Creating a legacy

“Never daunted, we cannot falter; In the battle, we’re tried and true.”—“Indiana, Our Indiana.”

In 1965, as professors in the Indiana University School of Business worked intensely to restructure degree requirements for its MBA, another faculty effort was underway that would soon change the face of the program.

The restructuring was seen as necessary to make the Master of Business Administration program more rigorous and better prepare future graduates to address issues posed by an expanding economy.

But while the school—today known as the IU Kelley School of Business—was retooling a degree that would later prepare alumni to reach the top of companies such as Ford, Whirlpool and Dow, another program was being created that aimed to provide African-Americans with the same opportunities.

The IU Kelley School is one of three founding members of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which marked its 50th anniversary in 2016. Activities in Bloomington celebrated IU’s legacy in a program that has encouraged more than 10,000 men and women of color to earn a graduate business degree since 1966.

This includes more than 930 African-Americans, Latinos and Native Americans who have earned Kelley MBAs with support from the Consortium.

“I’m very proud that the Kelley School was one of the original three founding members of the Consortium,” said Idalene “Idie” Kesner, the school’s current dean. “The Consortium has grown and so has Kelley, and the program remains a very important part of our Kelley community.”

Kelley alumni of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management include Derica W. Rice, the chief financial officer of one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies; Jill Rahman, the highest-ranking African-American woman at one of America’s largest food companies; and Fay Ferguson, the chief executive of the top African-American-owned advertising agency.

They also include many who have worked hard in their communities to create a more diverse and inclusive society.

“I heard a speech some time ago, and the speaker said that in order for you to be your best, you need to have in your mind that there is support, a home-court advantage,” said Clarence A. Wilson, a 1980 Kelley graduate and former assistant treasurer of Du Pont Co. “The Consortium gave us that home-court advantage so we could go out and compete for those top jobs. It gave the confidence; it provided a support mechanism that you needed to have to go out and compete.”

The ‘right’ thing to do

“It just struck me right,” the late William G. Panschar, IU professor of marketing, said of his 1965 meeting with Sterling Schoen, a sociologist and a professor of organizational behavior at Washington University of St. Louis, who came up with the idea of creating an organization to recruit more African-Americans into MBA programs.

Photo of William Panschar
William G. Panschar

Two years earlier, Schoen’s research found that not one African-American was employed in a management position at a Fortune 500 company. Out of 12,000 students enrolled in MBA programs across the country in 1963, only about 50 were African-Americans.

“The great ones were going into medicine, law, preaching and teaching, all of the professions serving their own community, which wasn’t doing anything frankly to achieve any form of integration,” Panschar said about six months prior to his death in January 1992.

In the 1960s, public colleges and universities across the country, particularly in the South, had become flashpoints for a national debate on civil rights and racial equality. At the time, no historically black college or university offered an accredited MBA program.

“It was a year after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and there were things that needed doing,” the late Wally Jones, the Consortium’s first associate director and CEO from 1980 to 1996, said in a 1991 interview. “One of those things was to enroll qualified blacks in accredited MBA programs so there would be a pool of minorities who had the skills to compete for entry-level positions in American businesses—positions which were now legally open for qualified minorities.”

For many people of color, the best jobs then available were in the public sector.

“In 1965, universities were in a time of turmoil and confusion, people asking what we should do about equal education opportunities,” Schoen told Washington University’s magazine in 1979. “I thought, ‘Why not do something we know how to do: train MBAs.’”

The Consortium gave us that home-court advantage so we could go out and compete for those top jobs.

Clarence A. Wilson, a 1980 Kelley graduate and former assistant treasurer of Du Pont Co.

Designing the program

Schoen approached several of the nation’s top business schools, with hopes that at least five would participate in the Consortium. However, only his school, IU and the University of Wisconsin signed on, leaving others to wait and see whether the consortium would be successful.

