University of Michigan Launches Program to Promote Inclusion On and Off Campus

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A new program at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business — one of the country’s leading business schools — is aimed at promoting inclusion both on and off campus.

The Identity and Diversity in Organization (IDO) program, which kicked off at the beginning of the 2015-2016 academic year, is a mandatory seminar class for students completing an undergraduate degree. Each year, students must take a class focused on one of three topics — identity, diversity, or organizations — and write a reflection paper after completing the course.

Alison Davis-Blake, dean of the Ross School of Business, said the program is aimed at encouraging self-awareness, which she hopes will in turn improve student’s self-belief.

“Anecdotally, students have really enjoyed this. They feel much more self-aware, and that self-awareness is making them much more confident learners,” she said in a statement. “Students want a diverse environment in which to learn; we know students learn better – in the long-run – in an environment that’s diverse.”

Also a professor in the school, Davis-Blake added that diversity on campus isn’t simply about “how many people we have of different types.”

“The issue is actually [about] inclusion,” she said. “Some is around ‘we should have more of type X,’ but the vast majority is around ‘we have people of type X, and there’s a problem with how they’re being treated by others. They don’t feel welcome, empowered, [or] part of the community.’”

Because of this, the Ross School of Business is using the IDO program to work toward a culture that looks beyond diversity to emphasize inclusion — on campus and beyond.

The university’s focus on promoting a diverse and inclusive space is reflected among its faculty, which has the highest percentage of tenured female professors of the country’s top 10 business schools. Davis-Blake said this diversity is key to changing perceptions.

“You have to have enough people who are successful,” she said. “What changes stereotypes is repeated exposure to counter-stereotypical instances. That’s why diversity is so important.”