Originally posted on universitybusiness.com


Dr. Eli Jones of Texas A&M’s Mays Business School and colleagues at The PhD Project are identifying and encouraging leaders of color to make a long-term impact by pursuing futures in education.
By:  | November 23, 2020

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Dr. Eli Jones

Dr. Eli Jones

Dr. Eli Jones, the dean at the Texas A&M Mays Business School, and his colleagues at The PhD Project are leading the charge to get more people of color in significant academic roles.

The list of strategic initiatives at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School include many of the goals set by other institutions: high-impact research, impactful teaching and learning and transformational leadership.

But at the very top, strongly and purposefully, is this: Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement.

“We made that one the first priority,” says Jones, Dean of Mays Business School. “That sent a signal to the organization that this is a really important issue for us. I’m glad that we did. To me, this priority is about setting our culture and climate more than anything else.”

The culture Jones would like to see at his school, and others across the country, is one of belonging – a place for all students to feel welcome. Texas A&M is still a primarily White-student-serving institution. In fact, Black students comprise less than 4% of the population across its campuses, including College Station. The divide in numbers at Mays Business School is just as pronounced: Of its 6,300 students, just over 4,000 are White and 147 are Black. If changing the culture starts with belonging, then closing that gap is a must.

It is not only student enrollment that matters. Leadership positions at colleges and universities need to be more inclusive as well. Not counting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Jones is one of only a handful of African-American senior administrators in the country.

“Think about that for a minute,” Jones says with a pause. “There are more than 800 AACSB accredited business schools, and only a handful of African American business deans at non-HBCUs. Obviously, we have a long way to go.”

Despite that seeming futility, there is hope, and Jones sees change coming. It is starting in the classrooms and it’s weaving its way through MBA and master’s programs and into Ph.D. programs. A number of universities this year have placed leaders of color in president positions. Still, it is a long road to climb.

The opportunity costs are high. To get there requires sacrifice and countless academic steps, sometimes leaving a high salary at a well-known company to become a graduate student. It could take 15-20 years on a tenure track to build the reputation needed to be considered for a senior leadership position in academia.

However, the payoff long-term can be worth it. And it is Jones and his colleagues who are trying to convince more to pursue those tracks. He is part of a non-profit initiative called The PhD Project that aims to diversify business college leadership … and thus change the makeup of leaders in the corporate world by increasing the number of people of color in the classrooms and in academic leadership.

“We’re talking to people in corporations about considering a career change to become a professor, and we’re helping them navigate and matriculate through PhD programs across the country,” Jones says. “These are critical career decisions.”

 

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The 1-2 punch: COVID and George Floyd

Not everyone needs to rise to the level of dean to make an impact, Jones says. He notes the continual increase in people of color in important positions in higher education – professor, center director, department head, and associate dean. Their status and leadership have provided reasons for young, under-represented minority students to want to attend classes, enroll in programs and further other academic pursuits.

In fact, The PhD Project notes that since its inception in 1994, the numbers of minorities who have completed Ph.D.s has risen from 294 to more than 1,500. The group is currently guiding more than 300 doctoral students and over 1,300 business professors of color. Their success at these institutions is staggering: 90% of those impacted complete the Ph.D. program, crushing the 70% median rate. Their retention rate is even better – 97%, compared with U.S. national average at just over 60%.

“More people of color are making the sacrifices in the short term so that they can make a long-term impact by becoming professors and helping students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.” – Dr. Eli Jones, dean at Texas A&M’s Mays Business School

Jones points out that change is happening, but it is slower than desired. The pipeline in the past wasn’t there. An infusion of new minority professors and senior leaders, however, is beginning to make a real difference.

“If you happen to be in a classroom, and you see someone who looks like you, sounds like you and has a similar cultural experience, that could make a great impact as a role-model,” Jones says. “More people of color are making the sacrifices in the short term so that they can make a long-term impact by becoming professors and helping students of color at the undergraduate and graduate levels.”

Speaking of impact, there may not have been anything more significant to the movement around diversity and inclusion than two major events in 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd murder. Jones calls it a “1-2 punch” that created a combination of fear, anger and frustration that led to both a heightened awareness and extreme discomfort over the Minneapolis Police Department’s mishandling of the Floyd arrest – the feeling that “this is not right.”

“People around the world had a chance to see on video how grossly wrong that was,” Jones says. “It was very visible to them and they reacted. We’ve been given lip service about diversity and inclusion for many, many years. But that tragedy and others made it real.”

