Haas publishes diversity, equity, and inclusion action plan

Berkeley Haas leaders last week delivered a sweeping action plan that provides concrete ways to bolster enrollment of underrepresented minorities at Haas and to develop a more inclusive environment schoolwide.

The report, called The Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Action Plan, drafted with the deep input of students and alumni, was published on the Haas Diversity website Friday by Courtney Chandler, Haas’ chief operating officer, and Jay Stowsky, senior assistant dean for instruction.

Last month, Chandler and Stowsky formed a leadership team charged by Interim Dean Laura Tyson with creating an action plan within 30 days focused on three areas: rebuilding trust with underrepresented minority students and alumni, and allies; making Haas a community that African American and all underrepresented minority students want to join; and increasing outreach to and yield of underrepresented minority students at Haas.

“100 percent committed”

The resulting plan is a direct response to a disappointing decline in the number of African American students enrolled in the Full-time Berkeley MBA Program for the last two years—a dip that occurred despite this being the largest class size in the school’s history. (In 2018, six African American students enrolled in a class of 291 students. In 2017, 10 African American students enrolled in a class of 282. In 2016, a peak of 19 African American students enrolled in a class of 252.)

The urgency of this action plan stems from Haas’s efforts to begin turning around this admissions trend in the hopes of making improvements in next year’s enrollment. However, the school seeks to improve diversity and inclusion across all programs, faculty, and staff.

“We’re so proud of the work everyone has done to complete this plan, which we believe is a critical step toward long-term change in building a more diverse community at Haas,” said Chandler, who with her leadership team met every morning for 30 days to listen to students, alumni, faculty, and staff before drafting recommendations by the Oct. 5 deadline. “It’s critical for our community to know that we are doing everything we can to address our diversity issues and that we are 100 percent committed to this effort.”

Chandler said the leadership team failed to react quickly or urgently enough to address the decline in African American student enrollment, instead looking at the problem through “an academic lens,” and viewing the sudden decline as a two-year statistical anomaly.

The concern is not only about providing fair access to a top MBA education, it is also about teaching students how to lead diverse teams and be comfortable with sometimes uncomfortable conversations about race, Stowsky said. “This is difficult to do when the student body and faculty are not diverse,” he said.

In a position to lead as a business school

Élida Bautista, director of inclusion & diversity at Haas, emphasized the school’s commitment to shifting its mindset toward understanding the impact of being underrepresented and prioritizing the actions in the plan that address this.

“With this set of actions, Haas is positioned to lead as a business school that values meaningful contributions to diversity,” said Bautista, who also worked on the action plan.

Interim Dean Tyson said the Haas School’s leaders will work quickly to implement the school-wide strategy in the short- and long-term. Incoming Dean Ann Harrison, who begins her term in January, is also committed to a successful outcome.

Recommendations in the plan include:

  • Hiring a Director of Diversity Admissions, who will focus on expanding opportunity for all historically underrepresented communities.
  • Increasing scholarship funding to URM students, and adopt a “first-offer-best-offer” approach to financial aid.
  • Hiring a Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, who will report directly to the Dean and focus on executing the plan.
  • Changing MBA admissions criteria to consider an applicant’s skillset and experience in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Establishing a Diversity Admissions Council, which will include staff, faculty, students, and alumni. Hire up to two second-year FTMBA students to serve on the FTMBA Admissions Committee.
  • Evolving staff hiring policies and practices by adding explicit language in job postings to address diversity needs.

The plan acknowledges that many students and alumni have worked to make change at Haas around diversity, equity, and inclusion. That group includes the student-led Race Inclusion Initiative (RII), which launched in 2016 and delivered a detailed list of action items related to diversity & inclusion at Haas to former Dean Rich Lyons last spring; the Haas Alumni Diversity Council (HADC), which consists of alumni and diversity leaders from the three MBA programs; and student leaders from the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, the Black Business Student Association (BBSA), and the Latinx Business Club.

Monica Stevens, MBA 96, who founded the Alumni Diversity Council in 2012, called the decline in the school’s diversity numbers upsetting and unacceptable, but said the plan is a “more defined way to move forward.”

“We need to build the infrastructure for future success, but we also have a patient in the ER who needs immediate attention, and it’s important to act quickly,” said Stevens, who called for  “true accountability” from the leadership team and “measurable outcomes.”

Living up to our Defining Leadership Principles

The plan outlines next steps, specifies deadlines, defines staff owners of each area, and details the financial impact of each action item. Tools are also under development to measure the success of each outlined goal.

Several Berkeley Haas MBA students, who provided input to the Haas team and are leaders with the Race Inclusion Initiative, agreed the plan is a solid step in the right direction.

“Honestly, I am happy with this plan and am eager for meaningful steps to now be taken,” said Matt Hines, MBA 19. “It is largely consistent with the recommendations we made six months ago.”

Victoria Williams-Ononye, MBA 19, said she’s pleased that top diversity positions were added in admissions and in the Dean’s office and that Haas is committing financial resources to support its action items. “The hope would be that once the recommendations are in the budget and the people are hired that the school will continue to progress for years to come. At the end of the day, this is a plan. We need substantive action to occur before full confidence in the administration is built.”

In November, the Haas Staff Town Hall meeting will be devoted to a school-wide discussion of the action plan.

“Creating this plan is just the beginning,” Chandler said. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us and we encourage everyone to commit to this journey. We need to live up to our own Defining Leadership Principles to make Haas an even better, more diverse business school.”

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