Shattering stereotypes

College of Business to host diversity panel

Students will be challenged to rethink their perceptions of diversity and success at the third annual Conversation on Inclusion.

The panel, hosted by the College of Business Committee on Inclusion, is titled “The Glass Ceiling: Imaginary or not?” and will take place in the University Center ballrooms 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12.

The goal of the event is to give a real-life lesson on diversity and shatter “the glass ceiling,” the perception that women and minorities can only reach limited career success.

“Our contention when we started this was that I can stand in the front of a classroom, open up a textbook and say, ‘Now we’re going to talk about diversity today, go to chapter three,’ but that is not nearly as relevant to students as hearing the stories of people who have been there, and understanding that there is a world beyond your own as a student,” Ferris Assistant Professor of Management and Committee on Inclusion Member Catherine Browers said. “The stories are everything.”

Students will have the opportunity to interact with three successful businesswomen: Gentex Corporation Vice President of Chemistry Sue Franz, Plante Moran Forensic Accountant Michelle McHale-Adams and Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas.

The speakers will be available to meet with students in breakout sessions beginning at 3 p.m., followed by a social hour where students can get acquainted with one other.

Browers said the social hour has been appealing to students because it gives them an opportunity to talk to other students and professors.

“I think it’s important because we’re able to talk to someone one-on-one over something that we’re probably going to be passionate about just like how they are,” Ferris business administration and legal studies senior Aa-Lona Jackson said.

Following the social hour will be an informal panel discussion, where students can submit questions anonymously by writing them on index cards. Rather than the women preparing speeches, the discussion will be led entirely by questions.

“We thought a lot about this before we implemented. We hated the idea of having a formal panel of people sitting at the front. We didn’t want that,” Browers said.

Ferris applied speech communications senior Clare Green said the event is an interesting idea because students can learn from those who are already successful.

“I think for me, in particular, I’m still really trying to figure out what I want to do with my life,” Green said. “So just to see someone who has had aspirations and just been able to move so far forward in the field they’re in, I feel like it would be good to know what gave them the drive in the first place to be such a successful individual.”

The event is aimed at diversity, but even more so, Browers hopes students are challenged to look beyond their perceptions of the world.

“Yes, diversity is important, but I think, hopefully, students look beyond their own reality and see that they’re going to encounter a lot of different realities and all it does is make us richer. We’re just all richer for the journey,” Browers said.

Students can register for the free event online at the Ferris College of Business website or using the QR code on posters around campus. The dress code for the event is business casual, and students in attendance should come prepared with their resume and questions for the speakers. Space for the event is limited.

Students unable to attend can watch a recording of the panel, which will be posted to the College of Business website and on YouTube following the event.