It not only sparked mass protests involving all races and genders but also ignited conversations among CEOs at businesses, who leaned on Jones and other academic leaders when drafting their statements on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I heard from senior leaders at companies, statements such as, ‘I’m not going to just make a blanket statement that says yes, we believe in diversity, equity and inclusion,’ ” Jones says “I want to put something out that is more meaningful. Could you sit and talk to me so I can better understand the underlying issues? So, I think it’s more than lip service now. There’s a level of sensitivity about it.”

 

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The play that changed the SEC

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is best known as the home of major college football – Alabama and Nick Saban, LSU and Death Valley, and of course Texas A&M and its 12th Man. But the SEC recently proved it is more than just gamesmanship on Saturday afternoons.

When the George Floyd murder occurred, the deans of the business schools in the SEC put out a collective statement together – 14 strong – to back diversity, equity and inclusion. And not with a nod to the moment but a lean to the future.

“We are soundly committed to fostering a sense of community that is welcoming to and respectful of all individuals — students, faculty and staff,” the statement said. “Likewise, it is our duty to prepare our future business leaders for careers in an international and increasingly diverse workforce. We strive for inclusion, equity and diversity where all voices, viewpoints and backgrounds are valued and supported.”

It was a special moment for Jones. He is the only African-American dean in that contingent and the one who spurred the call to action.

“We have been talking about doing something together, and what a great opportunity to show how cohesive we are on an issue that truly matters.”

Moments like the Floyd murder – and the resulting response – have opened a lot of eyes and a lot of minds.

“I’m now sensing that people really want to listen,” Jones said. “I’ve had lots of non-minority colleagues say, ‘we’ve never really talked about this, Eli. Maybe we should grab dinner and talk through some of what we’re seeing nationally.”

On a more macro level, the work of The PhD Project continues. There is an annual conference for potential doctoral students interested in a number of disciplines, including accounting, finance, management, marketing and entrepreneurship. The cadre of business school leaders hope that those discussions will spark interest and lead to others follow the same paths that Jones and others have taken.

Jones believes that sooner or later, it will happen … where incidents like George Floyd no longer occur, where the pool of students is forever diverse and where belonging is just happenstance.

“I think we’re positioned now to really make some substantive changes, that will actually help in the future,” he says. “I’m thinking about my grandkids. I want my grandkids to have a better future where they’re not having to struggle through these issues.”

 


The PhD Project resources

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion

James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School ranks first in the nation for underrepresented groups among Ph.D. graduates and faculty 

Survey finds Texas A&M’s accounting program has most underrepresented Ph.D. graduates and faculty in U.S.

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An article forthcoming in the peer-reviewed American Accounting Association Journal, Issues in Accounting Education, has found that the James Benjamin Department of Accounting at Mays Business School has the most underrepresented Ph.D. graduates and the most underrepresented accounting faculty of any top business school in the country.

The essay, the first-ever report of its kind on the state of the accounting academy, “Towards a More Inclusive Accounting Academy,” details the state of underrepresented minority Ph.D. students and faculty in the top 50 accounting departments. The number of underrepresented minorities has nearly tripled in the last 24 years, largely to the credit of The Ph.D. Project. However, despite almost tripling, the proportion of underrepresented minority faculty remains less than 5% of all accounting Ph.D. faculty.

Nate Sharp, Ph.D., the Nelson D. Durst Endowed Chair in Accounting and head of the James Benjamin Department of Accounting said, “Although we would all acknowledge that these results represent only one of many ways to measure a program’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, and the overall numbers of underrepresented faculty and Ph.D. students across the academy are low, I am proud that our department is receiving recognition for its longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion among Ph.D. students and faculty.”

…Read more

Categories: Accounting, Diversity and Inclusion, Rankings

Amid Black Lives Matter protests this summer, the 14 college of business deans of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) decided to make a joint statement in support of diversity, equity and inclusion in their programs.

They are “soundly committed to fostering a sense of community that is welcoming to and respectful of all individuals — students, faculty and staff,” their statement read… read more.

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Deanspeak, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Perspectives, Texas A&M

Attendees at the annual Women in Technology Conference celebrated the 20th anniversary “Beelieve it or Not.” With a theme of hard-working bees, the conference brought together women to network and learn from others currently building their careers in information technology. It was hosted by the Center for the Management of Information Systems (CMIS) on March 1 in the Annenberg Center at George Bush Presidential Library at Texas A&M University.