Panschar, who would become the IU School of Business’ first MBA program chair in 1966, was one of several at IU who worked closely with Schoen in organizing the two-day feasibility conference August 8 and 9, 1966, in St. Louis.

Photo of Milton Wilson
Milton Wilson

“Our thought was not to come up with a program that would send these bright young people with an MBA back to their own neighborhoods and start businesses,” Panschar said. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Our thought was that we were going to get them into the mainstream of corporate America.”

Among the feasibility conference participants were 47 men and women representing the three charter schools, 12 historically black colleges and universities, the NAACP, the Urban League, close to 10 government and private agencies, five corporations and a foundation.

With support from then-Dean W. George Pinnell, four people from IU participated in the conference.

Also participating was Milton Wilson, the first African-American to receive a business doctorate at IU, who later went on to establish accredited business schools at Howard University and Texas Southern University.

By the end of the conference’s second day, those gathered unanimously agreed that the proposed program was necessary and feasible.

Night photo of the School of Business in 1966
Photo of Charles Bonser displaying a funding check from Ford Motor Company

Construction of the original IU School of Business building, now part of Hodge Hall Undergraduate Center, also was completed in 1966. Along with other member schools, the Kelley School has continued to seek corporate support for the Consortium and similar efforts. Charles Bonser, then associate dean of the IU School of Business, holds a check from Ford Motor Co. for the Consortium fellowship program.

Getting buy-in

Following the conference, a proposal was prepared and sent to the Ford Foundation for consideration. In December 1966, the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management received an early Christmas present in the form of a $300,000 challenge grant, which was to be matched by businesses.

Panschar, who was a member of the Consortium’s original board, recalled one fundraising visit with the CEO of Standard Oil of Ohio. “I was ushered in by a vice president and I remember this person saying, ‘Young man, you’ve got five minutes. If you can’t sell me in five minutes, you’ll have to leave.’

“He put his watch on the table, but I sold him. I was there 10 minutes and he escorted me downstairs to meet the CEO of another company,” Panschar added. “These guys hadn’t thought of it, or I wouldn’t have been so well-received.”

Within a short time, the Consortium had raised more than twice the amount of the original Ford Foundation grant.

Two other key figures in the IU Consortium story were Jack R. Wentworth, the school's dean from 1984 to 1993; and C. Randall Powell, who led the business placement office from 1975 to 2003. They were both early in their IU careers.

Wentworth, who then led the school’s business research bureau, said some faculty were resistant, suggesting that the Consortium students wouldn't be able to meet the rigors of the program.

Powell remembers attending a faculty meeting in the fall of 1966, when the Consortium was approved.

“There was a faculty member who I remember quite well, who got up in that meeting and said, ‘This is a boondoggle, everybody. Just so you understand, these people are not going to be prepared at the level of quality that we expect in this program,’” he said. “But it passed with maybe two dissents, as I recall, and he was one of them.”

Wentworth added, “As you well know, the country was going through the same kind of thing that we were going through. We just happened to be a school that recognized this is something we needed to do. It was an opportunity for us.

“We didn’t need students; we didn’t do it for that reason. We just wanted to integrate our program.”

Wentworth joined the Consortium’s governing body in 1968 and served on its board of directors from 1970 to 1978. In 1990, he returned to the board as chairman and served a two-year term. Powell was a committed board member and served as IU’s representative for nearly 25 years. Another Kelley dean, Dan Smith, chaired the Consortium’s board from 2007 to 2009.

With funding and an organization in place, the three charter members of what was originally called the Consortium for Graduate Study in Business for Negroes set out in early 1967 to recruit and enroll its first class. Its scope would expand later.

Competing against United States Selective Service, which was drawing away many potential applicants to Vietnam, 21 fellowship winners were selected—including six who soon would be coming to Bloomington.

“Sometimes you do good things,” Panschar said of the Consortium shortly before retiring in 1991, after more than a 30-year career at the Kelley School, where he also chaired the undergraduate and executive education programs.

