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Marshall Develops DEI Leadership Training

Strategic DEI content, built around faculty expertise, now informs all graduate students at orientation.

10.04.22

Violina Rindova, interim vice dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and a professor of management and organization.

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USC Marshall’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (ODEI), in partnership with faculty and program offices, has developed a new DEI orientation for graduate students in its MBA and specialty master’s programs. The initiative grew out of the school’s commitment to develop student-focused, high-quality programs and expand opportunities for learning and engagement.

The program has been designed to give participants a strong foundation in self-awareness, unconscious bias, equity and inclusion issues that underpin a mindset necessary for empathetic, inclusive leadership in a rapidly changing business world.

“We’ve called this orientation the Leadership Development Core because we want to focus on the leadership mindset that is core and fundamental to the DEI worldview,” said Violina Rindova, interim vice dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion and a professor of management and organization. “These aren’t survey classes. They’re about understanding the fundamental skills and mindset that support effective leadership.”

Introduced as four one-hour modules and specifically designed for Marshall’s graduate student body, these electives introduce important foundational concepts, taught by faculty members with noted expertise in these areas.

“We view this content as having the potential to provide a common ground for the Marshall community. When everyone has had exposure to the ideas in different formats, the conversations may change and communication can improve. The topics we chose are fundamentals of leadership that everyone can draw on.”

Violina Rindova, interim Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The modules in the Leadership Development Core include:

  • Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and Why it Matters, by Rebecca Heino, professor of clinical management and organization;
  • Self-awareness and Inclusion, by Naomi Warren, associate professor of clinical business communication;
  • Inclusion and Psychological Safety, Kenneth Perlman, adjunct professor of management and organization; and
  • Unconscious Bias and Equity, by Sarah Townsend – interim Assistant Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and associate professor of management and organization

Based on existing MBA DEI orientation content, ODEI worked closely with faculty and graduate program staff to develop flexible, interactive modules that also took into consideration the unique needs of Marshall’s large international student population.

“For a lot of international students, these sessions provide a much-needed introduction to the complex social landscape of the US. Notions of diversity are quite different around the world, and being introduced to the current conversations in American society makes a big difference to the student experience,” said Rindova.

This is the first semester every graduate student at USC Marshall has been introduced to key concepts in diversity, equity and inclusion at their start of their business educations. Early feedback has been positive.

“Students are excited because the topics are very relevant and the sections are short and designed to be very interactive,” said Rindova. “In fact, we’ve heard that students would like the sessions to be longer.”

These lessons are critical for future business leaders, now more than ever.

“We live in such a disrupted world, there are very few things one can take for granted,” said Rindova, whose academic research focuses on disruption and societal change. “And leadership as it applies to DEI topics is precisely about not taking things for granted, especially one’s unconscious assumptions and beliefs. For example, at some level, unconscious bias is about taking things to be self-evident, when in fact, multiple perspectives apply.”

DEI as Strategic Priority

The ODEI hopes to ultimately deploy these leadership modules to the wider Marshall Community, including faculty and staff.

“We view this content as having the potential to provide a common ground for the Marshall community,” said Rindova. “When everyone has had exposure to the ideas in different formats, the conversations may change and communication can improve. The topics we chose are fundamentals of leadership that everyone can draw on.”