Stanford GSB Offers Free ‘Learning Engagements’ Focused On Race Issues

2020 has been a year of racial reckoning in America. Months of protests across the country sparked by police killings of Black people have catalyzed efforts to achieve both greater understanding and concrete progress. Even the overwhelmingly historically white world of graduate business education has responded to the pressure to transform, with many from the leading MBA programs calling to embrace the value of greater diversity in their faculty, administrative, and student ranks.

Stanford Graduate School of Business is leading the way, which is to be expected from the premier business school in California. (Stanford is joined in exploring race issues by B-schools across the U.S., particularly on the West Coast — see here and here.) In July, GSB announced the formation of a DEI initiative and Racial Equity Action plan that included such commitments as new faculty hires, additions to the curriculum, and the formalization of an existing diversity and inclusion council. Progress on the plan continued through September.

As part of its efforts, this month Stanford is doing something unique: launching a pair of programs for MBAs that will be free to any interested participants, including those with no ties to the GSB. The online programs — one a week-long “journey” on anti-racism and allyship, the other an ongoing series of conversations on race with high-profile guests — both begin October 5.

“As an institution of higher learning, we have a responsibility that extends beyond the Stanford GSB campus to make lasting, positive change toward eliminating bias and anti-Black racism in our society,” Sarah Soule, GSB’s senior associate dean who heads the school’s DEI initiative, tells Poets&Quants.


Stanford GSB Senior Associate Dean Sarah Soule leads the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative

The first program, “Anti-Racism and Allyship Journey,” is a self-paced, seven-day online program about unconscious bias and how to be an ally to persons of color. The program was created by Soule; Maggie Neale, Adams distinguished professor of management, emerita at GSB; and Hannah Yanow, lead online learning manager in executive education. Notably, all three women are white.

“We are three white, female educators who, over the course of our lives and careers, have been on a journey to understand, research, and fight against discrimination,” they write in an introduction to the program. “We share your curiosity and your commitment to racial equity and racial justice. We have spent our careers teaching about topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as topics related to gender, race, and ethnicity. We acknowledge that these topics are complex and thus require more than just one reading.

“We created this as a journey to help move you from understanding, to reflection, to taking new actions. While this journey is geared toward understanding race, racism and anti-Black racism in the U.S. context, much of the material (and certainly the overarching principle of “’earn, reflect, act’) is applicable to many other contexts.”

The journey is set up as a series of readings, exercises, and actions that takes about 45 minutes a day. It can be completed in a week or several weeks. Additional resources are available should participants want to dig deeper.

“This resource was created for those who care about racial equity and racial justice and want to understand how to become better allies in the fight against systemic racism and injustice,” Soule tells P&Q. “Although we recognize that sustainable change will require action that extends beyond this offering, education and reflection are critical in your journey of Anti-Racism and Allyship. By learning, reflecting, and acting, we can all work together to build a more equitable future.”


Brian Lowery, senior associate dean of academic affairs

In describing the anti-racism program they created, Soule, Neale, and Yanow quote their colleague, Stanford GSB Professor Brian Lowery: “The time for talk has passed. Now is the time for work.” Lowery himself, meanwhile, will lead the other free program that launches Oct. 5: “Leadership for Society: Race and Power.”

Via a live weekly webinar, Lowery will conduct a series of conversations with prominent leaders across business, politics, and media “aimed to deepen our collective awareness of profound racial disparities in the United States and around the world.” The conversations will give participants “concrete examples of how their future decisions might lead to different outcomes for different people, based on race.”

According to a description at the webinar’s registration page, the nine-week program, which concludes November 16, is for those who:

• “Care about racial equity but don’t have the foundational knowledge to feel confident in speaking up on the topic;
• “Aspire to lead and empathize with a racially diverse workforce; or
• “Are knowledgeable about the complexities of race but want to learn from the insights of prominent leaders on this topic.”

“Spending a significant part of my professional career studying how individuals interact with one another and experiencing first hand what it’s like being Black in this country, I understand the crucial need for education around the extent to which race plays a role in our society,” Lowery tells P&Q. “This series of critical conversations will examine how race interacts with structures of power and how systemic racism manifests itself in institutions and our daily lives.

“We are excited to offer these webinars to anyone and hope that participants will attend these sessions to deepen their awareness of racial equity and apply these learnings to become the leaders our society needs.”

Learn more about Anti-Racism and Allyship Journey by clicking here. Learn about and find the registration form for Leadership for Society: Race and Power by clicking here.


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