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Virginia Tech News / Articles / 2007 / 08 

Pamplin College establishes business diversity center and undergraduate program

August 27, 2007

To better prepare students for a diverse and multicultural workplace, Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business has established a center and undergraduate studies program focusing on business diversity.

The Business Diversity Center, directed by associate professor of management Mary Connerley, will focus on teaching and research on diversity issues. It will coordinate the business diversity minor, an 18-credit program for juniors and seniors that will be launched in fall 2008.

“Our objectives are to develop our students’ readiness and ability to take a leadership role in managing diversity and multiculturalism in their careers,” said Connerley.

“The minor aims to help students develop a vocabulary and ideas around issues of gender, race, age, and cultural difference within a corporate context,” she said. “It would promote awareness of cultural values, attitudes, and beliefs—their own and others’—and an understanding of how these influence behavior and interactions in the workplace.”

The program would explore the organizational challenges and opportunities created by the increased diversity and multiculturalism of the U. S. workforce and identify organizational factors that promote or hinder workplace diversity. The minor will be restricted to eligible business majors initially, Connerley said, but, with additional resources, it could be opened up to non-business students. The program has an enrollment goal of 40-45 students each year.

The program will offer three new courses that examine the theoretical, ethical, and legal issues in diversity as well as two existing courses that would be revamped to emphasize skills building and to expand discussion of diversity issues in marketing and the hospitality and tourism industry. A third redefined course will require field studies, internships, or experiences in diverse and/or multicultural organizations.

Connerley, a four-time winner of the GM Sullivan awards that seek to promote equitable treatment for all and principles of corporate social responsibility developed by the late Reverend Leon H. Sullivan, specializes in diversity, cross-cultural and expatriate issues, and various aspects of the staffing process. Selected as a Multicultural Fellow at Virginia Tech, she co-chairs the college’s Diversity Committee. She has facilitated and participated in diversity training and co-authored a book, Leadership in a Diverse and Multicultural Environment.

Virginia Tech’s nationally ranked Pamplin College of Business offers undergraduate and graduate programs in accounting and information systems, business information technology, economics, finance, hospitality and tourism management, management, and marketing. The college emphasizes the development of ethical values and leadership, technology, and international business skills. A member of its marketing faculty directs the interdisciplinary Sloan Foundation Forest Industries Center at Virginia Tech. The college’s other centers focus on business leadership, business diversity, electronic commerce, organizational performance, and services innovation. The college is committed to serving business and society through the expertise of its faculty, alumni, and students. It is named in honor of alumnus Robert B. Pamplin, the former CEO of Georgia-Pacific, and businessman, philanthropist, and alumnus Robert B. Pamplin Jr.