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Regent’s MBAs, rich in diversity, buck national trend

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by Philip Walzer
Hampton Roads

When Regent University awards master’s degrees in business administration today, more than one in five recipients will be black.

That 22 percent figure makes Regent a virtual beacon of diversity in MBA education.

It’s more than four times the national average. It’s also the largest proportion in the region, aside from historically black Hampton University, where blacks make up 92 percent of Sunday’s MBA recipients.

Old Dominion University estimates that 11 percent of its MBA students graduating today are black.

“Economics does play a role” in depressing black MBA enrollment, said Sid Credle, Hampton’s business dean. “After you’ve gone to college for four years, you may not have the resources to tack on another two years.”

Hampton’s solution: A five-year combined bachelor’s/MBA program.

Other barriers include a lack of family experience with graduate degrees and a reluctance to leave – or delay entry into – the work world.

Jennifer Holland, who is black, will finish her MBA requirements at Regent in December . She was drawn to the Christian school because of its focus on entrepreneurship and its “diversity on a lot of different levels” – racially, agewise and internationally.

“When you come here, you’re welcome; you feel safe,” said Holland, 24, who went to high school in York County and graduated from Vanderbilt in Nashville. “You’re expected to contribute your experiences and your background, and it’s valuable.

“Being an African-American,” she said, “I didn’t have to worry about whether people were going to play the race card – ‘what’s your African-American experience?’ Of course they’ll ask those questions, more so because they truly want to understand my culture. But not only my culture, but what makes me me.”

Regent does not target minorities in recruiting business students. Nor does it use racial preferences in admissions, said Bruce Winston, dean of the School of Global Leadership and Entrepreneurship .

“We don’t specifically go out to obtain certain quotas of students,” he said. “We just make sure we don’t have any barriers for anybody.”

Regent, for example, does not interview applicants. “We let the data on the application speak for itself,” Winston said.

At ODU, Arnum Wapples is sometimes the only black male in his MBA classes. He doesn’t mind too much. “The students are always open and the professors are really caring,” he said. “It’s a great environment.”

Wapples, 25 , who expects to graduate next year, explained the low numbers this way: “Most of us have been told to get an education and get a good job. A graduate degree, for most of us, is something that nobody in our family has. A lot of people figure once you get your degree, that’s good enough to get a good job.”

Many top MBA programs require full-time work experience, said Nicole Lindsay, with Management Leadership for Tomorrow , a nonprofit organization based in New York. Yet “minorities are less likely to leave a very good job to go back to school,” she said. “There’s resistance to do that and to take on debt.”

Lindsay called Regent’s numbers for minority enrollment “pretty impressive.” Her organization aims to increase the ranks of minority CEOs, who she said make up 3 percent of the total. One key, she said, is to encourage college students to consider MBA programs.

Judy Olian , dean of UCLA’s management school and board chairwoman of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, said UCLA’s mentoring starts in high schools.

Expanding the pool of minority executives, Lindsay said, will best ensure “a work force that’s able to compete. It’s critical for the United States to have a business school population that translates into management positions that represent our breadth and diversity as a nation.”

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Written by Symphony

May 18, 2008 at 8:20 pm

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