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MBAs to host diversity conference

Aaron Steiner | Friday, February 6, 2009

Nationally recognized diversity experts will meet with Notre Dame students and faculty, as well as alumni and local business leaders, this weekend to discuss issues related to diversity in the workplace in the second annual MBA Diversity Conference.

The conference, beginning today and running throughout the day Saturday, is organized by MBA students and is titled “Balancing Diversity: Celebrating Our Differences While Achieving a Common Goal.”

Pat Perrella, senior associate director for Career Development in the MBA program, said the program began last year, spurred by several MBA students.

Perrella, who said Diversity Conferences are common at business schools around the country, said the conferences serve as a means to “learn about what’s going on [in diversity], and to network.”

The conference is also an opportunity “to ensure that our students at all levels are exposed to this,” he said.

“If they’re going to be a good business leader, they will understand the importance of diversity,” Perrella said.

Ashley Clark, a second-year MBA student and co-coordinator of the conference, said recent events have made the conference even more relevant.

“I think it’s a really interesting time with out new president, and all that’s happening … everything that we’re learning about diversity and the global marketplace,” she said.

The conferences will allow participants, especially students, to discuss diversity “more than we do on a daily basis in our classes,” she said.

Perrella said the conference kicks off with a reception in the Notre Dame Stadium Press Box Friday evening.

Saturday’s events include three keynote speakers, networking opportunities and several panel discussions, he said.

Clark said she is especially looking forward to hearing from Wendy Lewis, senior vice president of diversity for Major League Baseball.

“I’m really interested to hear her perspective as a black female working for a national sports organization,” Clark said.

Other speakers include John Cruzat Jr., the national diversity specialist for USA Swimming, and Lisa Gutierrez, executive director of global diversity at Cummins Inc., a Columbus, Ind., company that is serving as the primary sponsor of the conference.

University administrators Frances Shavers, chief of staff and special assistant to the University president, and Dr. Don Pope-Davis, University vice president and associate provost, will also participate in the events, along with a number of local business leaders and Notre Dame alumni.

Clark said registration for the event is closed and 140 attendees are expected, including MBA students and a number of undergraduates from all areas of study.

Clark said she hopes the event gives participants “a different perspective” and gives students, especially, an opportunity to “not be afraid to ask questions” about diversity.

“I just hope that people learn something and understand something a little better,” she said.