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Diversity efforts at Babson go right to the top. Amanda Strong ’87, a Babson trustee, has worked with President Kerry Healey and others in the Babson community to make the Board of Trustees more representative of people of all backgrounds.
“Education was always important to my family,” says Strong, a director of asset management at MIT Investment Management Co. “As African-Americans, my parents weren’t made aware of or given the opportunity to go to college, but they instilled in us the importance of education. As a result, I and my three older sisters all went to college.”
A love of business brought the high school student to Babson for a campus tour. “Aaron Walton ’83 was my student guide,” Strong says. “He took me and my mother around campus, and I had an instant connection.”
After graduating, Strong focused on her career and family. But about 10 years ago she became involved with Babson again, hosting an annual Sunday brunch. “I invited African-American female students, faculty, and a few of my alumni friends over to eat and share experiences. It was a wonderful way for us all to connect,” she says, “which is something we didn’t have when I was at Babson. At that time, Babson wasn’t part of the Posse program, Dr. Sadie Burton-Goss’ role of chief diversity officer didn’t exist, and the Black Affinity Conference was not yet established. Babson’s African-American community was about 2 percent of the Babson population.”
In 2009, Strong became an overseer; in 2013 then President Len Schlesinger, H’14, asked her to become a trustee. Strong laughs when asked if the Board of Trustees was diverse when she joined. But she and others, including then chair Joe Winn, MBA’74, P’15, worked together to make an intentional effort to “improve the slate,” as she puts it. There were no specific numeric goals for diversity, but rather a deliberate focus to bring people of different backgrounds into the fold.
“The whole concept of diversity—it’s not just race,” she says. “It’s different economic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and experiences.” She points to age as another consideration. “We didn’t have much representation with people under 30 years old,” says Strong. “Given the importance of relating to the student body, the board created a way for recent grads to participate. It’s such a valuable perspective. In the wake of a student petition that highlighted the need for more diversity, we were able to swiftly react and are still working toward addressing the requests of the petition.”
Strong is happy to see increased diversity in the student body and staff but hopes efforts continue in faculty and governance. She has seen positive changes during her time on the board, including two new members from the black community and two more women, not to mention the board’s first woman chair, Marla Capozzi, MBA’96. Many people—faculty, students, staff, alumni—have worked to make the Babson community more diverse, notes Strong. “A diverse board brings differing opinions and views,” she says. “Making Babson more diverse is certainly not just because of one person’s efforts. We’re all entrepreneurial, so we attack problems and say, ‘How can we figure this out?’ Then we work together to achieve our goals.”—DC
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