Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Beating the Diversity Drum

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Beating the Diversity Drum

Article excerpt

Corporate executive and former Princeton University trustee Mellody Hobson is an example of someone having their feet planted in two worlds. She is president of Ariel Capital Management LLC, a mutual fund company that specializes in small- to medium-size companies and manages nearly $17 billion in assets. Hobson just completed her four-year term as a trustee. A 1991 Princeton alumna, she is a regular financial contributor to ABCs "Good Morning America" and "World News Tonight." Hobson speaks with Diverse about her role as a university trustee and how she tried to get the Ivy League institution to rethink some of the ways it has traditionally done business.

DI: What led up to you being on the board?

MH: Princeton approached me; you don't lobby for these things.

DI: Why did you agree to sit on the board?

MH: I loved the school, and I felt an obligation to give back.

DI: What did you learn as a university trustee?

MH: These major universities are gigantic businesses. The only difference is they have more constituents than the average business; they have students, faculty and parents. In many situations, they're doing federal research, so they have government involved.

DI: What does your business expertise bring to the table?

MH: I was on the finance committee, and we did budgeting for the university and managed the endowment. I brought the basic dollars and cents to the university. I was on the university resource committee, because I raise money for a living.

DI: In what ways are universities out of touch with the business world, and how could they do a better job?

MH: They're absolutely in touch with the reality of the work place, so I nudged them on issues related to diversity in terms of inclusion of minority firms in doing business with the university. Until recently, no minority professional services firms did business with the large universities, from public relations to money managers to lawyers and accounting. …

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