Female students with an interest in information technology participated in roundtable discussions on topics such as lessons learned from senior executives, managers, professionals, and new graduates in the workforce. They discussed advice such as leadership, work-life balance, and new technology trends.

…Read more

Categories: Centers, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

SEC-member schools, business leaders and professionals attended the 4th annual conference to explore best practices in diversity and inclusiveness

Business leaders, working professionals, diversity officers, human resource officers, and others gathered at Texas A&M University for the 4th annual SEC Business School Diversity Conference on Feb. 27 through March 1.

Hosted by Mays Business School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the conference focused on strategic planning for diversity and inclusion leadership.

The keynote speaker was Damon Williams, head of the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership & Social Innovation and a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Equity and Inclusion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin. He is one of the original architects of the Inclusive Excellence concept in American higher education and a nationally known leader in diversity leadership and responsibility.

As in previous SEC diversity conferences, held at Missouri, Arkansas, and LSU, the meeting aimed to:

  • Identify, advocate, and disseminate best practices and promote new initiatives about diversity and inclusion in business.
  • Conduct and promote research initiatives aimed at minority business students, staff, faculty and other stakeholders.
  • Empower academic and private sector professionals to become knowledgeable and engaged in diversity and inclusion practices.
  • Provide colleagues with professional development and resources to advance equity in recruitment and the classroom.

…Read more

Categories: Dean Eli Jones, Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Texas A&M

Each fall semester, Mays Business School students have the opportunity to apply to attend the SUMMIT conference. SUMMIT’s mission is “to empower students as developing leaders through purposeful reflection and honest self-awareness.” This weekend-long overnight conference includes dynamic speakers, small group activities, team building, and time dedicated to personal reflection. The conference took place this year from Feb. 1-3 at Stoney Creek Ranch, and on the final day the students were given the chance to anonymously share their key takeaways.

…Read more

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Programs, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

(Read a comprehensive story about the conference)

By Bill Peel, Executive Director of Innovation & Strategic Planning

It’s impossible to anticipate the dynamic of being one of five men in a room filled with 400 enthusiastic,  energetic women eagerly anticipating the lessons to be gleaned from a conference titled “From Bossy to Transformational.” That’s exactly the situation I found myself in as I attended the second annual Mays Business School “Women’s Leadership Initiative” conference.

To say that I came with preconceptions about this forum would be a gross understatement. Yet, as I peered through the “looking glass” into the world of women in leadership, I was enveloped by the challenges women face in leadership roles – challenges that are unique and uncommon to their male counterparts. I left with an enlightened respect for a woman’s leadership journey and the manner in which I could better interface with women in the workplace. I also left with leadership lessons applicable to my own career.

Julie Lenzer ’88 challenged the conference participants to get out of their comfort zones, go someplace they’ve never imagined, and follow the thread that will weave their career path. She reminded us that we never know who’s following our careers and the impressions we will make with our actions. I smiled as she noted to “beware of saying something out loud, as it might just prompt your next career move.” It was disappointing, yet realistic, to be reminded that “men can make women feel uncomfortable” in the workplace, vowing to increase my sensitivity to this tendency in myself. The point that resonated the loudest was not to “spend our lives ‘shoulding’ on ourselves.” That one hit home!

Janeen Judah ’81 focused her comments on the three E’s that frame our journey from tactical to transformational leadership – excellence, endurance, and empowerment. She reminded participants to “have a specialty people know us for, finding something we like and becoming good at it.” Be open to new experiences and don’t become rigid in our career plan. Her emphasis on the power of people was vividly displayed as conference participants exchanged contact information and broadened their network. She challenged us to “keep the ladder down, helping those behind us,” reminding me of the importance of being a coach and mentoring someone else along the way, possibly even someone we met that day. Judah cautioned women not to say “yes” to everything, as it causes them to burn out.  She also challenged women to brag about themselves and learn how to tell their own story, noting that “if you don’t know it, no one else will.” That one got a star in my meeting notes!

The lunch panel was a rapid-fire exchange of tips on issues and opportunities facing women as transformational leaders. Men are simply unaware of the “cycle of weariness” that women face as they are not only leaders, but also wives and mothers. It’s true that “a woman’s work is never done.”

Communication and presentation skills were common themes as the panelists implored women to “learn to brag on themselves” and “be ready to present at a moment’s notice.” It was interesting to learn that women often lead with “I think” or “I feel” when men seek direct communication. Authenticity and confidence were tips offered to elevate the perception of women’s leadership acumen.

