Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Program Aims to Highlight Black Business Owners in MBA Courses

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Program Aims to Highlight Black Business Owners in MBA Courses

Article excerpt


Professor Chester Baker has seen it time and again in his management class: A case study comes up for discussion and his Black students tune out.

The reason? Baker, of Huston-Tillotson University in Texas, says it is partly because case studies almost always focus on White entrepreneurs - who live in a different business world from Black business owners.

"Practically all the cases we have are for White-owned businesses," he says.

That could soon change, at least a bit.

Baker was one of several instructors at schools with large minority populations who gathered recently at Babson College, outside Boston, as part of a Ford Motor Co.-funded project to develop more case studies on Black-owned businesses. They hope to create a dozen or so that could be worked into curriculums around the country as early as this fall.

case studies form the backbone of the curriculum for hundreds of thousands of students in undergraduate business and master's level business administration programs. Students work through dozens of these short summaries of real-life dilemmas to simulate business decision-making.

But some teachers say very few capture the complexities of race in business.

Stephen Spinelli, Babson's vice provost for entrepreneurship, dates the project to a talk he gave to management school deans of historically Black colleges. He was urging them to make better use of the case teaching method when an audience member asked how many cases featured Black entrepreneurs.

"Doing some quick homework, it was about 2 percent," Spinelli says. "1 said, 'We know entrepreneurship and we know how to write cases. You know the African-American community. Why don't we bring a group together?'"

In the catalog of Harvard Business School Publishing, which sells 80 percent of the cases used by business schools, just 2.8 percent of the 6,000 available cases feature Black business-related issues. Of those, a few focus on minority-owned businesses and career experiences, but others focus on managerial topics like overseeing a diverse team of workers, marketing to minorities and handling discrimination complaints.

The professors working with Babson say they have not found much that is relevant to the typical Black entrepreneur.

According to a 2002 Babson study, Blacks are 50 percent more likely than Whites to become entrepreneurs - that is, to start a business. Among men with advanced degrees such as MBAs, Blacks are 2.6 times as likely to start businesses. …

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