The puzzle remains: Why is there no pipeline of talent from HBCUs to top MBA programs?
At Georgetown McDonough, Prashant Malaviya, senior dean of MBA programs who also sits on the Consortium’s board of trustees, says his school relies in part on the Consortium for its relationship with HBCUs, “and while the Consortium has a stronger relationship with the HBCUs, they don’t seem to attract that many HBCUs’ student graduates to come through the Consortium. So it’s something that they are looking at, and we are trying to help them figure out, but it’s a bit of a puzzle for why the Consortium doesn’t attract graduates of HBCUs.”
The most generous theory, he says, echoing Maya McWhorter, is that HBCU graduates are so much in demand that they don’t need the Consortium to help them. “They get jobs, and admissions, and plenty of help where they want it,” Malaviya tells P&Q. “Somebody who has gone to an HBCU has done well — the Consortium is a little bit like an icing on a cake, and they may not need the icing.”
Another hypothesis: With the proliferation of other master’s in business degrees, Malaviya says he wouldn’t be surprised if more underrepresented minority students are going to those degrees rather than the more competitive and the longer two-year MBA program. “You do a one-year master’s in business, get a great job, you end up spending half the amount on tuition and you get a pretty good job. So, the value proposition might be better for some of the URM candidates.”
IDEAS FOR ‘GROWING THE PIE’
The 30 by 30 Initiative is about URM — underrepresented minorities — not just Black students. But it is an important program, with important benchmarks, for achieving greater Black representation, too.
Georgetown’s key diversity number in achieving its 30 by 30 Initiative goal sits at 19% — above average for a Consortium school, but still a long ways off from the target. Malaviya says he’s glad they have nine more years to reach the goal.
“Because it’s a challenge. We have been digging into our data pretty carefully and what we see is that the challenge is really a pipeline challenge,” he says. “It’s not like we don’t want to attract diverse students, it’s not like there aren’t enough qualified students to come to top MBA programs. The candidates who come to the programs are all highly qualified. But there just aren’t enough candidates who we feel comfortable admitting in our program with the belief that they are best prepared to be successful and to take best advantage of the program. So, we are looking at some data, like how a single-digit percentage of diverse undergraduate students go on to do a master’s. That’s a pipeline problem and we need to solve that problem before we can really grow, get to the 30 by 30.”
Malaviya acknowledges that it’s a Consortium-wide issue. The top schools are competing for a bigger share of a pie that remains the same size.
“We did a benchmarking for the most recent class and the Consortium schools range in the percentage of URM students. So I’m not talking about just African-American but URM. So we range in percentage from 10% to 23%. The average is 17%. And McDonough is at 19%,” Malaviya says. “So we are just a little above the average, but we are 11 points away from the 30 by 30. And the best amongst us is 7 points away from that. And right now what we see in the dynamics of the data is that literally the schools are taking share away from other schools — so the top 25, 30 MBA programs take the URM students away from the other next 25 or the next 50. And that’s because the pie isn’t growing fast enough.”
“I’m on the Consortium board and one of the things that we’ve been discussing is, ‘How do we grow this pie?’ And I think the Consortium was struggling to come up with some brilliant ideas. We have a few ideas that might work, and one of them is to increase the Consortium’s reach internationally. Which doesn’t help the 30 by 30 goal because the 30 by 30 goal is only for domestic candidates, it’s not for international candidates, but it will certainly increase the diversity of the MBA program, right? So we will have more diverse MBA students, not necessarily more diverse U.S. domestic student. And to me that’s an indication that it’s proving to be difficult to grow the pie so that we have a better feed into the MBA programs.
Malaviya points to a recently announced program at Georgetown McDonough, the MBA Advanced Access Program, which allows those in their final year of undergraduate or graduate school who have not previously had professional full-time work experience to apply for deferred enrollment to the full-time MBA. By applying through this program, students can secure a place in the class two years out from the time they apply, with the option to extend to three or four years. This year, in response to the effects of the pandemic, May 2020 graduates also may apply for matriculation in 2022, 2023, or 2024. It’s a program, he says that may have special to URM students.
GETTING B-SCHOOL ON THE RADAR
Maya McWhorter recalls how Georgetown got on her radar as a student at Howard. “Not necessarily as an MBA program initially, because I didn’t know as much about MBA programs in undergrad,” she says. “But a lot of Howard students used to take the bus to Georgetown. It would pick us up right outside of campus — you can take the G2 bus directly to Georgetown. So we would go to a lot of their Black student union events and I was able to meet other people who go to the school. That was my first opportunity for really interacting with other schools in the D.C. area. Georgetown was the very first school where I started meeting other people who didn’t go to my university.”
Now she observes the landscape for Black students not only as an MBA student at Georgetown and the co-president of the school’s Black MBA Association, but as a student ambassador, as well. McWhorter is one of eight admissions ambassadors who attend events that have prospective or admitted students, acting as liaison between admissions and the community. In that way she speaks to a lot of people who are interested in attending McDonough, “adding a more personalized spiel from things on the website so they can actually ask someone who has experience with programs, clubs, certificates.”
And she has talked to a lot of Howard students.
“A lot of people are in that three- to six-year window out of school now, and they’re definitely interested in business school. So there’s a lot of inquiries coming in,” McWhorter says. “I usually at least have probably three to four calls a week, just talking to people who are interested in the program.
What will it take to get more Black students from Howard or other HBCUs interested in coming to Georgetown?
“I think the greater outreach always helps,” she says. “I think that you should never assume that people know. And so the more information and access that’s provided, I think that always provides a greater opportunity for people to get involved, and at least have it on their radar down the line.”