The First Class

Unlike at other universities, particularly those across the South, people of color had matriculated at IU for decades. Herman B Wells, IU’s president from 1938 to 1962 and a former business dean, encouraged desegregation of the university during his tenure.

In 1959, Nancy Streets became the first African-American “Miss Indiana,” and a year later IU students elected Thomas I. Atkins the first African-American student body president at IU and in the Big Ten.

“When black students came to IU during the 1960s, they found more racial tolerance than at many other Midwestern universities,” Mary Ann Wynkoop recounted in her book, “Dissent in the Heartland: The Sixties at Indiana University.”

Yet enrollment of minorities remained low in the early 1960s. While African-Americans consisted of about 6 percent of the state’s population, they amounted to only about 2 percent of IU’s student body.

“They often found themselves alone in otherwise all-white classrooms, highly visible and conscious of their separateness,” said Wynkoop, assistant professor emeritus of history and the former director of the American Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Coming to Bloomington

Racial tensions were high in 1967 across the United States, but Bloomington was quiet by comparison. But as six African-American men came to IU Bloomington to enroll as part of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management’s first class, they were not immune to the unease that existed both on and off campus.

One county north, in Morgan County, the Ku Klux Klan famously marched through the city of Martinsville as the culmination of a statewide effort to regain its long-lost power in Indiana. While the Klan found little support in Bloomington, it tried to be a disruptive force and stage public events.

“That was not a comforting site to see,” said Charles I. Randall, a member of IU’s first Consortium class in 1967. “I didn’t know quite how to take that at the time.

“But it didn’t seem to have any bearing in terms of the School of Business itself, (on the) reception even by students and our professors,” said Randall, who retired in 2005 after more than 30 years in finance at IBM. “The reception at Indiana was excellent. It was a wonderful experience.”

Photo of Robert Lee, Charles Randall and C. Vernon Mason
Left to right: Robert M. Lee, Charles I. Randall and C. Vernon Mason.

Another member of that first class, C. Vernon Mason, said, “It was fascinating to see the thousands and thousands of students, literally from all over the world, and the size of the campus. … The business school was wonderful.”

Five of the first six Consortium fellows at IU had earned undergraduate degrees at historically black colleges and universities.

Only two had previously studied business: Robert M. Lee, a Texas native and a Tennessee State University graduate; and William L. Simons, a Virginia native and graduate of Virginia State University.

“I was looking at entering into the corporate world,” Lee said. “As a matter of fact, I had several offers I was pondering very seriously when I learned about the Consortium program. I felt like I had a very sound business administration and accounting foundation (from Tennessee State), and I looked at the MBA as building on that foundation to make me stronger and obviously to enrich myself eventually.”

Others in that first group were Randall, a Washington, D.C., native who had earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Morgan State University in Baltimore; Mason, an Arkansas native and a political science graduate of Morehouse College in Washington, D.C.; Edmond Solomon, a New Yorker who had a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Hampton Institute in Virginia; and Ray Weathersby, a Mississippi native who also attended Hampton.

Carl Bradford, a native of California, earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Brown University and a Master of Science in the same field from New York University.

Before being accepted to the Consortium at IU, Mason was engaged to be married and planned to attend graduate school and work part time. He received a telegram with news of the fellowship, and “it changed our whole lives in terms of what we were going to do.”

He and his wife were married on the same day he graduated; the next day they left for the Consortium orientation in St. Louis. While he worked on his MBA, she earned a master’s degree from the School of Education. Randall and his wife also married a couple of days before they left to begin the Consortium program.

Photo of IU’s inaugural class of Consortium fellows
Members of IU’s inaugural class in a 1968 meeting with faculty member L. Richard Oliker. From left: Robert Lee, Ray Weathersby, C. Vernon Mason, Carl Bradford, Edmond Solomon and Charles Randall.

