With strong motivation to move toward a more inclusive college environment, the FIU Business Dean’s Student Advisory Board brought together students and faculty for its second “Conversation on Race and Equity” in September.
Both students and faculty spoke of the importance of having role models they can relate to, as well as direct contact with mentors who provide support and encouragement along the journey. The crucial importance of hard work, and refusing to internalize artificial barriers set by society, were also themes of the discussion.
Importance of hard work and stepping up.
Speaking on the panel, Fred Walumbwa, a professor of international business, noted the strong support of the initiative by FIU Business Dean Joanne Li and urged students to step forward with their concerns.
“We have support from leadership. Let’s take advantage of that. if we keep providing actionable plans…we will come up with solutions to make our college better.”
Sheryl Weir-Thompson, assistant teaching professor of marketing and logistics, reflected on how important it was to have the personal will to overcome arbitrary barriers to success, and how motivating it was, as an African-American woman, to look up to a successful role model.
From discomfort to community.
When she first walked into an FIU Business classroom, accounting major Sarah Noel felt “that immediate feeling of being uncomfortable. They are not facing the same challenges that I am.” Yet when she came to NABA FIU, the college chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, “I was surrounded by people who look like me, who are driven and passionate about business, just like me,” and now serves as chief financial officer of the organization.
She noted that school teaches about differences and histories of different races and backgrounds, but not “how to actually acknowledge these differences, and how to go about understanding them and applying them to our day-to-day lives.” She seeks solutions that bridge the gap “between the concepts being learned and how to actually apply them.”
A move toward mentoring and conversation.
Thalia Paulete, a finance major who leads the Financial Management Association, a co-curricular organization, found it difficult to find women students or mentors in the finance field. She found a mentor at Startup FIU, which helped her feel more connected to the university community.
A system for mentorship and confidence building should extend to faculty members as well, Walumbwa said. “We have to have a pipeline, to take the bull by the horns, and put women and minorities in positions where they are visible when we are talking about succession planning.”
The full video of Conversation on Race and Equity: Part Two can be accessed here.