Bethel Tapestry

Diversity in Business

By Suzanne Yonker GS'09
Issue 19 | Spring/Summer 2010

Diversity in Business

Learning the intricacies of today’s complex global economy has profound implications for business students today. The Department of Business and Economics at Bethel is helping unravel the issues of diversity and globalization to help business women and men succeed and respond effectively.

For undergraduates in the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS), the business major continues to be the most popular with nearly 500 students during spring semester 2010. In the College of Adult & Professional Studies (CAPS), 157 adults are business management learners, and 235 are currently enrolled in the MBA program in the Graduate School (GS).

One key to these students learning to conduct business globally is cultural competence—becoming aware of one’s own attitudes toward other cultures and building skills in working with other peoples. “The workplace is becoming increasingly diverse, and global engagement is imperative,” explains Leon Rodrigues, Bethel’s chief diversity officer. “It is no longer possible to be a competent leader without cultural competence.”

This means learning about specific cultural mores and practices and getting to know individuals. Holding the same values isn’t necessary, but respecting different values is. “Respect the culture, even if you don’t embrace it; you can be in the culture but not of it,” says Tom Judson, program director for the CAPS Business Management program and MBA co-director. In strengthening their cultural competence, Bethel business women and men learn to behave appropriately in certain environments and avoid cultural taboos.

“Today’s leaders must have extensive knowledge of different population needs, worldviews, and conflict,” says Rodrigues. “When managers practice culturally competent leadership, they will ensure much more responsive work environments and improved human relations. This increases productivity and enhances worker and customer satisfaction. We must be proactive rather than reactive.”

For Bethel, part of being proactive means holding reconciliation—the honoring of everyone’s worth and dignity—as a core value.

Anthony Pekarek, who graduated from Bethel in 2009 with a bachelor of arts in business, now works as a human resources professional at Cargill in Texas. He’s brought the reconciling skills he learned at Bethel into his workplace. “If you are in business, it is imperative not to allow one’s self to be ignorant to diversity,” he says. “Bethel allows its students to develop as leaders with integrity.”