Amid national turmoil

Mason said the support he and other consortium fellows received from other students, faculty and administrators was outstanding. But as he looks back at his time at IU, only one negative experience stands out, and it came to a head on April 4, 1968, the day civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis.

Mason and his wife, who was eight months’ pregnant, were living in Evermann Apartments. Down the hall lived a man from New York State, who frequently harassed them with notes containing racial slurs and prank phone calls.

“The night that Dr. King was assassinated, I came out of my apartment. I was enraged, and I called the guy out. I said, ‘Come out of your apartment,’” Mason said. “The night of Dr. King’s assassination, I wanted to face my harasser.

“Nothing happened. He put his lights out and acted like he wasn’t there,” he added. “We didn’t have any more problems with him. … But that wasn’t the experience that we were having at IU or in Bloomington.”

Sen. Robert Kennedy, then a presidential candidate, addressed a crowd on the night of King’s death in nearby Indianapolis. Mason remembers taking comfort in Kennedy’s words about King. He also appreciates how he was consoled and supported by his fellow students, professors and the university administration.

“In terms of the school and the people and all of the people we were studying under, everyone—to the person—was just very, very supportive during that whole period. That at least made it bearable,” he said.

“We were in the midst of turmoil indeed,” Randall said. “It was quite a climate to live through and time to live through. The experience—I think not only for us, but for those who we came in contact with—was very revealing.”

Consortium fellows talk outdoors by the IU School of Business
Photo of Kelley Dean W. George Pinnell with Consortium fellows in November 1968
Consortium fellows Marcia Jones-Delaney and Brad Hobbs with admissions director Patricia Mulholland

Business attire was more formal in the 1960s, and Consortium fellows were dressed for success outside the IU School of Business Building. In the lower-left image, then-Dean W. George Pinnell welcomed Consortium fellows in November 1968. In the other image, in 1990, Consortium fellows Marcia Jones-Delaney and Brad Hobbs examine new office computers with admissions director Patricia Mulholland.

Career success, lifetime opportunities

Corporate recruiters were eager to hire the Consortium students for internships and after graduation. Mason and Lee spent the summer of 1968 working at Cummins Engine Co. in Columbus, Indiana, one of the first Fortune 500 companies to take a public stance on advancing the careers of minority employees. Randall was in New York City, working for IBM.

“The Consortium and the MBA program made me a better candidate for jobs,” he said, adding that his situation was “one of trying to decide in which direction I wanted to go.”

Not lost on Randall was the impact of the lunchtime walks he had from IBM’s Madison Avenue Manhattan offices in “the business capital of the world.” He loved strolling through Central Park, to “get with the folks.”

“A lot of different entities came and companies talked to you and were interested in pursuing you, but I kind of made my mind up on IBM and IBM made their mind up on me during that summer program,” said Randall, who now lives in Clifton, New Jersey.

Today, Randall is a teacher at a preschool for at-risk youths and also has directed social service agencies in the New York area for those with developmental disabilities.

Photo of consortium fellows in 1968
Consortium fellows wait for a meeting in November 1968.

Lee, who now lives in Austin, Texas, left in the midst of his studies for an employment opportunity but returned to complete his degree in 1972. He retired from IBM after a 39-year career there and credits the confidence he developed at IU and through the consortium for much of his success.

While he did not continue in the business world after getting his MBA in 1969, Mason said the experience has “provided the background and foundation” for his careers in civil rights law and as a minister.

He said he is convinced that the reason he was accepted to Columbia Law School was because he had an MBA from IU, which also inspired him to focus on corporate and tax law. From 1970 to 1992, he was managing partner of his own law firm, which specialized in civil rights law.

After getting a master’s degree from the New York School Theological Seminary, Mason was hired by the institution to run a program for at-risk children in the Big Apple.

“Throughout my careers, the background in managerial accounting and finance and management and administrative studies—all of the things that we learned and were prepared for in our study groups and in that program—have been instrumental in everything that I have done since,” Mason said.