The power-packed day ended with Shantera Chatman ’98’s presentation and role playing on negotiation. She stressed the power of self-worth and the ability to “quiet the inner voices” that distract us. “Every time you have a crucial conversation, it gets easier,” Chatman noted, as she blended hints with humor to engage the audience. A member of my table thrust her hand high in the air when there was a call for volunteers. The young professional, a mere six months into her career, was hungry for the tips that would empower her to be a better negotiator and self-advocate. It was so rewarding to feel the energy and see the impact the day had made on her and the other women leaders in the room.

The view through the “looking glass” was both convicting and compelling. It revealed a day filled with energy, engagement, enthusiasm, and excitement. And this appreciative male participant left with a new perspective of the challenges women face and the value women leaders bring to our organizations.

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Programs, Students, Texas A&M, Women's Leadership Initiative

It has been more than a year since Hurricane Harvey, the Category 4 storm that made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast with winds up to 130 miles per hour, led to the destruction of many houses and buildings in the Houston and Gulf Coast areas.

In late October, 15 students and two staff members representing Mays and the Office of Diversity & Inclusion traveled to Vidor, Texas, near Beaumont, to aid in the continued relief efforts. Most of the students were members of the Regents’ Ambassador Program for first-generation scholars. This is the group’s second service trip to Southeast Texas. Last fall, students and staff worked to “muck out” a home that had been completely submerged during the storm.

The students painted with primer two homes that were damaged by Hurricane Harvey. The project followed another group that had prepared the drywall. The next teams that work on the homes will continue to process by applying the paint finish, allowing the rebuilders to begin the floor restoration process. It will take continual, collective efforts to finish these homes.

At one home, the water was waist-deep when the resident’s neighbors rescued her in their boat. Both homes’ residents – older females – are still residing in FEMA trailers. One resident was out of town when the students worked, but her daughter hosted the group and worked alongside them, swapping stories about SEC schools and football. The other resident, challenged with mobility issues, was incredibly appreciative for the group’s efforts, as she is not able to work on the home herself.

The team partnered with non-profit group Nehemiah’s Vision, which still has about 140 homes in line to be repaired. The organization is calling on all able school, religious, and community groups to partner as they work to rebuild the area. Many residents still reside in FEMA trailers, and some have departed their homes without expectation of a return, due to the associated costs of rebuilding.

…Read more

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Faculty, Mays Business, Selfless service, Spotlights, Staff, Students, Texas A&M

(Read a man’s perspective of the conference).

Fifty-five years after Texas A&M University first began admitting female students, Mays Business School is encouraging women to step into top leadership roles in their organizations and communities. Mays’ Women’s Leadership Initiative Conference, held Oct. 19, offered tips on becoming a transformational leader, overcoming issues that women face in the work world, and negotiations. The conference was attended by approximately 400 current students, former students, Mays faculty and staff, and key stakeholders.

The conference opened with a welcome by Mays Dean Eli Jones ’82, who pointed out that the first strategic initiative in Mays strategic plan calls for increasing diversity and inclusion. This conference encourages women – who are often missing from corporate executive offices — to start stepping into leadership roles. …Read more

Categories: Alumni, Dean Eli Jones, Diversity and Inclusion, Faculty, Featured Stories, Former Students, Mays Business, News, Perspectives, Spotlights, Staff, Texas A&M, Women's Leadership Initiative

The percentage of women enrolling in Mays Business School’s Professional MBA Program continues to grow in a sustained effort to increase the number of women leaders in the business world. Over the first five years of the program, female students made up on average 22 percent of each cohort, with a high of 31 percent and a low of 14 percent. The enrollments of the two most recent cohorts (Classes of 2019 and 2020) average 40 percent women, exceeding the national average of 36.8 percent.

This increase is part of the Professional MBA Program’s effort to fulfill Mays Business School’s mission to advance the world’s prosperity. A Morgan Stanley analysis points out that having more gender diversity in businesses results in increased productivity and innovation, better products and decision-making, and higher employee retention and satisfaction. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, women – who make up almost half of the U.S. workforce – comprise only 27 percent of chief executives and 27 percent of computer and information systems managers. Furthermore, 24/7 Wall Street found that only 14 of the top 234 companies that own many of the world’s top brands had a female CEO; nine of these companies did not have a woman serving in an executive position or on the board. …Read more

Categories: Diversity and Inclusion, Featured Stories, Mays Business, MBA, News, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M