LEADING IN DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
For McLaughlin and other students, it was one of the program’s central features that made her experience so magical—and invaluable. Interested in cloud computing and technology, she worked for Dell Technologies on a MAP project focused on cloud products. The experience was an ideal stepping stone for her summer internship with Microsoft. “I came in with a better understanding of the vocabulary and it allowed me to see myself building a career in this space,” says McLaughlin.
Just as central to experiential learning at Ross is the student-run funds, with a total of $10 million under management. No other business school in the world has as many student-managed investment vehicles. Each fund is run under the supervision of a senior faculty member and provides students with the experience of evaluating pitches from entrepreneurs, performing due diligence, and deciding whether to invest or not. Another Zell Fund resident at the Ross School has an additional $10 million kitty for students to make investments in University of Michigan ventures.
If there is a major trend that has emerged in business education in the past two years, it is a newfound emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Business school deans have issued all kinds of statements on the subject in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and have named DEI officers, admission officials speak endlessly about the value of diversity, and more admit decisions than ever are being made with diversity in mind.
The Class of 2023 certainly reflects that diversity. The MBA students who entered this fall represented the highest percentage of women ever at 46%, the largest group of students in the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management at 66 students from the most Consortium applications ever. Some 36% are U.S. students of color, tying the record from last year, while 11% are first-generation students, and 5% are veterans. And the class still broke records by achieving the highest average GMAT score in Ross’ history, 722, and the highest average GPA of 3.53.
WOMEN NOW MAKE UP 68% OF STUDENT CLUB LEADERSHIP
Diversity, of course, means little without inclusion, and few schools are as ahead in realizing the inclusion part of DEI as Ross. Women, for example, make up 68% of student club leadership. They either lead or co-lead like McLaughlin several of the school’s investment funds as well as its consulting and marketing clubs. The last ten student body presidents have all been Consortium members and the last four were women; eight of 10 section presidents also are women.
Each class section includes an inclusion representative, and MBAs are engaged with Ross leadership on advancing DEI work at the school. “They are leading and that helps to build a more inclusive community,” says Soojin Kwon, managing director of MBA admissions and the student experience.
Coming into Ross’ MBA program in 2020, as the pandemic was raging and African-American 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by police in her apartment in Louisville, Brittani Banks found it challenging. “But my entire section of classmates just stopped and made sure we addressed the issues of social injustice in person,” she says. “There was a flood of people who wanted to acknowledge what was happening. My classmates were willing to make dinner for me. They were ready to have that conversation because we had built a community of trust with each other.”
But like, McLaughlin, what most surprised her was the autonomy students had to make change happen. Banks, formerly an account manager at Cigna, entered the MBA program keen on a career in healthcare. She joined the school’s healthcare and life sciences club, ultimately becoming its president. Banks had the idea for a health equity case competition and brought it to the program office. “They loved it and provided all the tools to make it a success,” she says. “It wasn’t just my idea and if it happens it happens. They got into the weeds with me.”
‘PEOPLE LOVE IT HERE’
Banks, 29, originally hoped to launch the competition with ten teams from ten different business schools. Instead, 220 students on 49 teams applied to compete from 27 universities on three continents. Johnson & Johnson, no less, kicked in $20,000 of funding, in part because of the connections she made at the company through a Ross alum. In September of her first year, Banks was already in the running for a summer internship at J&J after she was contacted by a former member of the school’s life sciences club. ” It was unsolicited and a fantastic experience,” says Banks, who interned in a leadership development program at J&J’s Janssen Pharmaceuticals group. “I built a great network at J&J.”
McLaughlin also has experienced firsthand the support of Ross’s alumni network. When she was recruiting and reaching out to dozens of alumni, many of whom have since become mentors, they were all highly responsive. “Every single one of them got back to me. It speaks to people’s willingness and love for the school,” she says. “And my classmates are p[assionate and fun. Whatever you want to focus on, you can do it here. There is just an energy and a willingness to make things happen. I love that.”
At one point an alum of the school asked Banks to pick three things she wanted to accomplish at Ross by the time she graduated with her MBA. “I wanted to lead an organization,” she says. “Do something out of my comfort zone. And I wanted to leave a legacy of some kind.”
‘A NEW CHAPTER IN YOUR LIFE DOESN’T HAVE TO BE A SCARY OR DAUNTING THING’
As president of the healthcare and life sciences club who initiated the health equity case competition, Banks feels that she has done all three with half a year to go before her graduation. “Michigan gives you a place to call home so transitioning or moving into a new chapter in your life doesn’t have to be a scary or daunting thing. When you come here you are admitted into a homey community that you can take with you everywhere. That is not an experience you can easily duplicate everywhere.”
Unlike other business schools that are largely isolated from the greater university, Ross is among the most connected to its resident university. “We are fortunate to be part of an extraordinary university and we closely work with all of the other colleges on campus,” says Killaly, noting that there are more than 30 dual programs with the MBA. “You have students from other schools in and out of the classrooms, too,” adds Kwon. “They are from the schools of public policy, law, education, social work, environment, and public health. Our business school is not across the river.”
As co-managing director of the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, McLaughlin’s team of some 40 students include students who are pursuing degrees in law, public health, and medicine.
Bottom line: The MBA program attracts people with great values who make the community a priority. “People love it here,” says Diana Economy, director of full-time MBA admissions. “We get people who are really down to earth. They love their MBA experience and they get great jobs.”
Kwon, who earned her Ross MBA in 1999, agrees. “It was like this when I was here. I love my classmates. They feel this tug. Its rewarding to be in a community where people are interested in making a difference and not just a buck.
It’s not just where you are ranked. It’s the special feeling you have about the place.”
Call it magic.