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Diversity Game-Changer: The Consortium

The Consortium

 “There is nothing like The Consortium in American business.”

– Robert Bruner, Dean, University of Virginia Darden School of Business

In the quiet St. Louis neighborhood of DeBaliviere Place is a higher-education nonprofit that is changing the face of corporate America – literally and figuratively. It is The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, the country’s leading advocate for diversity and inclusion in American business education and practice.

Founded a year before the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Consortium was the brainchild of Washington University (St. Louis) business school professor Sterling H. Schoen (1918-1999). Schoen (shane), a white professor, was looking for a way to help his African-American business graduates push through the roadblocks thwarting their advancement in American business.

From an inaugural class of 21 students enrolled in three MBA programs The Consortium has grown to include 17 business schools (Yale, Cornell, Dartmouth, UVA, NYU …) and 80 Fortune 100 and 500 corporate partners (3M, Microsoft, American Express, P&G, Goldman Sachs …).  Together they have awarded over $230 million in full-tuition, merit-based scholarships and welcomed more than 6,000 Hispanic-American, African-American, Native-American and other MBA candidates with outstanding academic records and a proven commitment to diversity. This spring The Consortium broke all its records, receiving more than 1,000 MBA applications, admitting 340 students and awarding $23 million in full-tuition, merit-based scholarships.

“There is nothing like The Consortium in American business,” says Robert Bruner, dean of the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. “As a partner since 1992, Darden has been able to recruit much more qualified overall classes than we could before we joined forces with The Consortium.”

“We support The Consortium because we really believe in their mission,” says Tim Curoe, Target’s vice president for talent acquisition and human resources operations.  “One of Target’s core values is having an inclusive culture.”  Target, a top-level ($50,000 and up) corporate partner of The Consortium, was lead sponsor of the organization’s 2011 annual conference.

For Peter Aranda, CEO of The Consortium and a 1987 alumnus, diversity is not a minority problem; it’s an American opportunity – one which corporate America ignores at its peril.  Aranda, 51, knows what he’s talking about. A minority three times over (Mexican, Native American and Jewish) he propelled himself from an impoverished childhood in Southern California to the executive suites of entertainment industry behemoths BMG and MCA, where he always found himself the only person of color in the room. If U.S. companies want to survive in the new global marketplace, he says, they must recruit and train leaders whose backgrounds and perspectives give them an edge when it comes to understanding diverse consumer groups. 

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