From Business at Leeds 2022 | Full issue
Workplaces are going to change their practices around inclusivity—or they're not going to be able to recruit and retain the top talent coming out of business school.
Leave it to a college dropout to help a university rethink big ideas around diversity, equity and inclusion.
Mark Goldberg said he never felt cut out for school, “so I ended up getting a lot of non-academic experience in the U.S. Navy” during the Vietnam War.
Today, he said, a story like his—rising to become president of his own full-service real estate firm, Goldberg Properties, despite not having a degree—is increasingly unlikely. That doesn’t bring him any pride.
“As business gets more sophisticated, there are going to be fewer opportunities for people like me to get ahead,” said Goldberg, who sits on the board of advisors of Leeds’ CU Real Estate Center. “Higher education is a place where we can make an immediate and impactful change, to show people from underserved communities the possibilities a business career can create.”
In discussing the future of industry, business leaders and business schools alike understand that today’s students and young professionals—late millennials and early Generation Zers—envision a very different workplace for the future, owing to their attitudes around DEI and their belief that opportunity shouldn’t be limited based on ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status or sexual orientation.
“For businesses, our society and our country to succeed, we need to reflect what the makeup of the country is by including people who haven’t been brought into the realm of business,” Goldberg said. “And young people are ahead of the game—we’re just trying to get them to a place where they have access to these opportunities.”
To that end, Goldberg and his wife, Dit, have supported a scholarship program, Changing the Face of Real Estate, that invites students from underrepresented groups to CUREC and the real estate profession.
A hunger for increased inclusion
Scholarships were part of the equation for Albus Brooks (RelSt, PolSci’00), a scholar-athlete who played safety as a Buff. The former Denver city councilman also is a CUREC board member; coming to CU Boulder from Claremont, California, was “a culture shock,” he said.
“Being on the football team makes you a high-profile person, but if not for my athletic skills, I would not have been included or had the opportunities I did,” Brooks said. “That experience created in me a hunger for inclusive practices everywhere.”
It’s a perspective he’s brought to his work as a vice president at Milender White, where he tries to create opportunities for minorities to build wealth through real estate. He’s heartened when he sees the same determination in today’s students.
“Young people today, this is their revolution—they’re not going to do things the old way,” Brooks said. “They’re asking what companies are doing around ESG (environmental, social and governance), they’re asking why the racial makeup of a company doesn’t reflect the community it’s in—and they’re realizing that if they’re going to spend 40 to 60 hours a week doing something, they want it to matter.”
That’s a perspective Ruby Batalla sees as director of the Office of Diversity Affairs at Leeds—and as an alumna who attended CU Boulder at a time when most universities were playing catch-up on equity.
“I was lucky to be part of a precollege experience that introduced me to peers who I anchored myself to once I arrived on campus,” said Batalla (Span, Psych’05; MEdu’22). “To have seen those programs grow at Leeds, to see larger and larger cohorts in our EXCEL Scholars Program, is awesome.”
Those precollege programs introduce students not just to Leeds, but to one another, creating relationships that help future generations of students look for work. Batalla told the story of one recent graduate who left her job after less than a year.
“She said, ‘I’m the only woman, the only Latina, I don’t feel welcome in this environment,’” Batalla said. “Our grads have so many options, they can go anywhere—and if they don’t feel that they belong, they will.”
The reverse, though, is also true. Batalla said as more companies make efforts to build out diverse pipelines, interns and new hires are eager to share which companies are authentic when it comes to inclusion. Isha Batra (Bus’25) completed an internship with Deloitte in July, and said she felt incredibly welcomed as a first-generation student on the company’s Dallas campus.
“It’s such a huge company that I was not expecting it to be diverse,” said Batra, who plans to focus on finance and operations management while minoring in creative technology and design. “But the first event I went to had maybe the most diverse group of students I’ve ever seen in one place before. I looked around and it just felt like home—it was the start of a great internship experience.”
Gen Z ‘more open about their struggles’
Gen Z is also much more serious, and open, about mental health, said Matt Vogl, co-founder and executive director of the National Mental Health Innovation Center at CU Anschutz.
“This generation is more open about their struggles,” Vogl said. “That means they’re going to expect resources from their workplaces, which have a lot of catching up to do.”
Vogl’s center—which addresses challenges facing mental healthcare, including access to services and eliminating stigma—was designed to be more responsive to innovations from industry, to help breakthroughs get to market more quickly. It’s why he engaged teams of Leeds undergrads in a case competition to help solve specific workplace problems around mental health.
“The students’ enthusiasm sent a pretty powerful message about how important mental health is to this generation, and how vocal they’re going to be about it,” Vogl said.
A big surprise, he said, was their appetite for tech-based solutions to these challenges. This tracks with his own interactions with industry, which is keen on mobile apps and virtual reality to improve patient care. That’s important, Vogl said, to help reduce demand for overworked therapists.
Equally important was the students’ enthusiasm for changing the conversation around mental health.
“If I have a backache, I call out sick and say my back hurts. If I’m having a panic attack, I call out sick and say my back hurts,” Vogl said. “We haven’t made the workplace safe enough for that kind of honesty. But Gen Z is not going to put up with workplace attitudes like that—they’re going to go somewhere else, because what they want is to really work hard, but also to have balance.”
Gregory Hinton (Bus’77) could tell you plenty about safety. He called his own experience coming out as a gay man traumatic; as a student, he was bullied off campus, and wound up dropping out for a semester.
A lack of support
“That support system wasn’t there for me—there was no one who could help,” said Hinton, an author and historian who founded Out West, a national museum program series exploring the contributions of LGBTQ communities to Western American history. The series comes on the heels of a successful career as a novelist, film producer and business manager.
One of the things he most enjoys about Out West is the opportunity to connect with today’s students—especially in places like Wyoming, Idaho and Montana that, outside of college towns, have been less welcoming to the LGBTQ community.
“I’ve met so many wonderful younger people doing Out West—we are so much better off than we were in 2008, 2009, when I started doing this,” he said. “To meet with people who want to understand the history of our community and who consider our story to be important is heartening—and says quite a lot about the younger generation.”