Twenty-four first-year students started learning how to lead and champion diversity and inclusion in a new program called Inclusive Business Leaders (IBL) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Business this fall. The program assists with attracting more diverse students to Nebraska Business and helps them thrive academically and socially while supporting their career goals to cultivate a more inclusive environment.
“The College of Business is committed to our journey toward inclusive excellence. We believe in embracing diversity in all forms seen and unseen, and ultimately ensuring that excellence is inclusive,” said Dr. Kathy Farrell, James Jr. and Susan Stuart Endowed Dean. “We will educate inclusive leaders who graduate and lead the future of business by initiating positive changes in their workplace, communities and beyond.”
Students in the program receive a scholarship their freshman year, mentorship from peer and professional mentors, and exclusive networking opportunities. The cohort also benefits from existing resources for business students such as free tutoring and career coaching.
“They will take the Intercultural Development Inventory, an assessment used to build intercultural competence to achieve diversity and inclusion goals and outcomes. They’ll understand from the assessment ways in which they can grow into better inclusive leaders. We will reflect and share on their personal development over the course of the program as well as spend the spring semester working on a capstone project that addresses an inequitable business practice,” said coordinator of the IBL program, Dr. Kasey Linde, who is also associate director of the college’s Teaching and Learning Center.
Students partner with professional mentors during the capstone project to help them develop potential solutions. Their year-long experience culminates by presenting their findings.
From the program’s initial pitch, it fast tracked to become a new offering at the college. Leadership and alumni see the Inclusive Business Leaders as a way to help break financial and access barriers for underrepresented students while further building their leadership skills.
“Higher education has a reputation for being slow to change. We are grateful to John (’86) and Mary (’86) Schuele for the initial lead gift to run a pilot program during the spring 2021 semester while we recruited students for the first cohort. It sparked an urgency and excitement for this program, and support followed from other generous donors. This quick support of the new scholarship program is a testament to how much people want to see continued improvement of equity and inclusion in the field of business and beyond,” Linde said.
The fall cohort benefits from 12 current business students who stepped up to pilot the new initiative. As they experienced different parts of the program curriculum, they also began to bond as a cohort.
“The students shared about their collegiate experience, personal and professional goals, and what it means to them to be inclusive. They also engaged in meaningful, sometimes difficult, conversations in a safe and supportive space,” said Linde.
Ann Vu, a sophomore international business major from La Vista, Nebraska, appreciated the candid discussions around topics including cultural capital, setting personal goals and how to have difficult conversations. Conversing with other business students provided her with insight to other people’s perspectives as well as a sense of understanding from her peers.
“It was really insightful hearing other students, especially students of color, give their opinions. These discussions helped educate me and further my views on these important topics,” she said. “The Inclusive Business Leaders program is an important step toward improving inclusion and diversity within the college, and hopefully the business community as a whole.”
The pilot students also provided valuable feedback. One suggestion shared was how they wanted to serve as peer mentors to the inaugural cohort.
“It is inspiring to watch the pilot students care so deeply about the incoming cohort. They want to ensure that their experience at the College of Business is the best possible,” Linde said.
Ambi Anuh-Ndumu, senior marketing major from Papillion, Nebraska, saw the pilot as an opportunity to assist with the well-being of students of color. Her overall goal is to help them feel included.
“Often students in minority groups feel ostracized when attending predominantly white institutions. I want to provide these students with a sense of belonging and show them that any struggles they may have do not need to be faced alone. There are resources and people at the College of Business always ready to help,” she said.
During a project in the pilot, Anuh-Ndumu pitched to name the room in Howard L. Hawks Hall that the college dedicated to serves as a hub for conversation and inclusive programs. Out of many options from the group, a favorite emerged and got approval from Dean Farrell. While the space softly launched last year, the newly-renamed Diversity and Inclusion Gathering Space (DIGS) opens with a grand opening event Friday, October 1 at 11:30 a.m. in Hawks Hall. All are welcome to RSVP and attend.
“We were honored to name the space so that the space’s purpose rooted in inclusive excellence is presented in a more approachable way. By calling it DIGS for short, we’re saying to students it’s yours to come hang out. It’s your space to build connections, have conversations and decompress after classes,” said Anuh-Ndumu.
Encouraged by the positive impact the freshmen cohort is already making, Linde looks forward to watching them make a difference in their communities and careers in the future.
“You can feel the momentum building behind this program and it all stems from the shared desire to see the college, workplace and world become a more inclusive place,” said Linde.
To learn more about other programs and initiatives in the college's journey toward inclusive excellence, visit: https://business.unl.edu/inclusion.
The inaugural Inclusive Business Leaders cohort includes:
- Bellevue: Baden Brumbaugh, economics major
- Grand Island: Carlos Ferrer, business administration major
- Hartington: Brooklyn Kuehn, marketing major
- Hastings: Emily Vuong, business administration major
- Lincoln: Derek Branch, business administration major; Nicole Davis, business administration major; Maya Elias, marketing major; Naree Philavanh, marketing major; Nyamal Rik, business administration major; Abel Ue-Bari, marketing major
- Nickerson: Siana Hernandez-Lango, business administration major
- Omaha: Devon Gill, accounting major; Jacquie Paul, business administration major; Yasmin Ramirez, finance major; Said Rodriguez-Zarazua, marketing major; Maggie Romero, international business major; Edgar Wisniewski, finance major
- Ord: Mykala Lytle, accounting major
- Scotia: Ashlyn Wright, business administration major
- Henderson, Colorado: Zach Figge-Schumann, business administration major
- Parker, Colorado: Savanah Warren, business administration major
- Alsip, Illinois: Isabella Camarena, international business major
- Carol Stream, Illinois: Corey Nguyen, marketing major
- Joliet, Illinois: Niko Schultz, business administration major