Of the original six, three earned their MBAs two years later—Mason, Randall and Weathersby—and Lee in 1972. Simons and Solomon left the program early.

“When this idea was born, it was in the midst of wars and it was in the midst of domestic unrest, here in this country,” Mason added. “Now it has progressed to this point, but it really has the potential and should be highlighted as one of the most important programs in the country.”

50 Years of Success

Since that first year, another 49 classes of Consortium for Graduate Study in Management fellows have stepped onto campuses in Bloomington, Madison and St. Louis and 15 other business schools that now make up the Consortium.

But it would be 16 years before another Big Ten university, the University of Michigan, would join the St. Louis-based organization supporting the personal and business ambitions of people of color.

In 1970, Consortium membership was opened to include women, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans. Since 2004, it has included any U.S. citizen or permanent resident who demonstrates a commitment to the Consortium’s mission.

This fall, a record 490 merit-based fellows will enroll in consortium-member MBA programs, including the 31 first- and second-year students now at the IU Kelley School of Business.

For them, the paths have been established by Kelley alumni who are successful at nearly every level of corporate America, including the C-Suite. Without the Consortium, the prospects for career success would still be there, but much harder to attain.

“The impact that Kelley’s had has been substantial because of the number and successes of its graduates,” said Louis Jordan, who received his MBA in 1980.“I am not an isolated incidence of a successful Kelley grad. There are numerous Consortium grads who have done quite well.”

At Kelley, they also include people such as Fay Ferguson of Chicago, a former eighth-grade English teacher who today owns and co-leads Burrell Communications LLC, one of the largest multicultural marketing firms in the world.

Ferguson’s initial interest in getting the business degree stemmed from a requirement at Michigan City, Indiana, schools that all teachers needed to have a master’s degree within five years, and the MBA “was highly touted.” After being admitted to IU, she learned about the Consortium and was accepted.

Photo of Fay Ferguson
Fay Ferguson

“It was really about wanting to do something where I could still be very hands-on with people and impact others in a significant way,” the LaPorte, Indiana, native said of her decision to enter advertising.

“I can tell you that advertising truly wasn’t on my radar screen. I really didn’t know much of anything about the field, and it wasn’t until Leo Burnett sent recruiters and I attended some of the work sessions that I found it to be quite fascinating,” she said. “And that’s where the love affair started.”

Ferguson never went back to teaching school. After graduating in 1978, she accepted a position at Leo Burnett, a globally active advertising agency based in Chicago, and coordinated campaigns for several Pillsbury Co. products. Next, as a senior account executive at Bozell & Jacobs, she managed the Alberto-Culver beauty product line and introduced the world to Mrs. Dash. 

In 1984, Ferguson joined Burrell and acquired the firm through a management buyout in 2004. Today she is one of two African-American women to lead the firm. Two years later, she was named the Chicago Advertising Woman of the Year and this year was selected as one of Black Enterprise magazine’s “Women of Power.”

“What IU, the MBA program and the Consortium did for me was to give me a very solid business background. It gave me the confidence to know that I could compete with the best of the best,” Ferguson said.

A seamstress’s daughter and a Baptist preacher’s son

The daughter of an immigrant couple from the Dominican Republic, Cosette Gutierrez was the first person in her nuclear family to attend college, let alone graduate school.

“I am terrible at sewing. I have no artistic skills. So being a seamstress like my Mom, I’d be hungry right now,” said Gutierrez, a 1995 graduate and native New Yorker. “I had to leverage what I knew I’d be great at, which was leveraging my mind.

“What my mom always instilled in me was the value of education, and she said, ‘There’s a reason why I came to this country: I want you to do well.’”

Gutierrez has done well. She’s held a series of vice presidential and other management posts at Citibank, Honeywell International, Bank of America and Target. From 2003 to 2011, she served on the national board of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs, including as its chair.

