News Column

Campus-Company Transition

September 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Gregory D.L. Morris


With this issue, Hispanic Business debuts two reviews of top graduate schools, adding medicine and engineering schools to the previous directories of business and law schools. This reflects the reality that Hispanic graduate students have expanded their presence on campus and eventually in the leadership of Corporate America (see Top 40 Companies for Hispanics in this issue). Interviews with academics confirm that affirmative action in higher education has worked parallel to corporate diversity programs to create opportunities for today's Hispanic professional.

The campus-corporate connection clearly functions for the University of Texas at Austin, which ranks number 2 in law, number 3 in business, and number 7 in engineering on the Hispanic Business Best Schools for Hispanics directories. Corporations such as Frito-Lay, SBC, and Deloitte Consulting recruit heavily from UT Austin's McCombs School of Business, while the engineering school can point to alumni like Hector Ruiz, CEO of chip-maker AMD. "McCombs provides a world-class business education that is highly relevant to both U.S. and international Hispanics, regardless of professional goals," says Jesus Barron, an MBA student originally from El Paso.

Provost John Etchemendy of Stanford University, the number 1 business and medical school as well as number 3 for law, explains the specifics that make his school friendly for Hispanics. About two thirds of all graduate students live on campus, an unusually high percentage. "That makes the Hispanic [student] population effectively larger because they are not isolated within their different schools," he says. A focus on public interest in the law school attracts minority students.

In the business school, the curriculum matches the eventual career goals of many Hispanics beyond a corporate career. "Our school is extremely well-known for training entrepreneurs. A large number of our students come with hopes of starting their own business or working in venture capital," says Mr. Etchemendy. Also, small classes help. "Harvard Business School has something like four times the number of students," he notes.

For many institutions on the Best Schools for Hispanics directories, geography plays a strong role in recruitment as well as placement in the work force after graduation. "We are the only flagship state institution that is serving a Hispanic population and also is a major research institution," says Louis Caldera, president of the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, the number 3 school in medicine and number 10 on the business directory. "Even at the business school there is a particular emphasis on the management of technology. We have a program in science, engineering, and business that will guide graduates on how to do a start-up properly." More than 40 percent of small businesses in New Mexico are Hispanic-owned.

Following Interstate 25 south from Albuquerque leads to the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), the number 1 school on the engineering directory. "Our location is a significant opportunity," says Barry Benedict, dean. "Our student body as a whole is 80 percent Hispanic, and 10 percent of our students are Mexican nationals who commute over the border every day. We are in the right place to have a biracial, bicultural, bilingual program. Many of our students are going back to practice or even teach in Latin America, and their ability to speak technologically in Spanish is essential."

"Location, location, location," emphasizes Paul Sugrue, dean of the business school at the University of Miami, number 5 on the directory. "The Cuban Revolution changed Miami forever because it was mostly the educated class that left, and brought that tradition of education and hard work. But we also draw from all over South America. People are very comfortable here. We have a very strong Brazilian community, and we are even drawing students from Spain."

Miami Law (number 1 on the directory) enjoys the same advantages. "We have adjuncts coming in from Argentina, Brazil, all over, who are practicing transnational litigation," says Dennis Lynch, dean. "But even beyond that, because of the population of the region, students and faculty serving in the community will find foreign law and cross-cultural aspects in [local] family law."

The Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley (number 2 on the directory) supports an array of interscholastic organizations to increase diversity. "We work very closely with the National Society of Hispanic MBAs [NSHMBA] and also with Management Leadership for Tomorrow [ML4T] that provides a year-long, pre-MBA program for underrepresented minorities," says Jett Pihakis, director of domestic admissions and chair of the school's diversity committee. "We are also involved with the Reardon Fellows program at UCLA that helps students based on socioeconomic class, and we have our own diversity workshop." In October, the school has planned a conference on "diversity as a strategic priority in business."

While schools in Texas, Florida, New Mexico, and California enjoy a natural competitive advantage in Hispanic enrollment, this year's Best Schools for Hispanics directories feature a number of institutions from states not traditionally Hispanic in culture or population. They include schools from Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, the Carolinas, and New England.

