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Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Building a More Inclusive Community

In any given week St. Thomas offers a wide range of workshops to members of its community. Still there were many aspects of the Howard Ross workshop on Diversity, Unconscious Bias, and Leadership that set it apart.

The intention of this workshop was simple yet provocative. Even with the purest of intentions, the way we perceive and respond to the world is strongly influenced by factors that we are often completely unaware of.  These influences are grounded in our personal history as well as our biology. And some of these unconscious influences on our perceptions and responses can detract from our effectiveness in interacting with others.

Howard Ross


Ross used a combination of video clips, research results, and personal stories to de-stigmatize our perceptions of bias, a critical first step in understanding how pervasive and universal bias is, and how we can use a heightened awareness of our own biases to increase our effectiveness in interacting with others. Visual aids, like the images above, helped illustrate not only that our initial perceptions can  misled us, but that even after seeing visual proof, in this case, proof that square A and square B are the same shade of gray  our senses, shaped by our “bias” about the nature of checkerboard patterns, tell us something different.

This insight into the workings of our own minds, this understanding of how context and life experience shapes our perception of reality, becomes more important when we shift our attention from inanimate objects and colors to complex communities of individuals that we li

ve, learn and work with. And as our communities become increasingly diverse, and the contextual and social meaning of dimensions of difference, such as gender, race, and sexual orientation evolve, enhancing our self-awareness of how personal history and cultural norms informs our perceptions becomes more critical.

How does this relate to leadership?

And so, over the course of three workshops over 100 members of the St. Thomas community received a crash course on diversity, inclusion, and the nature of unconscious bias. This comment from an attendee captured the sentiments expressed by several participants – “Great session! Would love more opportunities to discuss these ideas with colleagues.” And the most common complaint? That the workshops were too short! Great leaders connect emotionally, and inspire the best from their team members with effective communication and aggressive but realistic goals. If we are charged with leading or participating in a diverse team (and what team isn’t these days?) understanding how our life experience and world view may differ from our colleagues, or influence how we interact with others, is incredibly valuable.


 If you are interested in exploring the themes of unconscious bias and creating a more inclusive environment in our diverse St. Thomas community, send your name and  suggestions to bwoodson@stthomas.edu. 

Newsroom, OCB Alumni, OCB Commentary

Veterans Day Profile: George Lang ’76 M.B.A.

In December 1976, veteran George Lang was one of 28 students to graduate from St. Thomas’ first-ever MBA class, marking the beginning of a legacy that has grown into today’s Opus College of Business. Moving from a background in mathematics, Lang went on to transition to a longtime career in finance and real estate, start his own consulting company and most recently, join the Graduate Business Alumni Board this past September.

A lifelong resident of St. Paul, Lang says he got his start in the military in JROTC while still a student at Cretin High School (which became Cretin-Derham Hall in 1987).  He went on to study mathematics at the University of Notre Dame, where he was a member of ROTC. After his graduation in June 1964, he spent two years in the army. He was pulled into a unit at Fort Lewis in Washington, landing in military intelligence, an area in which he would spend his entire army career. A year later, when President Johnson decided to move American troops into Vietnam, Lang found himself in the company of 5,000 men of the first infantry division, who sailed over to Vietnam to prepare the way. Lang described the experience as “not like the current day military, but not like the World War II military. It was, ‘Go out and try to eliminate the enemy,’ who was very clandestine.”

Upon his return a year later, Lang had already written ahead of time to apply for and secure a job with St. Paul Fire & Marine Insurance Company, now known as the Travelers Companies. For three years He worked primarily as a computer programmer before getting into a research analyst position. Lang and a partner introduced the company to the first personal computers, as well as the first terminals, as the new technology spread to the public at the end of the 1960s. “Quickly, it appeared to me I had reached the top of where I was,” Lang said, citing that this was the time he began looking for a graduate business program that would advance his career. Continue Reading

Career Services, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

The Inventory For Your Future

WarehouseRésumés depict the perfect work history for a specific position of interest. Time and time again recruiters tell applicants to target an open position with key words, matched job responsibilities and highlighted qualifications.  This process will hopefully lead to an interview, and then a job offer, but it is often difficult to create a well-positioned résumé designed for success.  Each professional has a different work history, most of which is not listed on a typical resume, that is preferred to be only one page.  This one page document may contain all the pertinent information for a single position, but it doesn’t contain the entire work history of its owner which can be provided with an occupation inventory.

