As many organizations across the nation consider the role they play in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, leaders in the Binghamton University School of Management have been reflecting on what they can do as well.
“It has become a critical issue for society, meaning it has become a critical issue for us,” says Dean Upinder Dhillon.
With a goal of formulating long-term strategic initiatives, SOM established a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee made up of faculty and staff. Chaired by Sara Reiter, professor of accounting, the committee plans to address areas such as recruiting diverse students and faculty, improving the classroom experience, and training faculty and staff.
“It’s an important issue, and we’re seeing many of the employers who recruit our students doing a lot in this area as well,” Reiter says.
We don’t just want to invest in this area, we want to see progress.
Dean Upinder Dhillon
To kick things off, the committee held a number of virtual “coffee conversation” events during the 2020-21 academic year to facilitate discussions with faculty and staff.
“The coffee conversations served as an introduction to inclusive pedagogy issues and student identity concerns, and resulted in some very informative workshops,” Reiter says.
One event focused on how to increase inclusion in the classroom. Committee members presented practical ways to implement inclusive classroom practices. Topics included:
- Creating an accessible syllabus
- Enhancing inclusion through class content
- Using case studies to enhance diversity and inclusiveness
- Incorporating diversity and inclusion when teaching statistics
The committee also held two coffee conversations in collaboration with the University’s Q Center, which provides resources to help foster an inclusive campus environment that supports all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expression.
In April, the committee hosted a webinar that explored ways to implement diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace, featuring research from Loreal Jiles and Shari Littan ’86 of the IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants). Their report, Diversifying U.S. Accounting Talent: A Critical Imperative to Achieve Transformational Outcomes, examines the diversity gap between the demographic background of executive leadership ranks and the rest of the accounting profession.
The presentation was followed by a panel of top diversity leaders and active members of DEI initiatives from major accounting firms who discussed practical ways companies can address the diversity gap. Nearly 300 people attended — many of them students.
“The student participation was really remarkable,” Reiter says. “There were over 100 questions from students in the chat box for the webinar. Students are very interested and engaged in the topic of how workplaces can become more diverse and inclusive.”
While these events have helped raise awareness within the SOM community, Reiter says the next step for the committee is to formulate a strategic plan with measurable outcomes.
“This is a big project in terms of broadly identifying issues and proposing targeted actions,” she says. “We’ve started by gathering data on how students view the SOM experience that we hope can guide our efforts.”
According to Reiter, the proposed initiatives will be connected to SOM’s main strategic priorities, a connection that Dhillon says solidifies the school’s commitment.
“We don’t just want to invest in this area, we want to see progress. That means identifying the right metrics to measure the progress we are making,” he says. “We, as a school, are rising to the challenge and doing our part.”