The Yale School of Management ranks number 4 among business schools, and has been among the top MBA programs for the past three years. The Connecticut-based school has taken a lead in organizing academics to address diversity. "We are one of 15 schools in the Toigo Foundation that offers scholarships to underrepresented minorities seeking an MBA in finance," says Anne Coyle, director of admissions. "We are also one of 23 schools in ML4T. That is a 16-month program for Hispanic and Black college grads who are already working and hope to get an MBA. In September we are gathering at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, to conduct mock interviews. Yale and Cornell, along with New York University and the University of Southern California, are founders of the MBA Diversity Alliance."

Ms. Coyle says Yale is particularly attractive to socially conscious Hispanic students because "we have always been strong at the intersection of public, private, and nonprofit management. People whose interest is not only in the profit motive are not the outsiders."

Michigan State University, number 5 on the engineering directory, makes an effort to welcome minority students with a formal program underwritten in part by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. "We help the students with housing, jobs for spouses, everything," says Barb O'Kelly, coordinator. "The faculty and current students are very supportive, and we are in touch all summer. That helps students through the first critical stages of grad school." Percy Pierre, professor of electrical and computer engineering, adds that "we have a variety of ways to place students, including relationships with companies like Intel. We also have students at Sandia [National Laboratory] and Lincoln Labs. All of that is for internships and job placement."

When geography works against a student, a number of the Best Schools for Hispanics have adapted by offering weekend or distance learning programs. UTEP has a successful Saturday program that appeals to professionals on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Farther afield, the school is developing a distance-learning program to extend its reach deeper into Latin America.

Five years ago Miami began a program for Latin American executives with instruction in Spanish. The class runs in five two-week sessions over the course of a year. "You couldn't do that in New York or Chicago," says Mr. Sugrue. "Most people can get on a plane [in Miami] and be home in a few hours."

Another name-brand program is the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, number 6 on the business school directory. The Global Executive MBA program celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. "Students start with three weeks here on campus, then they go back to their jobs," says Douglas T. Breeden, dean. "Next they spend a week in Europe, this time Frankfurt and Prague, then back to their jobs; then a week in Asia, another two cities, then back to work; then a week in Latin America we have been to Buenos Aires; Santiago, Chile; and Sao Paolo then back to work; and finally another three weeks on campus."

When the program started, Fuqua had 280 international alumni; today it has more than 1,000, and Mr. Breeden says the Hispanic executives represent a larger presence, reflecting the increasing presence of Hispanics in global trade. "We also have a strong team approach," he adds, "and many of our Latin students are drawn to the cooperative approach more than the individual focus in some other programs. That team approach also extends to our social side, with support for families." Like UTEP, Fuqua boasts some powerful alumni: President Ricardo Lagos Escobar of Chile holds a doctorate in economics from Duke.

While many public and private colleges have affirmative action programs, many of the Best Schools on the Hispanic Business directories have special programs that focus exclusively on graduate education. "Over the last 10 years we have had a program to prepare lower-income, first-generation students for graduate school," says Maria Teresa Velez, associate dean of the graduate college at the University of Arizona (U of A), which ranks number 4 in law and number 7 in medicine. "That is a sustained effort over 10 years for graduate school and 20 years for undergraduate. We have that long-term commitment because we believe that diversity is essential to excellence."

Underrepresented minorities made up 8.7 percent of graduate enrollment in 1987 and 19 percent in 2004 at the U of A, according to Ms. Velez. The next step involves the financial side, where a network of successful Hispanic alumni can help. U of A has a particular focus on international law and global trade, an angle that "is very effective in raising funds for scholarships. We have raised more than $12 million to help prepare students for graduate school," Ms. Velez says.

Another factor helping to increase Hispanic graduate enrollment is the validation of diversity by Supreme Court decisions in 2003. In two cases at the University of Michigan, the court struck down the undergraduate numerical affirmative action program but upheld the law school's methodology. In doing so, the court affirmed a compelling public interest for diversity in education.

No institution on this year's Best Schools directories reports making significant changes to its admissions process as a result of the Michigan cases. "The decision did not change what we do," says Mr. Etchemendy at Stanford. "It affirmed that the way we were doing admissions was perfectly legal."


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