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Foster DEI History

A history of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts

The Michael G. Foster School of Business, founded 1917, shares with the University of Washington its roots grounded in land of the Coast Salish peoples, residing along the shared waters of the tribes and bands within the Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations.

This timeline is a series of snapshots in our history, marking milestones and achievements — many long due — in our work toward fostering an inclusive and diverse community of students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

University of Washington founded
UW Business School founded
First international student exchange created
Twelve Chinese students are enrolled as the College of Business Administration’s first international exchange.
University Women’s Vocational Club established
After graduating from the College of Economics and Business Administration, Ruth Grant Pearson (BA 1926) becomes one of its first female faculty members. She heads the merchandising curriculum from 1926-31 and establishes the University Women’s Vocational Club in 1928, named “outstanding project of the year” by Dean William Cox. Her scrapbook of the College’s formative years proves indispensable to the Foster School archives.
First African-American admitted to the University of Washington Business School
“Marjorie Edwina Pitter King joined her sisters at the UW to study for an accounting degree in the College of Economics and Business. She worked for a sociology professor who counseled students in and outside of his discipline, including Pitter (later King). According to her, he always seemed to have a receptive ear for her concerns and tried to advise her as best he could, knowing little about her major. Commercial Law, Anthropology and Statistics were her three most enjoyable courses, because of the creative manner in which they were taught—interactive, with a team approach.
However, Marjorie Pitter King experienced difficult, hurtful moments as well. Frequently she was on academic probation because of low grades. Since few women of any race studied accounting during the Great Depression, her experiences may have been related to sexism, too. She was called unkind names and often ignored by her professors during her stay there. In 1942, she transferred in her senior year to Howard University in Washington, D.C. to complete her graduation requirements.
Later she returned to Seattle and established a successful tax business called M and M Tax and Consultant Services. Extremely active in politics, she was appointed to the State Legislature in 1965, becoming the first African American in that body. King served until 1966. She served as Chair of the 37th District Democratic Party, Vice President of the King County Democratic Party and Treasurer of the Washington State Federation of Democratic Women, Inc. She provided leadership in drafting the National Democratic Party Platform, while attending the 1972 Democratic National Convention.” Read more at blackpast.org
First African-American to graduate from the University of Washington Business School
John Gayton was the first African-American to graduate from the Foster School. In 1958, he received his Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of Washington — the only Black student in that class. In 1972 he went back to receive a Masters in Business Administration.
Foster MBA first African-American to pass the CPA exam in Washington State
Andrew Branch graduated with his MBA in 1968 and in 1969, he was the first African-American to pass the CPA exam in Washington State. After graduation he accepted a position with PriceWaterhouse (now PriceWaterhouseCoopers). In 1972, Branch declined an offer to become the first African-American partner at this firm when he opened his first company Branch, Richards, and Co. He founded and ran two other companies and continues to this day to run Branch, Richards, and Co.
Association of Black Business Students established
This organization promoting the success of African-American business students was founded by Dr. Earl Vinson, Dr. Aubrey Armstrong, and Dr. Harold Lucius, initially as the Graduate Association of Black Business Students (GABBS). Student leaders will decide to expand membership and change the name to the Association of Black Business Students (ABBS) in 1977.
Dr. Thaddeus Spratlen joins the UW Business School
Thaddeus Spratlen, a professor emeritus of marketing at the University of Washington Foster School of Business, was a trailblazing African American business educator and a torch bearer for faculty of color in academia. After serving as an officer in the US Army, he received BS, MA and PhD degrees from Ohio State University and held faculty appointments at Western Washington University (1961-69) and the UCLA Graduate School of Management (1969-72) before joining the UW Foster School in 1972 as its first African American professor.
Women + Business Conference hosted
The School hosts the Women + Business Conference. This model program, co-sponsored by the General Services Administration and the City of Seattle, convenes 500 participants from the public and private sectors, and leads to the publication of the first director of women-owned businesses in the Pacific Northwest.
Nancy Jacob named ninth Dean
