MBA News Nuggets: Wharton Dean James To Preside Over Confab On Race Issues

New Wharton Dean Erika James is leading a new lecture series that will tackle pressing challenges

New lecture series, “Beyond Business,” begins Oct. 21 with panelists including venture capitalist Josh Kopelman

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is pleased to announce the debut of a new, three-part Tarnopol Dean’s Lecture Series led by Wharton Dean Erika James entitled “Beyond Business” that will tackle complex, pressing issues impacting individuals and organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

With a goal of shining a light on the nation’s challenges with racial unrest, the inaugural set of discussions will focus on racial injustice. The first session, Race & The Entrepreneur, is set for October 21, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. ET and will look at the systemic issues of race that impact success for Black entrepreneurs and how industry and individuals can partner for meaningful change. All sessions are open to the public at no cost and will stream live to a global audience on the Wharton School’s LinkedIn page.

Among the barriers facing Black entrepreneurs are blocked access to investors, limited mentoring options and fewer educational choices. Joining Dean James to tackle these challenges will be 1993 Wharton undergraduate alumnus Josh Kopelman, founding partner of First Round Capital, and 2007 Wharton undergraduate alumnus Chris Bennett, founder of Wonderschool. The second half of the session will feature a Q&A with the LinkedIn Live audience moderated by Wharton Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Karl Ulrich.

“Through this lecture series, Wharton is making a statement on the importance of prioritizing race and inclusion in America and asking firms to consider what it will take to place the issue at the top of the corporate agenda,” Dean James said in a news release. “I’m delighted such distinguished panelists will be joining me for the first session as we begin this conversation that will inspire others to make long-term change.”

Michigan Ross dean to host deans of Duke, Stern, Yale, Kellogg, Stanford in ‘Race in Business’ discussion 

Michigan Ross’ Scott DeRue. Ross photo

In 2019, the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan launched the Business and Society Series to encourage constructive conversations about the role of business in society, and to explore important economic and social challenges. Dean Scott DeRue this week announced the first event of the 2020-21 series: “As part of our Ross Commitment to Action, the entire series this year is dedicated to issues of race in business,” DeRue said in an announcement of the series. “It will include several virtual events that deal with questions such as: What is the role of business in tackling systems of oppression and institutional racism? How can business leaders advance awareness of and engagement in solving problems related to racial injustice? What is the relationship between an organization’s commitment to inclusion and diversity and its stakeholders’ needs?”

In the first event, October 13, DeRue will join a panel of deans from leading business schools “to discuss the challenges and opportunities involved in preparing students to serve as inclusive leaders of a racially diverse workforce.” Participants will include William Boulding of Duke Fuqua, Kerwin Charles of Yale SOM, Francesca Cornelli of Northwestern Kellogg, Nicole Thorne Jenkins of Virginia McIntire, Jonathan Levin of Stanford GSB, and Raghu Sundaram of NYU Stern. David Wooten, Michigan diversity and social transformation professor, will moderate the discussion.

“It’s critical that we proactively address the racial injustice and civil unrest that is occurring across the nation,” DeRue wrote. “As a leading business school, we’re in a unique position to influence positive change in the U.S. and around the world.”

SMU Cox alum gives back big

An $11.5 million gift from Aurelia and Brad Heppner ’88 and family to SMU’s Edwin L. Cox School of Business will strengthen the school’s commitment to fostering the leadership skills of tomorrow’s executives and investing in groundbreaking research that impacts the business world.

The Heppners have committed $10 million to establish the Heppner Family Commons, creating a new hub for collaboration between members of the Cox community, a centerpiece of the future Cox School renovation and expansion project. Additionally, $1.5 million to support Cox faculty research will be received from the Heppner Endowments for Research Organizations (HERO).

“With this gift, the Heppners will give SMU students the space to work together with each other and our faculty, making critical connections and sparking inventive ideas,” SMU President R. Gerald Turner said in a news release. “We also thank HERO for supporting the pioneering research of Cox faculty.”

The Heppner Family Commons will serve as the collaborative heart of the Fincher Building in the Cox School of Business. It will provide an elegant place for students, faculty and community members to generate and share vibrant ideas that power innovation. The expansive, light-filled Commons will be a distinctive calling card for the school.


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