“Diversity is a strength in our MBA program,” said Colleen McMullen, executive director of diversity initiatives at the Tepper School, “and it is through events like diversity weekend that we are able to highlight the benefit diversity has for our students and our school community.”
Diversity Weekend, an annual event sponsored by the Tepper School’s masters admissions team, brought together current MBA students, prospective students, alumni and faculty for three days of talks, tours and social occasions.
A quick glance at the weekend agenda confirms that diversity at Tepper does not just apply to gender or ethnicity, but also to the varied and valuable personal and professional experience every student brings to a program that sends graduates into the workforce with a skill set designed to last through all stages of their careers.
Diversity Weekend has its roots in a student-led effort called “Challenge Weekend,” which began in 1995 and focused mostly on the ethnic diversity of the Tepper population. Over the years, Challenge Weekend transformed into Connections Weekend, and three years ago Diversity Weekend was born as a collaborative prospective MBA event targeting under-represented populations, women and members of the LGBT community. Spearheaded by the enthusiastic Admissions staff, the event is hosted by Tepper Women in Business, the Black Business Association, the Latin American Business Club, and the Out&Allied Club, and is made possible with the help of the Tepper School’s corporate partnerships with Alcoa, Union Pacific, and the GM Foundation.
“I’m seeing diversity in all aspects – age, race, culture, areas of interest,” said an attendee from Indiana after chatting with current Tepper students at the welcome lunch on Friday afternoon. “It’s obvious they really care about diversity within the community here.”
The attendee experience of Diversity Weekend 2012 was diverse within itself, featuring sessions on the application process, financing your education, an introduction to Tepper’s membership with The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, and—kicking off the weekend—a panel featuring five Tepper alumni who shared their experiences and answered questions from the group.
Mary Boone (MBA ’06), director of product management at Plextronics, shared that attending Diversity Weekend was her decision point when it came to choosing an MBA program. Others on the panel agreed that experiencing Tepper’s environment and culture firsthand significantly influenced their decision to apply.
“I had a great time here,” said George Jones (MBA ’11) who currently works as a sourcing manager for the Denali Group. “I just really enjoyed the community.”
Jones also fielded a question about the advantages of attending a small business school, citing the ample opportunities for leadership positions within student organizations and the ability to build strong, personal relationships with professors.
“It’s not the size of the school, it’s the quality of the education,” Jaime Juarez (MBA ’07) elaborated. Currently with Union Pacific, Juarez pointed out that entering the workforce with a smaller, more reliable network of contacts ensures that they will be much more likely to respond to you at various points in your career.
A common theme with both the panel members and attendees was the experience of reaching a point in one’s career where attaining a broader skill set is necessary in order to move forward on a particular path -- or to blaze a new one entirely. One attendee expressed his struggle with feeling as though he didn’t have the tools he needed to further his career. “I need to see things at 40,000 feet instead of 5,000 feet,” he said. An informal poll of the room determined that many of the attendees felt a similar frustration.
“Tepper can take you from being a ‘doer’ or manager to being someone who is shaping an organization,” said Boone.
“This program takes a lot out of you, but gives you so much in return,“ noted Joyce Mitole (MBA ’97), manager of human resources finance at Alcoa, whose husband enrolled in Tepper shortly after she graduated. Her fellow panel members agreed that the demanding curriculum requires sacrifice and readjustment for not just the enrollee, but for all members of his or her family. The close-knit Tepper community - along with organizations such as the Tepper Partners Club - comes to the rescue once again, providing a valuable and necessary support system for partners and spouses of full- or part-time students.
Addressing a query about how applicants with non-profit experience might fit into the program, Katrina Brown (MBA ’04 and product innovation manager at BodyMedia) pointed out that the diverse backgrounds of her fellow students - who included both erstwhile engineers and a former football coach - were one of the best parts of her Tepper experience.
“You learn so much just from that alone,” said Brown.
At the close of Diversity Weekend, prospective students begin to understand how content, community, and commitment come together to create a unique educational experience at Tepper, and why the combination of these elements can benefit them both as students and as alumni.
“It all comes down to community,” said McMullen. “The experience that our program offers will last with our graduates throughout their careers.”