Nancy Jacob (1981-89), ninth dean of the School of Business Administration, becomes the first woman to lead a major American business school. Her administration launches the Executive MBA Program, centers for banking and retail management, and a program to promote economic, ethnic and gender diversity among the study population. As an undergraduate at the UW, Jacob (BA 1967) worked as a research assistant to Nobel Prize-winning financial economist William Sharpe, eventually co-authoring an early book on the economics of computing. She earned her PhD in financial economics at UC-Irvine and became one of a select few women teaching finance at the university level. In 1978 she became chair of the Department of Finance, Business Economics and Quantitative Methods. During her tenure as dean, she drives many important initiatives and innovations at the School of Business Administration.
The Business Educational Opportunity Program (BEOP) launched
The Business Educational Opportunity Program (BEOP) is launched as a partnership with the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity to support under-represented minority students who are pre-business majors.
William Bradford named 11th Dean
William Bradford (1994-99) is named 11th dean of the School of Business Administration. The first African American to lead the school, Bradford catalyzes the Consulting and Business Development Center and works to connect the School to the entire business community: large corporations and small businesses. He also oversees the launch of the Evening MBA Program, the expansion of the Executive MBA Program, and construction of the Seafirst Executive Education Center, Boeing Auditorium and Foster Library. In 2014, Bradford becomes the third academic to be inducted into the Minority Business Hall of Fame.
Consulting and Business Development Center founded
Business Economic Development Center (BEDC) was co-founded by Michael Verchot with the purpose of accelerating student careers and growing businesses and jobs in communities where they’re needed the most. This center is later renamed the Consulting and Business Development Center (CBDC).
William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year Award established
The William D. Bradford Minority Business of the year Award is established. Named for the former dean of the Business School whose support made the UW Business and Economic Development Program (BEDP) a reality, the award recognizes the minority-owned firm that has made the most significant impact on Washington state through profitable growth, quality management and community involvement.
Undergraduate Diversity Services (UDS) established
In addition to the existing BEOP partnership, UDS will create a wide-range of programs designed to address the disparity of minority students enrolled in the UW Business School, and to create a supportive network of peers and professionals of color. Featured here are the current UDS Staff – Andy Marzano (Associate Director), Zach McKinlay (UDS Program Manager) & Damariz Ibáñez (YEOC Program Manager)
Inaugural William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year Award presented
The William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year Award is presented for the first time. It is the only statewide minority business award in the US at the time.
The Ernest I.J. Aguilar Endowed Scholarship for Latino MBA students established
The Ernest I.J. Aguilar Endowed Scholarship for Latino MBA students is established, making it the first endowed scholarship for Latino MBA students in the country.
Young Executives of Color Program established
Young Executives of Color (YEOC) Program is established. This nine-month college pipeline program, supported by E&Y, engages and assists local minority high school students in college readiness, professional development and leadership activities, as well as introducing the business disciplines. Since its inception, 99% of the 1,108 YEOC graduates have enrolled in college. Featured here are Young Executives & Mentor Zoraida Valdovinos from the 2018-2019 program.
Minority Business Executive Program launched
Minority Business Executive Program is launched, designed to increase the competitiveness of minority owned businesses in the region.
Inaugural African-American Heritage MBA Endowed Scholarship awarded
African-American Heritage MBA Endowed Scholarship is awarded for the first time. It is the first (and to date only) endowed scholarship for African-American MBA students at the Foster School.
Business Bridge created
B² supports incoming undergraduates of diverse backgrounds as they transition into their first year of college. A five-credit College-Writing course, professional development sessions and personal empowerment discussions are all part of a comprehensive B² curriculum. Featured here is the Business Bridge Class of 2019 at the Ropes Course – a B² community-building staple.
Foster Undergraduate Programs hosts first Annual Women’s Networking Breakfast
Women on Boards Exec Ed seminar offered
Executive Education seminar “Women on Boards” is offered to help address the significant gender imbalance in corporate board composition.
The Young Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) established
