The Road Less Traveled

by Carlotta Mast

Despite the growing ethnic diversity of the United States, it’s still rare to see an African-, Hispanic- or Native-American professor at the front of a business school classroom.

This void not only creates a dearth of natural mentors for minority business students, it limits the range of perspectives impacting the students and research coming out of the country’s management schools. The good news is, the corporate world wants to see this changed–and so does Kellogg. Here’s how the school is working to draw more underrepresented minorities into business academia.

Growing up in the rural town of Jasper, Texas, Ashleigh Rosette was the only African-American in her high school honors classes.

As an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin, Rosette again was part of a markedly underrepresented group: of the 50,000-plus students at the university, African-Americans made up just 1.5 percent of the population. After graduating, Rosette moved on to business school, enrolling in UT-Austin’s Masters in Professional Accounting program, where this time she was one of two African-American students.

During all of her university studies, Rosette never had an African-American teacher, so when a business school professor, impressed with her presentation and research skills, asked if she had ever considered getting a Ph.D. and teaching business herself, she immediately responded, "No."

"I never knew anyone who was a professor," Rosette recalls. "Like many minorities, I never thought about the opportunities in academia."

Still, the question planted a seed in Rosette’s mind: Maybe she could earn a Ph.D. and bring her own diverse perspectives to future business students.

That seed was nourished when Rosette attended an annual three-day meeting of the Ph.D. Project, an alliance of corporations and business schools that works to encourage underrepresented minorities–or African-, Hispanic- and Native-Americans–to enter business doctoral programs. There, Rosette and 300 other up-and-coming minority professionals learned everything they would need to know about obtaining a business doctorate, from choosing a program to publishing their research.

After spending a few years at Arthur Andersen, Rosette took the bait and, with the help of the Ph.D. Project, began applying to top business doctoral programs. She enrolled in Kellogg’s Organization Behavior Ph.D. program in September 1998.

The decision to leave her family and lucrative accounting career in Texas wasn’t an easy one, but Rosette had a vision: She wanted to make a difference.

"I come from a very rural background. My family was not wealthy by any means. These variables give me a unique perspective that I would like to share with students, the academic community and corporate America," she says. "The impact a professor has on a student and the community is profound. I want to have that impact."