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DEI Digest – December 2023

In these days of awaking in the morning and returning home in the late afternoon in the dark, let us take a deep breath and say to ourselves, “The light is coming.” Whether we acknowledge one or more of the holidays that happen this time of year, the shortest day of the year is coming, followed by days that start to get longer.

Speaking of light, in this December Digest, you will read about the ways our community members are bringing equity and inclusion to light from the MBA Women’s Brunch, this year’s YEOC cohort, the latest Business Bridge cohort, the First-Generation Fireside Chat and the Business Impact Awards.

Please enjoy reading about good news about equity and inclusion events, activities, and…

Go Foster! Go Dawgs!

Michelle Purnell-Hepburn
Associate Dean for Inclusion & Diversity


Business Bridge Program

The 2023 Business Bridge cohort taking in a Mariners game.

Foster’s Business Bridge program is launching underrepresented students into successful college experiences in advance of the Fall quarter through a combination of Foster experiences – including a 5 credit course, community building activities, and company visits. Relying on a diverse group of facilitators with expertise in many business fields, students get an early glimpse of student life and a chance to make connections before the school year begins. Learn more about the program in our 2023 Impact Report.


Young Executives of Color Impact Report

Since 2006, Foster’s Young Executives of Color (YEOC) program has been cultivating the academic potential of underrepresented high school students in Washington State through college preparation, powerful mentorship, and the development of real life business skills. This free program currently serves 190 high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors from 83 schools. Of the 89 seniors enrolled in the program last year, 61 were admitted as freshman to UW. Read more about the program’s impact in the 2022-23 annual report.


First Generation Business Leaders Fireside Chat

The First Generation Fireside Chat, co-sponsored by the First Generation Business Leaders RSO and the Associate Dean for Inclusion & Diversity, was held on November 8. The event featured Purnell-Hepburn moderating a panel of first generation business leaders discussing navigating the business world.

The panel included Anh Vu, the HRIS Coordinator at Seattle Indian Health Board (BA 2023), Zoraida Valdovinos, Founder & President of the First Generation Business Leaders student club (BA 2019), Brooklyn Rodriguez, Application Sales Manager at Oracle (MBA 2021), and Deans Impact Scholar Kelly Coleman, a Principal Tech Program & People Manager at Microsoft (MBA 1998).

Panelists took questions from the Purnell-Hepburn and the audience, addressing topics such as balancing the pursuit of their own career aspirations with the responsibilities and expectations to provide for their family, and sharing strategies for building a professional network as a first-generation professional.


Business Impact Awards

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell speaks at the Impact Awards

On November 16, 2023, the CBDC celebrated its annual UW Impact Awards that highlighted the outcome of its work to support companies in underserved communities across Washington.

This year’s theme focused on its work in central Washington, the unofficial capital of the state’s fruit industry. The CBDC has been improving the business skills of employees who work in agriculture, transportation, food & beverage and other industries throughout the region. Through both Business Basics and Advanced Business Certificate programs, more than 125 employees advance their careers each year and increase the competitiveness of businesses from Yakima to Wenatchee to the Tri-Cities. To date, more than 1,000 employees have completed the program of which 70% have received increased salaries and/or promotions.

Awards were presented to recognize alumni, corporations and other partners who help better humanity through business.


Foster Diversity in Business Club

Zharen Gonzales

Foster MBA student Sohara Shachi highlights the Diversity in Business (DiBs) club, formed to bring racial diversity to the forefront in the Foster community. DiBs brings in companies to talk about DEI in the workplace. And within Foster, it creates spaces to support diverse communities and hosts three affinity groups: Black MBA @ Foster, LatinX MBA @ Foster, and Asian-Americans/Pacific Islanders (AAPI) MBA @ Foster.

“Foster’s purpose statement goes hand-in-hand with DiBs’ purpose, but DiBs brings more accountability into the mix,” says outgoing DiBs president, Zharen Gonzales. “We know that listening to diverse voices can lead to creative solutions that deliver value and impact for all, but how do we make sure that the leaders we bring in are well represented? Are insights free of bias? And is the progress equitable and inclusive? These are all critical questions to ask in order to better humanity for all.”

Read an interview with Gonzales.


Foster MBA Women’s Brunch

In late October, the Foster MBA Admissions Team held their annual Foster MBA Women’s Brunch, a unique event intended to give women interested in Foster’s Full-time and Evening MBA programs an intentional space to share and learn from each other’s experiences as they pursue paths towards their professional and personal advancement.

Brunch panelist Alina Okhotnikova

“This year’s Women’s Brunch brought together women from all career tracks,” notes Noé Valdovinos-Orozco, Associate Director for MBA Admissions, Diversity. “It was a powerful diversity-focused event that allowed for genuine mentorship, connections, and empowerment as we bring our mission to life and demonstrate our continued commitment to bridging the gender gap in the MBA space.”

The event, meant to give prospective applicants full-spectrum insights into academic and student life as experienced by Foster’s MBA women, featured an MBA mock class on Gender and Negotiations led by Professor Christina Fong, panel discussions with MBA alumnae and current Women in Business MBA club members, and an opportunity to take a new professional headshot.

Associate Dean Michelle Purnell-Hepburn delivered a keynote speech at the event, sharing a powerful message with prospective students on building resiliency and empowering oneself and others as emerging leaders. One prospective MBA resonated deeply with her remarks: “As my MBA journey has triggered my impostor syndrome, her words have provided me with a sense of confidence and comfort, reminding me that the universe will say “yes!” to my efforts.”

Learn more about the Full-time MBA program’s diversity partnerships and outreach to prospective students, including efforts to support more women as they seek a path towards graduate education in management.


Upcoming Events

We hope to see you all at the Foster Holiday Celebration on on Friday, December 15th, 2023 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. in Anthony’s Forum. RSVP here.

The annual Celebration of Black Alumni Achievement will be held on Thursday, February 8, 2024, from 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Registration is open now.

Have safe and enjoyable Holiday season.