Chris Meehleib gained a key understanding of inclusion from the EMBA Program at the University of Colorado Boulder Leeds School of Business.
“Since starting my EMBA, I have learned that being ‘inclusive’ is more than just ensuring that my teams are adequately represented,” says first-year student Meehleib. “It’s also about making sure that every member of my team feels that their voices are heard, and their views are appreciated. This in turn has helped me establish a stronger sense of trust with the teams that I lead, both stateside and abroad.”
Leeds designed its EMBA Program on three intertwined pillars that it considers critical for successful leaders – inclusion, innovation, and leadership, says Lori Seward, faculty director, Leeds MBA Programs, and teaching professor, strategy, entrepreneurship, and operations management.
“Successfully leading a diverse workforce will foster innovative ideas that provide limitless opportunities for business,” says Seward. “Because most EMBA students are working professionals, programs have a unique opportunity to create space for students to discuss their real-world experiences with DEI in the workplace, both successes and challenges.”
To that end in 2021, the Leeds EMBA introduced its Inclusive Leadership course, designed specifically for EMBA students. “Inclusivity resonates with today’s leaders,” says Seward. “Leeds has expertise in this area, and we saw this was missing from many EMBA Programs. Today’s successful leaders must integrate DEI into their practices just as they must have knowledge in traditional business disciplines.”
The course focuses on helping students grow into authentic and inclusive leaders by exploring unconscious biases around racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.
“We can only truly lead authentically when we reflect on what drives our decision-making,” she says. The course helps students understand their biases, then work to consciously consider their impact on decisions and on their stakeholders.
Students have responded with overwhelming support for the course, and they want more.
As a result, the program is building in more programming for students throughout their EMBA journey.
“The two key aspects of the course that resonate most with students are time for deep participation and discussion during our team-led case studies during residency week and the interviews, both recorded and in person, with industry leaders on their own experiences,” says Stacey Edgar, course instructor and assistant teaching professor, social responsibility and sustainability.
EMBA Programs also must strive to enroll a diverse student body, says Seward.
Leeds has implemented several recruitment initiatives to increase the pipeline of diverse students, launching targeted LinkedIn ads, sending postcards to diverse undergraduates, including corporate partners with deep DEI efforts into graduate program information sessions, securing scholarships for first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students, and hosting the inaugural Transforming Business: Connecting Diverse Scholars Day. The school is also building on the success of its Office of Diversity Affairs in recruiting undergraduate diversity by looking to create a Graduate Diverse Scholars Program.
As graduate programs for business leaders, EMBA Programs are in a strong position to support inclusion beyond the classroom.
“Too often in the workplace DEI is a one-time mandatory training instead of a way of working,” says Seward. “EMBA Programs can encourage deep, culture-shaping work towards combatting unconscious and affinity biases by including a required inclusive leadership course in their curriculums – giving students the time to explore the topic deeply, practice problem solving through case studies, share experiences, and build practical tools for leading inclusive organizations.”