Sunday, November 25, 2012

Marching On

A week ago I was sitting in my bedroom, my bed filled with the business cards and brochures I received while in Chicago at the PhD Project Conference.  I was evaluating my life choices and the next phase of my journey.

When I was in Chicago, I was surrounded by so many brilliant minds - all people of color - who were considering stepping away from their careers to go back to school.  There were current doctoral students as panelists giving honest and thorough answers to the Q&A of what a business PhD program would entail.  I missed the GMAT session (last time I took that was before I entered my M.B.A. studies over a decade ago) and thought about my son surviving his ACT for college...test taking anxieties hit me at full steam.  My quick two and a half days were filled with conversations with recruiters and professors, discussion with Management and Marketing discipline representatives at the college fair, and forging a sisterhood with women who, like me, were considering an opportunity that would truly affect the next generation of business thinkers and leaders.

The PhD Project was founded in 1994 when the leaders of corporate america looked around their businesses and saw few people of color (African American, Latino, Asian & Pacific Islander, Native American) and realized the only way to change that was to start at the university level where future leaders were being trained.  Bernie Milano, the visionary behind the project, asked the universities to list the black or latino professors (excluding HBCUs)  who were PhD credentialed and full-time in their business departments...zero.  I never had a black male or female business professor throughout my undergraduate or graduate academic career.  I was one of the only black female adjunct professors many of my students ever encountered.  This realization prompted KPMG and many corporations and universities to partner in this effort to recruit more people of color into academia.

I am pondering the possibility now.  I enjoy teaching and love engaging with students, love discovering new things and love telling others about it - some of the ingredients necessary for scholarly work.  When I was sitting in the meeting room of the Hyatt O'Hare, I thought about my family, the future, and the impact a decision like this would entail.

My last son is a freshman in college.  He and his girlfriend left this morning to drive back to Alabama (she is at Tuskegee and he is at Alabama State University) to finish up their first semester of studies.  They each have professors of color in their respective disciplines because they attend HBCUs.  They also have professors who are white, diversity.  Students who graduated like they did in 2012 and attend majority institutions may not have that same broad world view because their universities are primarily white, their roommates are primarily white, their campus is primarily white, their college towns are primarily white, their classmates are primarily white, and their professors are primarily white...in a country that is becoming more and more majority minority, their worldview will not be a diverse.  I thought about that while in Chicago and when I returned home, the vast opportunity before us to transform the next generation of business leaders.

The girls were excited for me to go and excited when I told them I was going to make some big decisions in my life.  They know they are my heart and part of every thought I've had for the past twelve years.  They also know that time moves on, they are growing up, and they will march on with their hopes and dreams.  The discussions we are having now may seem above their understanding, but will greatly impact their choices as women.  We make choices and we seek balance and relevance.

I have always wanted my children to know they can do anything they set their minds to do.  I have tried to lead by example, the older boys vividly remembering going to the library with me when I was pursing my M.B.A. as both a mother and a full-time student.  They know I have placed opportunity, dreams, and quests on hold for them to live fully and richly.  They have been my biggest cheerleaders and coaches.

Time marches on, gray hair springs up, and we grow older, it is the fact of waking up every day, a new day.  I woke up and said while I'm not finished loving and nurturing, I am finished placing some hopes and dreams on hold.

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