At Berkeley Haas, The Hard Work To Balance B-School Cases Is Underway

EGAL Research Assistant Diana Chavez-Varela, Associate Director Genevieve Smith, and Program Director Jennifer Wells (from left). Photo: Jim Block

The EGAL Case Compendium, compiled with the help of a $5,000 Haas Culture grant, is already making an impact. About a week after it was published, McElhaney says, “one of our top professors submitted an opportunity for two different cases that she would like to see written. She’s somebody who’s been around for a long time and has a lot of clout. So that was pretty fast.”

No word from Harvard yet, but other members of the Haas School faculty are taking a strong interest, Smith says.

“One thing that we’re really interested in is, how can we make sure others are aware that it exists?” Smith says. “We were able to get a lot of different faculty at Haas that was able to see it, and some folks reaching out from the California Management Review as well. They have been interested in helping to financially support some cases so that we can continue to write, continue to add to the cases that exist. But we would love to be able to make sure it is more known by other schools and that it is a resource that they can draw from.”


In their report. Smith and Chavez-Varela included recommendations for faculty and case study publishers.

  • Explore using cases with diverse protagonists and on DEI topics. Use EGAL’s Case Compendium to identify cases. We have created a survey tool for any faculty member (at Haas and beyond) to find cases appropriate for their particular context. We review this survey monthly and respond to faculty needs and requests.
  • Consider writing and publishing more case studies with diverse protagonists – particularly intersectional identities and for use in courses in the core curriculum.
    Consider writing and publishing on topics of DEI outside of Human Resource Management / Organizational Behavior– and particularly across core curriculum courses.
  • Ensure case study language used in the case and in the class discussion does not commodify / discriminate against certain identities, and/or perpetuate stereotypes and harmful norms.
  • Engage with centers such as EGAL to write case studies or support research in case study development.

For B-schools:

  • Encourage and incentivize faculty to utilize case studies with diverse protagonists or case studies on DEI topics– assuming the case(s) align with the course and their teaching goals.
  • Support centers such as EGAL to write case studies that fill key gaps, and inform faculty of case study options.
  • Educate case study authors/faculty on topics of power, privilege, discrimination, bias, and structural inequities and how they can manifest in their classroom discussions.
  • Provide faculty and lecturers resources and educational opportunities to integrate DEI in the classroom. A barrier for faculty to use cases with diverse protagonists or on DEI-related topics is a lack of comfort on sensitive topics of diversity. For example, how can faculty facilitate tough conversations around identity when challenges are brought up from students?

“It was interesting that we essentially finished this and launched it right around when the Black Lives Matter protests were really taking off,” Smith says. “And it was announced to Haas faculty at a time that I think people in faculty were really starting to think about their cases for the fall and recognizing and realizing how big and important and critical it is to think about how we’re perpetuating issues in our own house, our own school.”


Another challenge, not just at the Haas School but across graduate business education, is that faculty are “cat-like,” McElhaney says, and disinclined to use unproven or unknown cases. Case quality is also a sticking point.

“We’re under no grand illusion that change is going to happen fast,” she says. “What we tried to do is take away some of the excuses that we’ve heard, so if somebody says, ‘Well, there are no good cases,’ we can say, ‘Maybe there are no great cases, but there’s a better case from the one you’re using, here’s a compendium.’

“Far and away our two biggest challenges are, one, there aren’t fantastic cases out there. So we do need to really throttle down to get it into the hands of powerful faculty. Academia has no corporate structure such that the CEO can say, ‘Do this,’ and everybody has to do it. So we really need to figure out how to get it into the hands of power players inside of business schools. And every business school is different. At one business school it could be the dean, and another business school it could be the core faculty committee.

“But the second thing — and the thing, I guess, that I’m more interested in — is how to get more cases written in rapid-fire succession. Because even diversity, as we thought of it yesterday, is different from diversity today. Right? If somebody asks me how I identify, I might say, ‘white woman.’ Those are the first two things that come to my mind. But the younger generation now has like five things at once in terms of how they self-identify. And so there’s a proliferation of multicultural diversity: you’re not just hiring an Asian female, you’re hiring a gender non-binary queer, first-in-family, child-of-immigrant Asian female. And so when we have all of these multiple identities it’s even more uncommon to find some of them reflected in the classroom.”


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