When a potential MBA applicant starts looking at business schools, Colleen Smith has a theory: Seeing is believing.
Smith, the Tepper School’s director of diversity strategies and programs, knows brochures, webcasts, and word of mouth can only go so far in helping applicants understand what a B-school is really like. To help paint a more complete picture, they need to come to campus, talk to first- and second-year students, and hear from the faculty who will teach their classes.
That’s particularly true of women and underrepresented minority applicants who are looking for a school that will offer a welcoming environment, says Smith.
“One of the things we’ve found over the past several years is getting students to campus really gives them the opportunity to learn about the uniqueness of our program,” she says.
Toward that end, the Tepper School is offering a weekend of concurrent events for both women and minorities that aims to show them what distinguishes a B-school education at Carnegie Mellon.
Connections Weekend is a diversity workshop for prospective students of any ethnicity with an interest in increasing the representation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in both business school and management. Women and the MBA is a separate workshop that offers networking opportunities for potential women applicants.
At the Women and the MBA event, attendees will hear a keynote speech from Elissa Ellis-Sangster, executive director of the Forte Foundation, an organization dedicated to inspiring women business leaders.
“We’re really excited about having Elissa here to speak about how women’s roles are changing,” says Smith, who also serves on the Forte Foundation’s board of directors.
Both workshops will include a session meant to guide students toward excelling in their MBA programs, led by Robert Kelley, adjunct professor of organizational behavior and theory and author of the book How To Be A Star At Work, copies of which will be distributed as gifts to registered participants.
One major selling point for the Tepper School, according to Smith, is its small size: The entire class is roughly the same as a cohort that would be broken off in a larger program.
“It really allows our students, very early on, to know one another,” says Smith. “Establishing those relationships with your classmates is very important. Not that that doesn’t happen at larger programs, but it’s much easier to do in a smaller program. Our students know all their classmates.”
The class size also allows faculty and staff to offer support when it’s needed.
“We have a rigorous curriculum, and the content is strong early on,” explains Smith. “No one falls through the cracks.”
Small programs also intensify the overarching benefits of diversity, she notes.
“Our students recognize that when they move into organizations and business, they are going to be part of diverse populations,” she says. “Our school realizes that business school needs to mirror that [fact], and that ultimately builds stronger business leaders.”
Smith also points out that the Tepper School defines diversity not only of ethnicity and gender, but also of discipline, both in the form of cross-campus collaboration and in the background of the applicants.
“Our students are so diverse in their backgrounds. They’re not all engineers. They come from liberal arts backgrounds and do very well,” Smith says. “Yes, we’re a rigorous program. But our world needs analytical decision-making and [people who are] able to make difficult decisions that don’t have a precedent.”
Connections and Women and the MBA are sponsored by Air Products, Alcoa, Deutsche Bank, Giant Eagle, PPG, and Union Pacific.