Last Sunday, I wrote to you to condemn racism and reaffirm and recommit to our Darden values in the wake of the violence perpetrated against George Floyd and the ensuing and continuing surge of civil unrest. I sincerely hope you are holding up well despite our challenging context.
On Wednesday, President Jim Ryan wrote a message to the University community, “Looking Backward, Looking Forward,” which you can find on UVA Today.
Since I wrote, many of you have asked what actions Darden is taking and committed to, now and in the future, to live our values as a diverse and inclusive global community. Building on our prior work in this space, the Darden Enterprise Team has worked this week to consider concrete actions we can take to advance this Darden value. We have great responsibility to all of our stakeholders — and indeed to all of society — to lead the way, not only as individuals but as educators. This is a time to remember what we value and a time to commit to action. We should recognize that there are some immediate actions we can take and some actions that will require sustained commitment.
Every tragedy and crisis, despite — or perhaps because of — the pain and suffering, can have a silver lining and be a catalyst for change. An awakening. George Floyd’s sickening death is one such watershed moment. One component of Darden’s mission is to develop responsible leaders who make the world a better place. Excellence and leading effectively in today’s world requires adopting a value for equity and fairness. What outstanding talent and leaders will want to work for organizations or individuals that don’t work actively in pursuit of this value? The events of the past several days make it evident that collaborating with, developing and supporting Black colleagues to realize their full potential won’t happen unless leaders develop the capacity to confront and work to dismantle racism and bias when it arises. Darden aspires and is committed to be among the very best in equipping leaders to do so. I personally recommit to increasing my awareness and ability as an ally and a leader in the education space and to trying my best to help Darden live up to its values fully.
The new blog post, “Reflections From the Darden Enterprise Team on Racism and What Darden Can Do,” captures our early reactions and emotions. We recognize that it will take time, commitment and energy to work toward racial equity, and we are committed to do so.
Today, I want to share with you some of our early thoughts on action steps. We invite your feedback on these action steps and your ideas and recommendations to make Darden better. Please write to [email protected].
Immediate areas for action: Below, I have included concrete steps that we are committed to moving into immediate planning. These are certainly not exhaustive of the steps we will take — and certainly do not represent the totality of the School’s strategy and approach — but build on recent planning and initiatives. We will refine, expand on and execute on these actions through consultation with the Darden community and the groups below.
- Darden Initiative for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Senior Associate Dean and Global Chief Diversity Officer Martin Davidson and Assistant Dean for Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Christie Julien have provided a draft framework of tactics and initiatives to improve the experience of Black prospective students, students and alumni at all stages of their interaction with Darden. Some of them are already underway and others are still under study. These initiatives will also be relevant to and benefit other diverse constituencies.
- Town Halls: Martin Davidson and Christie Julien will discuss our framework for action and ideas and gather feedback during two upcoming webinars called “Making Meaning of the Moment.”
- Dean’s Diversity Advisory Council: We are convening a special meeting of the Dean’s Diversity Advisory Council, chaired by Alex Picou (MBA ’89), for their input.
- Senior Business Leaders Forum for Action on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: I am asking several prominent Darden alumni to gather and share their perspectives and recommendations with me as senior leaders. We are working on convening this forum to gather their wisdom and counsel.
- New Racial Equity and Inclusion Working Group: I am putting in place a group representing various stakeholder groups to provide a concrete and prioritized set of recommendations to improve Darden and help us fully live our mission and values. Recommendations will be provided for the short, medium and long term. Members who have agreed to participate include: Leadership Martin Davidson and Christie Julien; staff members Marc Paulo Guzman (Admissions) and Jeff Tang (MBA ’13) (Career Center); faculty members Yael Grushka-Cockayne, Mary Margaret Frank, Toni Irving and Laura Morgan Roberts; students Robert Crosby (EMBA Class of 2021), Alex Gregorio (Class of 2021), Michael Long (EMBA Class of 2021), Tre Tennyson (Class of 2021); and alumni Kelly Bonilla (MBA ’20), Greg Fairchild (MBA ’92) (faculty).
*Note: This group may evolve slightly and will liaise with the racial equity task force at UVA that President Ryan has formed and is led by: Ian Solomon, Dean of the Batten School of Public Policy; Kevin McDonald, UVA Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Barbara Brown Wilson, a faculty member in the School of Architecture and the faculty director of The Equity Center.
- Center of Excellence: Launch fundraising efforts to help establish a research Center of Excellence for Inclusive Leadership, Equity and Leveraging Difference (exact name to be determined). This center would help develop responsible leaders who can foster diversity and inclusion and serve as a hub for academic scholarship, pedagogical innovation and applied social action.
- Access Darden Scholarship Program: Accelerate efforts to advance socioeconomic diversity at Darden by raising philanthropy to create need-based scholarships for students who have the excellence and merit to be admitted to Darden but may face barriers due to cost. Lem Lewis (MBA ’72) has agreed to work with and advise me as we spearhead this initiative with the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees as part of our Powered by Purpose capital campaign. Our aspiration is to be the most affordable and accessible among top business schools. This is in addition to starting to implement a new program for first-generation student scholarships in advance of the incredible Walentas first-generation scholarship program that will be rolled out in the coming decade. Access Darden is consistent with Darden’s heritage, modeled after UVA’s undergraduate AccessUVA program and aligned with President Ryan’s call to be both “good and great.”
As we seek to make meaning of the moment, here is new thought leadership from Darden faculty available this week:
- “The Long Run″ by Professor Martin Davidson, along with his appearance on CNN
- “53 Years Later, the Nights Are Still Hot″ by Professor Greg Fairchild
- “U.S. Businesses Must Take Meaningful Action Against Racism″ by Professor Laura Morgan Roberts in Harvard Business Review
As we reflect on this important week, I encourage us all to live our Darden values and to be a positive force for good. I will end with a quote from writer and poet Maya Angelou: “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage need not be lived again.” This is a moment for courage. And action.