Faculty of Color Look for Insights Amid Change
Minority Academics at Conference Consider Roles in a Society in Transition
June 29, 2009
About 40 members and guests of the Management Faculty of Color Association (MFCA), a nonprofit that promotes and supports professional development of African-American, Hispanic-American and Native American business management scholars, met June 4-6 at the School of Management to review their purpose as teachers, intellectuals and community leaders.
Participants who attended the association’s sixth annual conference also explored how to increase their visibility and viability in a society in transition.
“We saw in President [Barack] Obama’s campaign, through his outreach, that he is trying to have a different paradigm,” said Dr. David L. Ford Jr., a School of Management professor and local co-chairman for the conference.
MFCA members “feel similar,” Ford added. “We want to try and also be about change.”
To that end, the conference theme, “Imprinting a New Legacy: Our Role in an Era of Change, Uncertainty and Hope,” focused speakers on new issues academics are confronting, approaches they want to take in addressing challenges and outcomes they hope to achieve.
In welcoming remarks, School of Management Dean Hasan Pirkul encouraged Ph.D. students among the guests to consider UT Dallas as both an education and an employment resource.
Following the dean’s welcome, Dr. Magaly Spector, vice president of diversity and community engagement at UT Dallas, greeted conferees with an update on a new campus-wide mentoring program. Enrolling junior faculty members, the program aims to improve retention of minority and women teachers by offering them a system of support to help them achieve tenure and promotions.
Spector described the mentoring initiative as different from “the traditional setup” in that junior faculty can turn to mentors both within and outside the university. Mentors from the community “have brought a lot of good collaboration from outside UT Dallas,” Spector said.
“When I talked to the [MFCA] group,” she said later, “they were very excited to see we’ve been very active in developing faculty of color.”
In subsequent conference sessions, participants brainstormed on how the association should evolve, shared information on spinning off campus-centered entrepreneurial activities, presented research in progress and got advice from a panel of Dallas-area executives on how to keep business education relevant.
Reviewing the current economic climate, the executives considered ways management professors could partner with the business community to address concerns of specific companies and industries. The executives also discussed their own business training and how well it had served them, made recommendations to make business curriculums more effective immediately and offered suggestions on what business schools should be doing differently to produce stronger leaders and managers.
Panelists were Reena Batra, founder and CEO of Software Professionals Inc.; Albert C. Black Jr., CEO of On-Target Supplies & Logistics Ltd.; Olden C. Lee, principle of Lee Management Consulting Co. and a former PepsiCo executive; and Ben P. Muro, vice president of human resources for Acme Brick Co. and chairman of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport Board. Cynthia Cruz, a communications consultant and former vice president for a local telecommunications company, moderated the business panel.
Business curriculum relevancy and sustainability also will be on the professional development workshop agenda at the Academy of Management’s annual meeting in August in Chicago, Ford said.
He said the MFCA conference made a good precursor to that meeting, particularly for junior faculty. MFCA’s more informal setting “really serves people well,” he said, in that those presenting research benefited from having both more time than will be allowed in Chicago to showcase their work and longer post-presentation question-and-answer sessions.
Several members realized as the conference progressed that they had similar research interests, Ford said, and therefore could collaborate on future projects. Members also recognized, he said, “that we should cite each other’s work as we do our own,” and that potential future collaborations with one or more of the business panelists might be possible as well.
School of Management Professors David L. Ford Jr. (far left) and Orlando Richard (second from right) served as local co-chairmen for the MFCA conference, whose participants included Jacqueline Ford (second from left), Dr. Ford’s wife, and Assistant Professor Marcus M. Stewart (far right) of Bentley College.
Dr. Magaly Spector, vice president of diversity and community engagement at UT Dallas, updated MFCA conferees on campus-wide initiatives to support women and minority faculty members.