Lately I have been more involved with cross culture related events at SOM. It exposed me to a different side of school we were often unaware of, or chose to ignore. A broader, related topic is diversity and inclusion in business school. I gradually realized how many people got segregated because of varies personal characteristics or choices.
1. International students, who make up about a third of our school, are sometimes invisible.
Just imagine moving from one country to another, by yourself, or with your significant other, how difficult is it? On top of that, you have a hectic schedule in school, taught in a language you know well, but not necessarily native in. On top of that, you have to immerse into career tracks, recruitment in a different business culture. After all this, you come back to school, go to a social event to relax and get to know your classmates, finding yourself not knowing many people at all.
I chatted with a few classmates about cross culture integration at school. They felt it was almost all concentrated on a superficial level – food, old cases from 1980s, the term “global network”. Things that have real value – regionally focused business forum, deep discussions about international news, actual ground focused learning, were not emphasized. Sadly, the best avenue for cross cultural learning – international experience learning program, will become non mandatory and shrinking next year.
My personal opinion has two fold: on one hand, American students don’t necessarily all interested in learning from international students. If they see themselves working only in the U.S., what’s the point of getting to know people from elsewhere. On top of that is a popularity contest that goes on and on even among domestic students. It’s difficult to consider “outsiders” when you are not even a solid “insider”. On the other hand, it is easy for an international student to give up. At the beginning of the school year, many international students have expressed interest in working in the US for a short period of time before moving back to their home countries. After going through the crustal recruitment process and getting turned away by classmates, many of them decided to go back to their own countries right after graduation. Most international students defaulted back to their own crowd, people with the same background and speak the same language, and stop going to social events hosted by the “in crowd” all together.
2. People who come to school with their partner, children or have a significant other in a different city, are often not a part of the social scene.
I have gotten to know a few classmates with partners or children in school. I don’t get to see them often in social events, but when I do, I always end up having good conversations with them. Those people are very mature. Their issue is mostly time management. Some of their partners are highly involved, but some have their own careers and don’t have time to integrate into the business school circle. Had I not been in business school, I might not truly realize how much one’s life changes once they have a partner or children. (Exclude long distance relationship, which I was crowned the queen title once before lol) It’s hard for people to always show up at bars and dance floors, leaving their significant other or kids home. In a booze heavy business school environment, they have to make extra efforts to integrate.
3. People who do back stage work are often not recognized.
In professional environment, being an extrovert often pays dividends. In a business school, being an extrovert pays double dividend. However, I saw a lot of work in school being done by the introverts. They are on average more organized, thoughtful and willing to take on invisible tasks. Video editing, photographing, poster making, setting up for events, cleaning after events, sending out meeting invites, compiling club emails. A lot of this work is done by introverts in our school. They stay until 3 or 4 at night to hash out details, to plan for a conference. However, they are usually not the first ones people recognize or associate the events with.
Now I am aware of this backdrop of business school. I will do my best to conquer it. First, I would like to make an effort to connect with more domestic and international students, students with families and introverts. I am not sure if I would ever succeed, but like any other success or failure in my life, I won’t give up on this one!