Today, she leads the project fulfillment team for, a nonprofit that allows people to donate directly to thousands of public school classroom projects nationwide.

“The MBA certainly elevated who I am as an individual, as a professional and as a leader. It’s an additional certification that says if you work hard, you can do it,” Gutierrez said. “Everyone that I encounter who has been able to successfully complete an MBA program has what it takes to be successful in life.”

Photo of Jill Rahman, Clarence Wilson, and Cosette Gutierrez
From left: Jill Rahman, Clarence Wilson and Cosette Gutierrez.

The road from inner-city Philadelphia to Sonoma County, California, passed through Bloomington for Louis Jordan, the son of a Baptist minister who used his Kelley degree to become a senior financial officer at both Nike and Starbucks before settling down to make premium wine at his Tympany Vineyard, provide counsel to small businesses and engage in board service.

Jordan, the sixth of seven kids, had earned a bachelor’s degree in history at Westmar College in Iowa; while completing a master’s degree in history at Brown University, he realized he didn’t want to be a historian. He realized that he viewed history as more of “avocation” than a “vocation.” While at Brown he learned about the Consortium and was admitted to IU.

After graduation, Jordan began a progressive career path that included automating financial forecasts for the first time at DuPont, providing financial support on a number of high profile acquisitions and divestitures at Dun & Bradstreet, controller for Citibank’s global retail group and heading corporate planning at Duracell, when it was a public company.

Other familiar brand names—A.C. Nielsen and The Gap—also highlight his resume. In 2003, he joined Nike, where he served as chief financial officer of both the U.S. and global retail businesses over a six year period, before joining Starbucks as senior vice president, finance.

“Part of it has been serendipity. I think I have been in the right place at the right time,” Jordan said. “However there is no doubt that without the Kelley MBA, I would be a very, very different person. I think I would still be satisfied with where I had gotten to, given what my resources were. But by no stretch of the imagination would I be in the position I am in today. I am very, very, very blessed.”

From selling food and fuel to creating brands and analyzing deals

Fresh with an undergraduate business degree from IU in 1967, Clarence Wilson accepted a marketing job with Marathon Oil Co., starting in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

“This was around the time that companies were starting to tip-toe around the waters of hiring African-American salespeople, and I think I may have been one of the first or second that Marathon hired,” said Wilson, a native of Anniston, Alabama, and the youngest of nine children.

“You learn later all of the backroom things that go into those kind of assignments. My job as a sales representative was to call on service stations,” he said. “I learned later that they had to go in and talk to each one of the dealers and ask if it was OK to have a black salesperson calling on them. I went in not knowing that these kinds of conversations had taken place.”

After about 10 years at Marathon, Wilson realized that if he wanted to advance and have more career flexibility, he needed an MBA. The late Bill Mays, a successful Indianapolis businessman and Wilson’s fraternity brother, encouraged him to look into applying for a program that had benefited Mays—the Consortium.

Following his second IU graduation in 1981, Wilson accepted a position as a corporate financial analyst with DuPont. That year, oil giant Conoco turned to DuPont for assistance while facing a hostile takeover. Valued at $3.7 billion, it then was DuPont’s largest merger. At the heart of the situation was Wilson, whose new employer asked him to be the lead financial analyst.

“It was a good intro into a high-profile kind of job,” Wilson said. “I found the skills that I had and brought to that situation were well-grounded in the finance and accounting that I learned (at IU).”

Wilson wrapped up his career in 2003 working on a $4.4 billion sale of a DuPont subsidiary to Koch Industries, which DuPont CEO Charles O. Holliday then called “a major milestone in the ongoing transformation” of the company.

“I started on an acquisition and ended on a sale,” said Wilson, a former member of the Kelley Dean’s Council. “I had a lot of opportunities within DuPont in my career. I never felt that I was not ready to take on whatever particular job I was given. I always wanted to be there when the change processes were taking place.”

