Building Business Leaders cohort sees continued success with minority students

Tayah Butler started the Building Business Leaders program@@[email protected]@ to help minority students feel a sense of community in the business school. Now in its second year of existence, the program’s continuing success is proving encouraging to creators and participants alike.

“We’ve stumbled upon a way to combine academic work, leadership development, professional development and community,” Butler said. “Those are the four pillars. That’s what makes what we’re doing different than any other option that students have looked at before.”

Butler, an academic adviser of undergraduate programs in the Lundquist College of Business@@, started the Building Business Leaders program to help minority students stay in the business school, because statistically speaking minority students drop out at a higher rate than nonminority students. There are currently 28 freshmen in the program and approximately the same amount of sophomores.

Of freshmen who declare pre-business as a major freshman year, six out of 10 white or Asian-American students pass the 11 prerequisite classes and eventually apply for the business school.

Butler contrasted this with Hispanic students, of whom four out of 10 declared pre-business and eventually applied to the business school. Two out of 10 African-American students apply to be full business majors, and one out of 10 Native American students apply, according to Butler.

The program is designed to help keep minority students in the business school through developing a sense of community.

Joseph Hill@@[email protected]@, a freshman in the cohort, learned of the program while at IntroDucktion from Butler@@[email protected]@. He applied for the program during the summer and was accepted. He started meeting people from the program and felt more ready for college when he moved in.

“A lot of friends that I have now, I met in the program. I know without it I wouldn’t know as many people and I wouldn’t have as many resources and connections available to me,” he said. “I’m thankful for that.”

The program began in 2009 and saw great success in its first year. Because of the first year’s success, the program decided to become residential for its second year to further foster a sense of community. Many of the Building Business Leaders now live in the Living-Learning Center residence hall.@@[email protected]@

Nick Barton, a sophomore and a member of the inaugural class, credits the cohort with many advances he has made in the business school.@@[email protected]@

“This group has also allowed me to get a great sense and feel for working in diverse groups, as well as hands-on leadership experiences where I was able to actually lead a group of peers through various events,” he said.

Barton also credits Butler with shaping his college experience, saying without her he may not still be at the University.

“Her help goes beyond just telling us what classes to take or teaching us good study techniques,” he said. “She is always supporting us and challenging us to not settle for anything, but to live up to our full potential.”

Butler looks to the increasing numbers of minority students in the business school as making the program a success.

“If we look at the same type of population that was not engaged in this project, only 30 percent would have continued through their first year as opposed to 70 percent now,” Butler said. “So we flipped those numbers upside down.”

The program continues to grow, and Butler hopes to expand the program for next year to up to 60 new participants.

“When students have a common goal and a common passion, many of the diversity issues that we all have kind of carried with us for a long time, they dissipate,” Butler said. “We find that working toward that common goal is more important than anything else. And that’s really empowering.”

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