In the Business Of?

"The Carlson School should look in their backyard and learn how to recruit a diverse student body from within Minnesota," says Renee Jenson, who charges the business school uses international students to diversify the student body.

For Renee Jenson, it's the same old tune. Back in 1992, shortly after David Kidwell took over as dean of the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, Jenson attended a meeting the dean held for faculty and honor students to discuss his strategic plan for the school. The plan's second-to-last goal was diversification.

Jenson says she suggested that increasing Carlson's diversity should be a higher priority and that Kidwell said the school needed to learn ways to better recruit students from Third World countries. Jenson says she responded that if the dean wanted to diversify, he could start by recruiting more women and people of color from the Twin Cities, but she was fairly sure he didn't get her point. "I don't think we were on his radar," she quips.

So Jenson wasn't surprised recently when she read in a Star Tribune article about the opening of Carlson's new $45-million West Bank building that Kidwell was again talking about extending the school's reach. Attracting students from outside Minnesota is key to Carlson's plan to become the major supplier of MBAs for local companies that want to diversify their management, the dean says. Those MBAs could mean big business for the Carlson School: The nation's business schools have seen an influx of $1 billion in new revenue during past five years. And administrators expect that henceforth, the most prestigious and resource-rich schools will profit the most.

Diana Watters

Jenson and other critics charge that the school's bottom-line mentality is causing it to redefine diversity. Instead of pursuing women and racial and ethnic minorities from the Twin Cities, they say, Carlson is satisfying its diversity goals via the much more lucrative practice of recruiting foreign students. Local students pay about $19,500 in tuition for a two-year MBA at Carlson, while nonresidents pay about $29,000. Far from bringing in cash, many local students of color need financial assistance.

Jerry Rinehart, Carlson's director of undergraduate studies, admits that recruiting students from outside the state or even the country has become an important way for Carlson to meet its diversity goals. Carlson doesn't want to have a homogenous environment, he says, but can't find enough "properly prepared" minorities. Even though the numbers of minority students on the whole might be increasing, the pool of local students of color and women who are properly prepared for the rigors of academic life at Carlson is still small, Rinehart says. Having an international component in a student body, he says, allows the school to have a diverse group and still have high academic-preparation standards for its programs.

Currently, about 20 percent of enrolled students at Carlson are international students, according to Recruiting Coordinator Ruth Pechauer, and about half of the applications the business school receives are from international students. "The focus now is more on getting a higher quality of applicants from abroad," she says. "We are looking to expand into different areas and get countries and people who wouldn't usually come to a cold-weather climate."

Nonetheless, Carlson goes to great lengths to entice those foreign applicants to come here for their education. Pechauer regularly represents Carlson at international recruiting forums, which bring recruiters from U.S. business schools to international locations to talk with prospective students, and are sponsored by the Graduate Management Admissions Council. Traditionally, Carlson has attended a European forum, which included prospective students from countries like France and Germany, and an Asian forum, which has met at cities such as Tokyo and Hong Kong and maybe next year Singapore.

"The European forums are not as productive as the Asian forums, where it's popular to send students to the United States," she says. This year, Pechauer attended a recruiting forum in Latin America attended by business-school hopefuls from such countries as Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, and Brazil.

In contrast, Pechauer concedes that there really isn't an ad budget for local recruitment. The school's local advertising is conducted largely through a direct marketing campaign targeted at students who took the Graduate Management Admissions Test. Carlson also maintains an alumni network, so that students thinking about the school can consult an experienced person, she says. "Many of our local students are mainly interested in part-time and evening offerings," Pechauer says.

But that's no excuse, says Jenson. "The Carlson School should look in their backyard and learn how to recruit a diverse student body from within Minnesota." Other critics note that Carlson might find more minorities interested in pursuing full-time or day classes if they didn't have to work. And if preparedness is an issue, what better place to solve it than at a university?

Wayne State University in Detroit accepts students who need academic polishing and commits to helping them compete in its rigorous programs. With more than 7,000 students of color, Wayne has one of the largest minority student-body populations of any school other than traditional black academies such as Howard University. Bill Markus, the school's vice president for student affairs, says that's not only due to the institution's location in a majority-minority urban city, but also due to its strong tradition of minority recruiting and retention.

In comparison with the rest of the UM, it wouldn't seem like the business school has a problem with diversity. Rusty Barcello, the UM's associate vice president for multicultural affairs, says that 13.1 percent of the business school's students are members of a minority group, compared with 13 percent of the UM as a whole and 14 percent of the College of Liberal Arts, the institution's largest college. "On the whole, the Carlson School of Management is doing a remarkable job," Barcello says. "They have an excellent support and retention program."

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