Now retired and living in Williamsburg, Virginia, Wilson was with DuPont for 25 years, including 15 years in upper management such as director and subsidiary vice president. Today, he is active in his community and is president of the local NAACP chapter.

I had the opportunity to go to Kelley, it changed my life.

Anton Vincent, MBA ’93, President, Snacks Division, General Mills

After tasting career success at Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, Jill Rahman of Chicago began thinking about how graduate education could affect her life and career. She was one of two people from her company to attend the food industry management program at the University of Southern California, but she knew she would need an MBA to go further.

In her first week at IU in the fall of 1989, after meeting a female executive at Gatorade, Rahman decided she wanted to pursue brand management, despite being advised that it would be difficult for her to compete for jobs in the field.

“I so connected with what she said her day-to-day job was, that she worked with retailers like Kroger and how she tried to build the brands and how you get the brands on display,” said the Indianapolis native and daughter of two IU alumni. “I decided to major in brand management because it builds on what I like and what I know.”

After receiving her Kelley MBA in 1991, Rahman has held a number of senior-level positions at Kraft Foods and Newell Rubbermaid and is now a vice president and general manager at ConAgra Foods, producer of Healthy Choice, Peter Pan peanut butter and David sunflower seeds.

‘There’s always a way’

Suzan Hernandez’s family has a philosophy: “There’s always a way, you just have to figure out how to do that.” The 2012 Kelley graduate ought to know: She and her mother have been doing that all their lives.

Photo of Suzan Hernandez
Suzan Hernandez

A native of Lincoln, Nebraska, Hernandez was raised by a mother who worked two or three jobs; her father had returned to Zacatecas, Mexico, after her parents divorced. They moved to be closer to supportive family in Los Angeles when Hernandez was 12, and a year later she also started working.

Her mom “worked seven days a week until I graduated from high school, and then she kind of slowed down a little bit through college because I could take out loans,” Hernandez said.

At California State University-Long Beach, she started out studying science but realized all of her early work experience pointed toward a degree in business, which she received in 2007. After graduation, she went to work for BCBG Max Azria, a fashion house, as an assistant in advertising.

She helped produce the company’s Fashion Week efforts and photo shoots. She helped launch its e-commerce site. After about two years and at the age of 24, she was promoted to head merchant for the BCBG factory division in Canada.

In the midst of a recession, “business was tanking all over the company,” but she had an idea for restructuring its Canadian factory division to produce products differently for a changing market. It took her two months to sell the idea to her bosses, and it proved to be successful.

“The piece where I knew I wasn’t strong enough was when senior leadership started asking me questions about certain things, liked financial terms, and I wasn’t able to understand what they were asking for,” she said. “My boss at the time had gotten his MBA. He was definitely helping me understand what levers I was pulling and really what that overall impact was. He really encouraged me to go back to business school so I could have a strong, solid understanding of business at a higher level, to really mesh with the intuition that I already had.”

She applied to the Consortium and was admitted to Kelley in 2010. The school’s entrepreneurship program was a major draw for her. Donald F. Kuratko—known as “Dr. K” to many—has been an important mentor. “I’m still in contact with Dr. K, and I still have a very strong connection there,” she said.

After graduation, she accepted a position at Nike. She recently left the company to work in New York as a business development strategy director at WGSN, the leading global trend authority for the fashion, retail, and creative industries.

‘Know you are there for a reason’

While much progress has been made, more is yet to be done.

Nearly 20 percent of the 2017 class of Kelley’s full-time MBA program come from under-represented populations, and nearly 30 percent are women. But nationally, of the 10,000 students who graduate from top-tier MBA programs each year, fewer than 8 percent are African-American, Native American or Hispanic.

“We have long recognized the importance of raising awareness of diversity issues and to create an environment that is respectful and supportive to all,” said Dean Kesner, who received both her MBA and Ph.D. in business administration from Kelley. “And we recognize that we have more work to do.”

