Photos by Patrick Verel“You don’t want to check who you are when you walk through that door. You want to bring who you are into this space to make us all better.”
Such was the advice of Anthony Carter, FCRH ’76, former chief diversity officer at Johnson & Johnson, who made an impassioned case on Oct. 19 that the Gabelli School of Business is the best place for business students looking for a diverse and open environment.
Cura Personalis is in our DNA
His lunchtime speech, to prospective and current MBA students at the Lincoln Center campus, was part of the college’s second annual Diversity and Inclusion Summit. Mixing in personal anecdotes about his 40 years in business, as well as his time as an undergraduate at Rose Hill, Carter made an explicit connection between Fordham’s commitment to cura personalis and the importance of fostering a space where people of all genders, races, and sexual orientation can thrive.
This is particularly true given the current political climate, where homophobia, racism, gender inequity, and disregard for veterans and people with disabilities are very much real, he said.
This makes it very easy to focus on all the things that are wrong today, he said, but what we’re not quick to embrace is “the reality of what’s right about us.”
Being able to bring your whole authentic self to institutions is liberating, he said, and indeed, it’s at the heart of all pedagogy.
It’s also important when striving to better understand others, he said. As an example, he asked audience members what their first impression might be of a black man in the subway wearing a suit. Answers included “going to work,” “businessman,” “job interview,” and “banker.”
Carter noted that other people might peg him with more nefarious plans, like “scammer.” And they’re able to make this sort of assumption, he said, because they haven’t learned that man’s story.
“Your story is the reflection of your diversity, and I’m not talking about what you look like. The diversity of background, religion, geography, sexual orientation; you name it, I don’t know that by looking at you,” he said.
“But I know we represent the gorgeous mosaic of untold stories, and in these untold stories, we have the opportunity to really penetrate our souls. Our stories are also relevant to how business grows, because if you’re real marketers, you’re studying your customer base, and your customer base is diverse.”
A Place Where All Feel Welcome
Bliss Griffin, a second year MBA student; the inaugural fellow for diversity, equity, and inclusion; and president of the black and Hispanic MBA association at Gabelli, also addressed the students. After 10 years of acting, she said, she was attracted to business school. She didn’t feel like she fit in with “a lot of blue suits” at other schools, but the Gabelli School’s subway ads that touted the slogan “Privilege with Purpose” spoke to her.
And indeed, she said that once she enrolled, professors such as Sertan Kabadayi, Ph.D., professor of marketing, and Ben Cole, Ph.D., holder of the William J. Loschert Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship, have encouraged her to speak up. Griffin said Gabelli School Dean Donna Rapaccioli was likewise receptive when she approached her with a concern related to diversity and inclusion.
“I thought ‘You’re not going to fit in, this is a nuisance, people don’t want to hear this.’ And what she said was, ‘Can you come into my office? We’re doing this. We have these outside consultants who are helping us. Can you help us out on this?’”
“All of the things that I identify as dimensions of diversity in which I am a minority in this space are the reasons people were looking for me, and seeking my advice and my input,” she said.
“Give this institution an opportunity to rise to the occasion for you in the way that it absolutely rose for me, because those things about you that make you nervous are your value, and we want it in the room with you. We want to learn and grow from the insight that you have from being a minority in this space.”