AACSB’s Innovations That Inspire Initiative Honors UD’s Lerner Diversity Council | Lerner
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University of Delaware - Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics

By Jen Hendrickson April 12, 2022

AACSB International (AACSB)—the world’s largest business education alliance—recently announced the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics among 24 business schools highlighted in its Innovations That Inspire member spotlight program.

This annual program recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in the business education landscape. In 2022, the highlights feature efforts to elevate diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB). Emphasis on DEIB is a key feature of AACSB’s 2020 business accreditation standards and the focus of a recently released positioning paper. The paper illustrates AACSB’s commitment to equitable access to high-quality business education globally and calls on the business education community to embed the tenets of DEIB into its strategies and cultures.

The Lerner College is recognized for the Lerner Diversity Council (LDC). The LDC is a student-staff-faculty-alumni group guiding the College’s equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. It advocates for a culture that celebrates the shared and unique attributes of all members of the Lerner community. This is achieved through various activities on equity, diversity and inclusion topics and opportunities.

“Progress toward more welcoming, inclusive spaces requires action, and UD’s Lerner College’s Lerner Diversity Council demonstrates leadership in this important effort,” said Caryn Beck-Dudley, AACSB president and CEO. “Through collaborations—among business schools, businesses, and communities—we will create a strong global society and equip leaders for positive impact.”

“The LDC ensures that the Lerner College and everything that happens in it reflects our values and instills a sense of belonging,” Lerner College Dean Bruce Weber said. “Cultivating diversity and building an inclusive community are key elements of the Lerner mission statement.”

In 2016, the University of Delaware launched a university-wide initiative to address issues and concerns related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Chief diversity advocates were appointed in each of UD’s seven colleges, and it was under the direction of the college dean and chief diversity advocate to establish a program within each college.

That same year, the Lerner College formed the Lerner Diversity Council comprised of students, faculty, alumni and staff representatives and appointed Jennifer Joe, the Whitney Family Professor of Accounting, as its chief diversity advocate. Joe, who is also the Cohen Family Lerner Director of Diversity, oversees the LDC. The LDC selected three core principles from UD’s Diversity Action Plan to focus within Lerner. 

“UD’s educational mission is to offer learning experiences that prepare our students to live in an increasingly diverse and global world,” Joe said. “Inclusiveness and diversity among our students, faculty, and staff are central to that mission. The LDC provides the Lerner community the opportunity to understand and appreciate both the shared and unique background and talents of its community.”

In response to the events of 2020, including the race-related riots and protests, the LDC stepped up and spearheaded listening sessions within the Lerner College, speaking with undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni to get to the heart of where the College has fallen short in supporting underrepresented minority communities and work to make long-lasting improvements.

Under Joe’s leadership, the LDC has been guided by the Lerner Diversity Platform that focuses on building community and college climate, transforming curricular and cocurricular activities and strengthening outreach and engagement. The LDC established subcommittees to develop goals and objectives, action plans and metrics to monitor progress on each of the core principles. The council includes faculty, staff, alumni and graduate and undergraduate students. The LDC receives funding from KPMG, its founding corporate sponsor.

Here are some examples of the LDC’s impact since its founding:

  • The LDC Lunch and Learn events and other listening forums—three events per semester where faculty, students and staff discuss issues related to equity, race, inclusion and representation. Companies that actively recruit Lerner College students, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, have sponsored these events.
  • UDREAM (“U” Develop Resources for Excellence in Academic Management) provides academic support services to Lerner undergraduate students through the Academic Coaching Program and Peer Mentoring program.
  •  The LDC provides support to student-run organizations that support diversity initiatives in various fields of business.
  •  Hiring committees for faculty, staff and administrative searches are committed to advancing diversity and inclusion and are tasked with identifying and attracting a diverse pool of candidates.
  • Through the PhD Project, Lerner supports underrepresented minorities (URMs) pursuing PhDs in business disciplines.
  •  Lerner Career Services supports URM pairings in the Lerner Executive Mentoring Program to help students learn from professionals facing similar challenges and opportunities.
  • Business Discovery Camp inspires high school students from URM populations and first-generation college student households to learn about business.