The Connector is the Alumni Newsletter of the Black Business Student Forum
Letter From the President
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the first edition of The Connector, the Official Alumni Newsletter of The Black Business Student Forum at Darden.
Our vision is that The Connector will serve as a critical communications vehicle for BBSF alumni and provide a forum to strengthen ties between past, present and future BBSF communities. Very simply, this newsletter will allow you and the current members of BBSF to stay connected, share important news and disseminate useful information.
As a Darden graduate, you know all too well the value of the Darden network, the strength of which lies in having alumni who are committed and engaged. Through the years, you may have lost touch with BBSF and Darden. If so, it is our goal to give you new reasons to recommit.
As a start, we are proud to share with you the club’s accomplishments this year. From the Lessons in Leadership Lecture Series to the 2008 Darden BBSF Conference to the first annual Take a Kid to Class Day, BBSF rose to new heights and made a lasting mark on the Darden, UVA and Charlottesville communities. A top priority has been to reach out to alumni, and to whenever possible, include you in our efforts. The new leadership team will continue this trend. As we bring this year to a close, thank you to the alumni, faculty and staff who contributed their time, energy and talent to a successful year.
Similarly, as my time as a Darden student comes to an end, I cannot help but think about when it all began. One of my first Darden memories takes place during the Discover Darden event I attended while I was applying to business school. During lunch an alumnus from the Class of 2001 gave me advice that I will never forget. He said, “Choose your business school carefully, because you will be choosing your network for life.” It was among the best advice I received. Now, as I prepare to become an alumnus, I can say without exception that I am happy I chose Darden.
After leaving Charlottesville, I will remain engaged with Darden and more specifically, the current and future members of BBSF. I invite and encourage each of you to do the same. Reconnect with BBSF and help make our network stronger than ever.
Folake Omotola, 2007-08 Darden BBSF President
Speak Up For Darden
Last month, I visited with Lemuel Lewis, D’72, the first African-American to graduate from Darden. Lem has had a distinguished career. He retired recently as EVP and CFO of Landmark Communications and now serves as Vice Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond. Perhaps his success was predicted by the fact that Lem held down two jobs to pay his way through Darden. These jobs interfered with his ability to attend study group meetings. He would finish class, go to work, return home late in the evening, study, sleep, and go to class. Charles Abbott, the Dean, believed that students were obliged to attend study group meetings and called Lem into his office to admonish him for missing the study group. When Lem explained why, Abbott said the matter was closed and never mentioned it again. In that conversation, Darden learned something about determination.
Since then, Darden has learned a lot more about the determination of individuals to rise against the odds, and about the worth of a diverse and inclusive culture. Today, diversity is one of our top values. I highlight it in meetings whenever I can. I’ve appointed Erika James to be Darden’s first Associate Dean for Diversity. She and I have launched several initiatives to create a more inclusive culture. Sherwood Frey chairs a Diversity Coordinating Council that creates synergies among clubs and committees. Warren Thompson chairs a committee of alumni who meet with me three times a year to survey our diversity efforts and offer advice. We are actively recruiting faculty and professional staff members of color. Raising an endowment for financial aid for underrepresented minorities is a top goal of our capital campaign. We are making progress.
But we haven’t arrived; Darden has farther to go. Sustaining all this activity takes a lot of energy. And I am particularly focused on increasing our recruitment of people of color into our faculty and our student classes. Yet we are not as well known as some other top-ranked business schools. Here’s where BBSF can help: speak up for Darden. Let friends, family, and co-workers know about your experience here and of the culture we are creating. Prospective applicants—even people who have no idea that business school might be right for them—deserve special consideration. This spring, we will give great attention to admitted applicants from the underrepresented minorities. In your own words and your own way, speak up for Darden.
Martin Luther King, Jr., said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” When Lem Lewis explained that he couldn’t attend study group meetings because he was working at two jobs, he brought some light to a Dean. Generally, light comes from a diverse and inclusive community. Help us build that community. Speak up for Darden.
Robert F. Bruner, Dean
Letter From Sherwood
Dear BBSF Alums,
With this inaugural newsletter and those to follow, I hope that you will be able to keep abreast with the current activities of the BBSF and I trust that, as a result, you will find avenues of personal engagement that will bring you closer to Darden.
BBSF activities are focused around five pillars of service: assisting its membership in the achievement of academic excellence, supporting member’s professional and career development, providing social activities which create connections and bonds within the Darden community, contributing to the Charlottesville community through meaningful service activities, and being an impassioned voice of inclusiveness within Darden and the University. Within each of these areas, BBSF alumni have provided valuable support through their active participation, and insightful guidance through their experienced perspectives. And for these past contributions, please accept my grateful thanks.
Moving to the future, for those of you who have remained close to the School since graduation, please use this newsletter as a means to continue (and maybe expand) your involvement. For those of you who have been distant, please look for opportunities to reconnect. It is only through the united efforts of all of us that Darden will continue to grow in its richness of character and its breadth of inclusiveness.
Looking forward to joining you in the effort, with warm regards,
Diversity at Darden
This is an exciting time at the Darden School. Although great things are happening across the board, I’m particularly energized about what is happening in the realm of diversity. Under the leadership of Dean Bob Bruner, there is more positively focused attention and action on diversity in recent years than ever before. Perhaps the most notable change is that for the first time Darden has a position devoted to developing and implementing a strategy for diversity and inclusion as it relates to students, faculty and staff, and our corporate and other partners. I’m honored to serve as the school’s first Associate Dean for Diversity.
