan Ross Promotes Cultural Understanding and Awareness

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With students, faculty, and staff coming to the Ross School of Business from around the world, a new Food, Friends, and Culture (FFC) series is providing a forum for full-time MBA students to share aspects of their unique cultures with their peers. The series was launched this year by the Full-Time MBA Program Office in conjunction with cultural student clubs.

Each event highlights a different culture and includes student speakers as well as a cultural activity to build understanding and awareness. 

“The motivation behind the Food, Friends, and Culture series was to create a space for MBA students to share stories about their cultural backgrounds with their classmates while also featuring food, trivia, and an interactive activity from their cultures,” said Soojin Kwon, managing director of Full-Time MBA Admissions and Program at Michigan Ross. 

The three events to date have featured students from the Hispanic Business Association, African Business Club, and several East and Southeast Asia clubs, each attracting around 200 students. 

Dorothy Yen, MBA ’21, was the emcee of the most recent FFC event highlighting a handful of different Asian cultures. Yen, who is from Taiwan, said she thought the series was very valuable to both the students who present their cultures and audience members.

“Many of us came to Ross to meet and learn from people different from ourselves and the people we have been exposed to. While we are constantly, implicitly learning from our classmates, FFC provides a platform to share stories with intention,” Yen explained. “The speakers put a lot of thought into sharing a story that shaped who they are today that also reflects their unique culture. The attendees come to learn about differences but also benefit from realizing similarities.” 

That sentiment was echoed by Risa Suenaga, MBA ’21, who shared her educational journey growing up in Yokohama, Japan, where 13-hour school days were the norm for those hoping to enter the top universities. 

“The event was awesome. I was really honored to share my story with over 200 friends who came to the event and supported me during a super busy time,” said Suenaga. “The FFC series provides MBA students with global perspectives and helps make the Ross community more inclusive.”  

Suenaga said she hopes Michigan Ross continues to hold the FFC events next year. 

Along with having the four student speakers, the Asian business clubs organized a trivia game for audience members related to Asian culture, including questions about what is considered taboo during Lunar New Year, and taught attendees about origami and how to make paper cranes. They also served egg rolls, sticky rice, dumplings, and other delicacies from various local restaurants. 

The fourth and final FFC of the school year will take place in mid-February and will highlight students from the Black Business Students Association. 

In addition to the FFC series, the Full-Time MBA Program has launched several other initiatives to foster an inclusive community including sessions on cultural awareness, bystander intervention, and community norm-setting. These will be followed up in March with sessions on cultural intelligence and giving and receiving feedback as part of the preparation for students’ seven-week MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Projects) around the world. 

diversity and inclusion at Michigan Ross