Vowing To Do The Hard Work Of DEI, Stanford Unveils New Plan

Students and faculty of Stanford Graduate School of Business gathered for class walk-out and rally outside the Wall of Change on February 25, two days after a racist incident in a residence hall. They wrote messages of support for Black students


Oyindamola Ajayi: ‘Even though we’re seeing growing diversity, there’s still a lot more room to grow’

For first-year MBA student Oyinda Ajayi, the Building Opportunities for Leadership Diversity (BOLD) Fellows Fund is what helped to level the playing field for her acceptance into GSB.

When Ajayi was looking for the next step in her career, Stanford made the most sense; she believed that it would act as a door to new opportunities to expand her skills and connect with people of diverse backgrounds. However, with GSB tuition costing $76,950 per year, it simply wasn’t feasible.

The BOLD Fellows Fund helped Ajayi overcome the financial barriers to attending business school. The fund awards 20 fellows – including Ajayi – who demonstrate a commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion with up to $15,000 per year, or $30,000 for the two-year MBA program. “I knew I wanted to come to the GSB for many reasons, but one of my biggest concerns was finances,” explains Ajayi. “When the financial aid came through, it made my decision to get my MBA a lot easier.”

So far in 2022, applications for BOLD Fellowships already exceeded last year’s numbers by about 30%. Along with being chosen for demonstrating a commitment to advancing DEI, BOLD Fellows Fund recipients are selected due to being a member of a low-income household, facing intergenerational wealth disparities, or financially supporting family members during and after the MBA program. “For many folks, an MBA isn’t only an investment in themselves, it’s an investment in those around them, such as their family and community,” says Moss. “The BOLD Fellows Fund helps to make an MBA a realistic and exciting opportunity, with less worry about debt.”

Along with the BOLD Fellows Fund, the school created the Racial Equity Grant Program, allocating $14,200 to 8 student groups working on racial equity projects through the Center for Social Innovation. “Great leaders aren’t born, they’re developed,” adds Moss. “It’s our personal mission to make sure that anyone in the world who wants to create positive change has an opportunity to come and invest in themselves and develop their leadership skills at Stanford.”


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External partnerships have also proven to help level the playing field.

The GSB recently became the 22nd business school to join The Consortium, a non-profit working to increase diversity in business education and leadership, to reduce B-school application costs and support underrepresented students with sponsorship and mentorship. It also partnered with Forté Foundation, which assists and mentors women considering business school, and QuestBridge, an organization that supports low-income, first-generation students interested in getting an MBA.

Launching several programs has also helped the cause; the school launched the Black Leaders Program, which is a one-week intensive Executive Education program aimed at exploring the challenges and opportunities of being a Black leader in today’s business landscape, as well as the High-Potential Women Leaders program, which helps turn the unique challenges women face in leadership into effective strategies. Plus, the admissions team established the Sí Se Puede Latin American Fee Waiver Program, which waives admission fees for low-income GSB applicants from Latin America.


Although the number of underrepresented students in the GSB cohorts has increased by 20% over the past two years, Ajayi says that the GSB has more work to do in terms of making the campus more inclusive. “Even though we’re seeing growing diversity, there’s still a lot more room to grow,” she says. “It might not be measurable to understand how people feel in the community, but more work needs to be done to help people feel more included.”

One of the ways that the school is working towards increasing inclusivity and psychological safety on campus is through the development of more inclusive teaching materials, such as 35 updated case studies that feature business leaders of diverse backgrounds. The school’s partnerships, along with their Black Alumni Chapter, has helped to find diverse companies in which to profile.

“Every single new case that we wrote featured a protagonist who brought some aspect of diversity into the classroom,” says Deb Whitman, who leads the GSB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies.

“We know how important it is to have role models – not only in society, but in our classrooms and in the cases that we’re reading,” adds Moss.


Ryan Goldsberry: ‘DEI isn’t going to be a one-and-done effort’

Besides diversifying case studies, Stanford has also increased representation of speakers and guests from diverse backgrounds.

“One of the reasons that our admissions team is so committed to increasing the funnel and having more diversity in the class is because we know that our students will go on to be leaders and role models for their communities when they leave,” says Moss.

Another initiative that’s helped to increase a sense of inclusivity is the Arc of Learning course, which was created by Soule. This course helps incoming first-year MBA students to expand their understanding of identity, bias, and inclusion.

While the school is working to hire more diverse faculty, Soule says that GSB — and all business schools — have a long way to go. However, the school has implemented a new recruiting portal which will help them create measurable change.

“At GSB, there isn’t a lot of turnover,” she explains. “It’s hard to make fast changes in the level of faculty diversity. We can continue to diversify our lecturers, case studies, and guest speakers, but diversifying the tenure line faculty is going to take time.”

“There isn’t a finish line that’s around the corner,” adds Ryan Goldsberry, Stanford GSB alum and member of the Black Alumni Chapter. “It’s important to recognize that DEI isn’t going to be a one-and-done effort that we would continue. Driving towards equal opportunity is a marathon, not a sprint.”


Soule says that the goal for the future is to continue to build upon the six pillars, including the APRE. She explains that burnout, backlash, and backsliding are factors that can impede the work that needs to be done, but the school is equipping themselves with the necessary resources to stay the course. “We’re doubling down on our efforts to make sure that we are being supportive of all of the students, staff, faculty, and alums who are doing this work so that they don’t get burnt out.”

“I feel strongly about celebrating when we do have small wins,” says Soule, “as well as exercising humility and being humble when things aren’t changing as fast as we want, or when something tragic happens like the February incident.”

“I don’t think anyone at GSB would tell you that we’ve hit our goal,” adds Whitman. “There’s clearly more work to do, but when I see a culture trying to change and it’s coming from both the top and bottom, that encourages me.”

Read Stanford’s 2022 DEI Report here.


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