USC Marshall School of Business, an early member of the Consortium, this year celebrates 50 years of inclusion

When Bill West (USC Marshall MBA ’79) left Indiana University with his undergraduate degree in 1976, he had never even heard of The Consortium for Graduate Student Study in Management.

“Which is ironic,” the now retired president of Mays Chemical Company of Indianapolis said. “Because it was one of the first schools to join The Consortium. Imagine that opportunity, right under my nose.”

The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management was founded in 1966 by Sterling H. Schoen, a professor of management at Washington University in St Louis, as a way to enable African American men to attend business school and acquire the skills needed for success in American corporations. Indiana University -Bloomington and University of Wisconsin-Madison were among the first to join as Consortium member schools. That year, 21 African American men were named as “fellows” and were offered full-tuition scholarships to MBA programs at these institutions.

Soon after, USC’s newly created graduate school of business administration, then led by Robert R. Dockson, became the first West Coast university to join. The year was 1968.

“It was a time of great cultural and societal shifts, and the business school was far ahead of the curve when it came to issues of inclusivity and diversity,” says James G. Ellis, dean of USC Marshall. “Dean Dockson had true visionary foresight.”

That vision continues today as USC Marshall celebrates its 50th anniversary as a member of the Consortium. The School continues to recruit promising MBA students through its status as one of 18 member schools, and today boasts more than 700 MBA Consortium alumni. There are 18 Consortium members in the USC Marshall full-time MBA class of 2020

In 1977, when West got to USC, there were 13 other Consortium Fellows. Those classmates connected him to the larger Consortium network, as well as to the Trojan Family network. They also became lifelong colleagues and friends.

“The value has been in the relationships,” he said. “You just can’t put a price tag on that.”

It was a Consortium alumnus who lured him back to Indianapolis – Bill Mays, president and CEO of Mays Chemical Co. – to run the finances of his new company. West and Mays remained involved in Consortium for years, and have given back to the group in service and resources.

LEANING IN

In 2015, USC Marshall named Debra Langford, a longtime media industry executive and Marshall alumna, to lead its newly created Office of Diversity and Inclusivity.

“The conversation has moved to a call for action,” said Langford. “I am proud that I can help Marshall earn a prominent voice in that dialogue.”

Langford partners with diversity leaders within Marshall and across the USC campus to create best practices for the university and sits on the Provost’s Committee for Diversity at USC. She is also a founding member of the Association of Business Schools Diversity Officers, an organization of the top 30 MBA programs.

“Top performing companies have realized that when it comes to issues of workforce diversity and inclusivity, it’s a wining value proposition to have an inclusive recruiting strategy,” she said.

“Marshall’s clear commitment to leveling the playing field was the primary factor in my decision to pursue my MBA here,” said Laju Obasaju, (NYU ’04; JD ’07) MBA ’17, a Consortium student liaison.

Although it started with only three schools and 21 students, The Consortium has grown into a nationwide organization with 8,500 alumni, 18 member schools and more than 80 corporate partners.

OPEN TO ALL

Although originally intended for African American men, The Consortium opened to include women, Hispanics and Native Americans in 1970. It now admits all students who embrace the mission of diversity and inclusion – provided they have the requisite GMAT scores and grade point average.

“Diversity is not a minority problem,” said Peter J. Aranda (USC ’85), the Consortium’s executive director and CEO. “We need everyone to participate if we are going to address the inequities that are going on today.”

Information for this article was provided by USC Marshall School of Business.

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