We’ve accomplished a great deal in the 18 months that I’ve served in this leadership role. I say that not to take credit, but to communicate that collectively we are working toward making a difference. We are working to ensure that all Darden constituents are able to contribute to and benefit from this great institution.
As a faculty member, I teach in the area of Leadership and Organizational Behavior. One of the most well-known research findings in that field is called the Hawthorne Effect. The Hawthorne Effect describes a phenomenon in which a change in an organization’s environment (a change even as slight as directing attention to something that was previously ignored) produces a noticeable change and improvement in behavior and performance. With the increased attention on diversity as a core value and strategic imitative at the Darden School, our environment has changed and we are seeing positive results in our community. The BBSF newsletter, of which this is the inaugural issue, is a prime example. I applaud the BBSF for taking the initiative to create this forum of exchange that will serve to keep (and in some cases bring back) our African American alumni into the fold.
Other diversity-related accomplishments and activities to date include:
The creation of a Diversity Advisory Council made up of Darden alumni
- A diversity website
- A diversity scorecard that will help us stay focused on key diversity goals and objectives across the enterprise
- Greater outreach to perspective minority students through our partners such as Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA), and the Consortium
- A substantial increase in the number of women students in this year’s first year class
- A leadership seminar series run by the BBSF
- A women’s leadership week
- Quarterly diversity focus groups with students run by the Associate Dean of Diversity and the Director of Student Affairs
- Biannual meetings of the teaching faculty exclusively focused on diversity
I could go on about the changes that are afoot in the diversity space. Instead, I’ll keep you anticipating the next edition. Rest assured, though, that there is a definite and noticeable buzz in the air that a diverse and inclusive community is a strong and powerful community.
Professor Erika James, Associate Dean of Diversity
Hot Topics in Business
From Outsourcing Manufacturing to Insourcing Trust
R. Edward Freeman, Dean Krehmeyer, Brian Moriarty and Bobby Parmar
Lead paint, small magnets and other potential dangers led millions of toy recalls in 2007.
How could this happen? The more cynical among us may be tempted to conjecture that the root of the problem is morally flawed managers who were not concerned enough about the well-being of children who use their products. The facts, however, are more complex than this facile explanation suggests and they are worth our careful consideration because they illuminate a serious challenge that many companies and industries will face in the years ahead.
First, it is not clear how much information toy companies and their managers had about the potential dangers of these products.
Second, managers at these firms—even those who may focus more heavily on the bottom line than others—recognize that harming customers is bad business. Mattel alone reported $46 million in recall-related costs from April to September 2007, to say nothing of the impact that such recalls will have on their brand as future consumers decide what constitutes an acceptable risk and which brands to trust.
Third, according to most accounts, Mattel had a leading safety program in place and had clear guidelines for suppliers about the materials that could be used in the manufacturing process. Lead paint was specifically identified as a restricted material.
So how and why did this happen? The case method—and this should come as no surprise to Darden alums—can provide some insight.
Imagine that you’re a product manager of the most popular toy this season. It comes to your attention that there is a risk that your toy, when encountered by a child with a pre-existing genetic condition, could cause severe health problems.
Indeed, most responsible managers would choose to investigate and analyze what if any links exist between their product and the potentially fatal symptoms. And so you do. But what do you do when the results come back as inconclusive and now you must make an immediate decision? Would you recall or “wait and see”?
We’ve run this experiment with over 3000 MBAs, students from around the globe with broad business experience, in a simulation about the ethical issues managers face in a fictional toy company, Turning Gears Inc., and the results are a virtual tie—54% of product managers choose to recall the product and 46% decide not to recall.
Just as many people wonder how recent toy recalls happened, students sometimes don’t understand why half their peers made a different choice. We have students discuss their decisions in class, and the conversations are always emotional and intense.
One participant explains: “I did not want to jeopardize the livelihood of the people who work for this company, when I did not even know the actual risk.” Another counters, “I am a parent and in my view, there is no acceptable risk—real or potential—where child safety is concerned.”
Students come away from this experience with two important lessons. First, they gain a visceral understanding of how intangible assets like trust, brand, and reputation impact the market reaction to their company. Secondly, they appreciate the extreme difficulty of managing a diverse and global supply chain.
In response to the actual recalls, toy companies and various interest groups are pressing for stricter quality and safety regulations and standards. With approximately 85% of toy manufacturing currently being outsourced overseas, these may indeed be valuable approaches. When we don’t know or can’t fully anticipate product dangers, however, companies need a different way to manage their supply chains – we need to evaluate global supply chain partners around metrics of trust, reputation, and responsibility.
Toy recalls happened largely due to a gap in the supply chain between the responsibility attributed to leading global corporations and their ability to control intangible assets like trust and reputation at the sub-contractor level. In addition to cost, quality, and productivity measures, companies need to find partners who not only value their core brands and reputations but are also partners in co-creating them. A valuable lesson learned is that you can’t outsource responsibility.
This presents an enormous challenge to managers, and also a unique opportunity for companies to differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Managers can reduce firm risk by investing in their subcontractors in ways that create shared understandings of trust, brand and ethical decision-making. Firms with suppliers who lead in terms of these intangible assets may be better positioned for long-term success—and they might even raise the bar of supplier expectations across sectors, which will ultimately result in safer, more trusted products.
This gap in a global firm’s ability to control its intangible assets at the sub-contractor level—and the corresponding risk this presents to bottom line results—impacts all industries. For this reason, the toy recalls in 2007 are a harbinger for one of the great marketplace challenges that global business will face in the next five years—investing in supplier relationships that co-create the brands of multiple organizations.