Rahman said it’s difficult to imagine what the business-world landscape would look like without the Consortium, because it has so many graduates and has provided so many people of the awareness of the path and a way to get through it.

“I look at ConAgra today: It has been a great, great place for me to work, but I am the only African-American vice president today and the highest-ranking African-American—woman or male—today,” she said. “That to me says it has been great for me and there’s still opportunity left for others.

“That is part of the Consortium’s role: to find them and give them a great education and get them started, and for people like me who consider it their job to continue to mentor and help develop those new MBAs and the others that we hire to help them be successful.”

Gutierrez said that all students, particularly those from underrepresented populations, need to continue to succeed and prove they deserve a spot at the table.

“I believe in myself. I think that part of the stigma sometimes comes into play when we doubt ourselves,” she said. “I know many colleagues who doubted themselves that didn’t make it, whether it was an undergrad or someone even at IU who dropped out because they didn’t believe that they could.

“The noise stopped them. The noise is there is if you are black, white, Chinese or whatever, and you just have to know that you are there for a reason and that you can do it.”

Ferguson said the challenges are not just there for people of color but for women in general.

“It’s hard to break that glass ceiling,” she said. “The path for females has been a tough one because many of those doors were very much closed. Even now today, whether you’re talking about the advertising communications industry or the tech industry, it’s very rare still to see a female at the top of the organization.

“The fact that we’re just now in the 2000s beginning to see a difference is quite remarkable, but that was a struggle and a journey for me,” Ferguson said. “I guess I’m a fighter. My maiden name is Holmes and my mother’s maiden name was Holyfield, so I come from a long line of fighters.”

Group photo of Kelley’s 2016 class of Consortium fellows
Photo of Bill Mays
Photo of students at the Eddie C. Brown Leadership Summit

In the upper left image, Jylla Tearte, a 1978 graduate, is surrounded by members of Kelley’s 2016 class of Consortium fellows, while receiving the Wallace L. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. In the upper right image, William G. Mays, who in 1970 received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry and a MBA in 1973 with assistance from the Consortium, founded Mays Chemical Co. in 1980. As shown in the bottom image, students participate annually in the Eddie C. Brown Leadership Summit, created through the generosity of Brown, a 1970 graduate. Looking on from behind is Allyn Curry, who served as a mentor to many Consortium students and who was instrumental in creating and enhancing diversity initiatives at Kelley for 30 years.

Benefits for everyone

In addition to bringing greater diversity and an appreciation for it to the student body, the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management helped Kelley in terms of its reputation, including with corporations that recruit all students.

“For me, it was the opening of doors to corporations that had never recruited here before,” former placement director Randy Powell said. “I could go to Wall Street and start to talk to the corporations. Before the Consortium really got its reputation, they wouldn’t talk to me, they weren’t going to come to Indiana.

“They came to Indiana to recruit minorities, but once they got to see and meet the faculty, they started recruiting majority students,” he said.

Photo of current Kelley dean "Idie" Kesner and form dean Jack Wentworth
Idalene "Idie" Kesner and Jack Wentworth

“It was something that I think took a lot of guts to do, particularly at our level,” added former dean Jack Wentworth. “We did it and it worked, and other schools could see that it worked and they gave us credit for it.”

Rahman acknowledges the significance of IU being a founding school of the Consortium. Just a decade before its creation, her parents attended IU and were unable to live on campus because of policies at that time. But it also was one of the few major universities to admit African-Americans.

“They had many friends from all around the country who were in graduate programs and doctoral programs because Indiana was one of the few places where they could be enrolled,” she said. “Indiana at some level then and certainly with the Consortium should be celebrated for being progressive, trying to drive change in a state that has a very solid history of conservatism.”

Produced by IU Newsroom

Article by George Vlahakis

Video by IU Kelley School of Business

Photos provided by IU Archives and IU Kelley School of Business

IU Newsroom, 2016