Four members of the Michigan Ross DEI team

Michigan Ross Office of DEI Challenges Inequity and Supports Faculty, Staff, and Students

The Michigan Ross Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is a small but mighty team. The team is led by Carolyn Yoon, associate dean, and Thomas Bell, director of DEI, and consists of three full-time and two part-time team members. The team works to uphold the three pillars of the DEI 2.0 Strategic Plan: cultivating authentic belongingness, promoting excellence in DEI scholarship and education, and increasing representation of historically minoritized faculty, staff, and students. 

DEI initiatives for faculty, staff, and students

On a daily basis, the DEI Office collaborates with units across Michigan Ross to develop curricular content, host informative and engaging events, contribute to alumni donor strategies, provide training for faculty and staff, and mediate interpersonal issues by finding restorative pathways for healing. The team is always looking to improve DEI strategies, bring people together to promote inclusion and belonging, and find ways to discuss difficult topics. 

“At the core of our work is centering humanity — getting people to embrace humanity and see differences and address inequity,” said Bell. “What is a better way to build a better world through business than by challenging inequity in a healthy way?”

One of the ways that the DEI Office has opened the door to conversation about DEI is through a number of events and activities. That includes the annual DEI awards, Ross Annual MLK Event, and Community Conversations, which serve as a forum for faculty, staff, and students to discuss issues of inequity, especially as they relate to current events.

A new event that the DEI Office is launching is the Equitable Opportunity Collaborative Conference, which will take place on June 6-7. The conference will be an inaugural event, inviting scholars to present their research focused on equity in organizations.

“This conference represents a significant step towards achieving our strategic objective of promoting excellence in DEI scholarship. It aims to build and support a dynamic community of scholars and practitioners deeply committed to conducting theoretically and empirically rigorous research focused on equity,” said Yoon. “Our goal is to position Ross as a thought leader in equity-focused research, dedicated to addressing disparities and barriers faced by specific individuals and communities. Through these efforts, we aspire to inform practice and policy that foster a business environment offering more equitable access to resources and opportunities.”

Demystifying DEI

According to Bell, there are many challenges when working in the DEI space. Because there are so many injustices occurring in society, it is difficult for the office to push against those injustices equally. Additionally, when issues are brought up, it can be hard to bring people to the table because defenses are up, and there isn’t always a clear solution. 

“There is a lot of misunderstanding about what we do and why we do our work the way we do it,” said Bell. “I want to find ways to demystify our work and provide an understanding for people that what we’re trying to accomplish has a benefit for all but is really aimed at addressing inequities that persist in society.”

For that reason, Bell and his team are working on an annual report to benchmark the school’s DEI progress and show where there has been improvement. He hopes that the report will help faculty, staff, and students better understand how the DEI Office works and why their work is important.

“I think the thing that I would like our colleagues and peers to know is that we’re here for them and that our vision is in line with the school’s vision to improve the work climate, build a better world through business, and be leaders,” said Bell. “Let’s have honest conversations to challenge the practices, policies, and systems that prevent equitable treatment and opportunities.”

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