WLS exposes young women to business concepts, female leaders in corporate America and a cohort of like-minded and driven peers. Developed in large part by Vikki Haag Day (Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs) and Jill Pimentel Medeiros (former Community Outreach Program Manager for the Undergraduate Programs Office), WLS has grown over the years and currently serves more than 50 young women from across Washington state during its annual summer Summit.
Foster establishes position of Associate Director for Diversity and Inclusion for Graduate Programs
Melissa Uyesugi hired to as Associate Director for Diversity and Inclusion for Graduate Programs and has been instrumental in the Foster School joining several prestigious national organizations focused on increased diversity in MBA programs across the country.
Foster establishes a partnership with the Forte Foundation to help launch women into fulfilling, significant careers in business
Foster joins Management Leadership for Tomorrow
Foster joins Management Leadership for Tomorrow to help equip African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans with the skills, coaching and connections they need to lead organizations and communities worldwide.
The Consortium welcomes Foster into its prestigious partnership in promoting diversity
The Foster School of Business became the 20th university to join The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, a prestigious partnership of top-ranked MBA programs and blue-chip companies dedicated to promoting greater diversity and inclusion in business education and, ultimately, corporate leadership.
Foster Seniors team up with UDS to create Building Networks
Foster Seniors Feben Gebremichael & Rahel Solomon collaborated with Foster Undergraduate Diversity Services to create Building Networks (BN). BN is a holistic, cohort-based program intended to empower prospective business students of color in their first year at the UW, or attending local community colleges. Featured here is the 2020 Building Networks cohort and UW student Mentors.
Ascend Program established
Developed by the University of Washington Foster School of Business’ Consulting & Business Development Center and powered by JPMorgan Chase’s Small Business Forward Initiative, Ascend grows businesses owned by people of color, women, veterans, and businesses in inner-city communities by building local networks in major metropolitan areas across the US.
Bradford—Osborne research award created
The Bradford-Osborne Research Award is the first national award recognizing research published in peer-reviewed journals that contributes to advancing the growth of businesses owned by people of color. In addition to recognizing groundbreaking research, the award seeks to stimulate additional research, provide public and corporate policy makers with insights to guide decision-making, and equip business support organizations to deliver impactful programming.
Creation of position of Associate Dean for Inclusion and Diversity
Christina Fong, Principal Lecturer of Management, was appointed to the new role of Associate Dean of Inclusion & Diversity. In announcing this appointment to the faculty and staff of the Foster School, Dean Frank Hodge stated, “Christina’s research and extensive service provide her a deep understanding of what it takes to build and nurture inclusive communities, and her passion for doing so is infectious. I couldn’t be more excited to work with Christina.”
Foster partners with Reaching Out MBA to support LGBT+ students
The Foster School announces partnership with Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) — a national organization that for two decades has been dedicated to increasing the influence of the LGBT+ community in business through educating, inspiring, and connecting MBA students and alumni.
Appointment of the Inaugural Foster Dean’s Impact Scholar
The Dean’s Impact Scholar Position is established to invite leaders from our diverse business community with demonstrated expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion to mentor and teach students and help lead Foster’s inclusion and diversity efforts. Stacia Jones joins the Foster faculty in Spring 2021 as the inaugural Dean’s Impact Scholar.

Subsequent Dean’s Impact Scholars include:
2022 Martie Buris
2023 Teddy Johnson
2024 Kelly Coleman

Foster and the Wharton School launch “The Tenure Project”
Foster School of Business together with the Wharton School launches “The Tenure Project”, an initiative to raise awareness and support for Black, Latine, and Native American junior faculty to achieve tenure in business schools. By increasing the chances that Assistant Professors of color go up for and receive tenure, we help attract a more historically underrepresented student population, further academic research by scholars of color, and contribute to a business community that is more equitable, inclusive, and diverse.
Michelle Purnell-Hepburn joins Foster
BA 1979, MBA 1982
Michelle Purnell-Hepburn named new Associate Dean for Inclusion and Diversity.
The CBDC and the Dean’s Office provided summer funding awards ($10,000/year for three years)
The Consulting and Business Development Center and the Dean’s Office provided summer funding awards ($10,000/year for three years) to three Foster faculty members who are conducting research projects that has the potential to create new knowledge about BIPOC and/or under-represented owned businesses and their communities within the United States.

2023 Awardees were: Esther Uduehi, Mana Heshmati, and Sarah McVay