Marriott School makes effort to prepare students for a diverse work environment

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Marriott School of Management professors are emphasizing ways students can successfully transition to work environments not necessarily a part of BYU’s university’s culture and standards.

The new emphasis comes after feedback from a variety of business recruiters looking for graduates who are more prepared for a diverse work place.

Jay Hart, human resources manager at Bank of America, has noticed a cultural naivety some students feel coming out of Provo.

“We struggle frequently with students coming out of BYU when they attend things like cocktail parties,” Hart said. “They know culturally not to drink, so socially how do they act without being awkward? I don’t know that students coming out of BYU are always equipped for that kind of a situation. I think there is a tension that exists between living in a business world and living LDS standards. If someone has never been in these scenarios, how do they navigate them?”

Bill Keenan, director of OB/HR, strategy and entrepreneurship for the school, gives a presentation on this subject each semester. He suggests that as some students enter the world, they could be living in a society more diverse than anything they’ve experienced.

“There isn’t a simple answer for how to live in the business world as a member (of the LDS Church),” Keenan said. “I say that students have three different options for how to respond in situations that don’t run parallel to BYU’s standards. I call them the E options — examine, escape or engage. Each of these three options have a different impact, as well as a different degree of difficulty. Escaping is easiest, but it can have a more negative impact on your relationship with your co-workers. Engagement will be more challenging, but it could give you an opportunity to have a positive impact on those around you.”

According to Hart, there are many diversity and inclusion initiatives in the banking world. For example, Hart said a diversity initiative could be when a company tries to increase a sense of inclusion within their teams by developing an LGBTQ ally program. A BYU graduate may not always know how to handle something like this.

“We recognize that there is a wide range of experiences within the BYU undergraduate demographic. Some are from outside of Utah and are very well prepared for real world experience, some have never left Utah and are not prepared at all,” Hart said, “We are looking for what the overall maturity of the candidate is. Could we put them in a room of senior executives and expect them to act professionally and hold their own?”

According to Tina Ashby, the Director of Finance at the BYU Business Center, feedback from recruiters is relatively positive, but there is always room for improvement.

“I ask how we are stacking up against students from other schools, and it is always very positive,” Ashby said. “Whenever I have asked them about any negative feedback, the response is always varied and interesting. Sometimes it is that they are too humble. They may have a tough time articulating how great they are, which can actually hurt them. Every now and again they will say they meet with a student who almost seems entitled. The gamut is quite interesting.”

Professors are also seeking to instill winthin students an attitude of love and respect for those who lve differently from them.

“I think sometimes we get caught up here in the bubble at BYU, and for better or for worse, students are not used to working with LGBTQ people – they just aren’t,” said Jim Brau, a professor of finance at the Marriott School of Management. “I think most students are sensitive to working for a woman or with women, but I think many young men are surprised at the number of women who are their bosses and are in executive positions or management positions before they go out.”

Despite these concerns, BYU is one of the top 50 business schools in the world, according to Business Insider.

“If anything, BYU students tend to have a higher level of maturity,” Hart said. “BYU students are very well prepared to succeed in the work force. They know languages, they are disciplined and goal-oriented.”

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