An occupation inventory is a document which contains each and every position held as well as each and every responsibility for those positions.  This document has no limit length, no desired conditional formatting and serves a single purpose, to create a complete professional track record that can be utilized for any future position.

This occupation inventory serves to be a quick reference for résumé creation as well as allow its owner to recount their work history with ease.  These previous positions can also provide insight into transferable skills that may have been previously missed.  About.com describes transferable skills as, “…the skills you’ve gathered through various jobs, volunteer work, hobbies, sports, or other life experiences that can be used in your next job or new career. In addition to being useful to career changers, transferable skills are also important to those who are facing a layoff, new graduates who are looking for their first jobs, and to those re-entering the workforce after an extended absence.” Transferable skills are great for those looking to transition into a different career field, such as from finance to marketing.

To create an occupation inventory, it is best to start with a blank document, rather than an existing resume.  Start by typing each company, position and time period on the document, then list each responsibility completed in each position.  These responsibilities can be complete statements, or single words, remember to list items that were not included on the job description.  If tasks or duties aren’t quick to come forward, utilize O*NET online’s ‘Occupation Quick Search’ engine.  O*NET is an online job description dictionary; Graduate Business Career Services as well as LinkedIn profiles can serve as great references.

As each professional’s career path extends, so should their Occupation Inventory.  Other items to consider adding to this document would include:

  • References from each occupation that can serve as great resources for future employers
  • Time periods as well as position changes that occur throughout organizations
  • Major projects and accomplishments
  • Committees and boards served on

This document is a reference tool to make applying, interviewing and networking much simpler.  This guide can also serve to depict areas of growth or skill sets that may be missing.  For more ideas on what to add to your Occupation Inventory see Graduate Business Career Services.

Admissions, FTMBA, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Outreach Scholars Reflect the 21st Century Workplace



A few days ago, first year UST MBA students who were awarded Outreach scholarships gathered for a potluck dinner and conversation. There, they were joined by a group that had never existed before this year—second-year Outreach Scholars; role models who could reassure them that the intensity of the Full-time UST MBA was nothing they couldn’t handle. Role models who, over the past 14 months, have already established a track record of excellence, taking on leadership roles and graduate assistantships, securing internships with Fortune 500 companies and earning national recognition for themselves and the university with a top three finish in the annual NBMBAA Chrysler Case Competition.

While the Outreach Scholars program is only in its second year, every alumnus of the Full-time UST MBA program (and there are hundreds) has made lifelong connections during his or her time here. Some have the distinction of being one of fewer than 75 graduates of the UST JD/MBA dual degree program; others participated in the Aristotle Fund or the Mayo Innovation Scholars program. These shared experiences made their time in the UST MBA program memorable, but at the end of the day, the strongest bonds are reinforced by, if not built upon, the connection each student makes with classmates who have common career interests, belong to the same clubs, same team, or some other group within the larger UST MBA community. Continue Reading

Career Services, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Need Professional Growth? Find a Career Mentor!

This week fifty first and second year Full-time UST MBA students embark on their Mentor program directed by Graduate Business Career Services.  Mentors have been paired with students based on career objectives, as well as a shared interest in the industry and company of their mentor.  These partnerships range from a wide variety of companies including 3M, Target Corporation, Cargill, Medtronic and many others. Finding a mentor can be rather difficult and cumbersome.  Steve Yakesh,  Executive Vice Preseident of Versique Executive Search and Consulting breaks down the process for those who wish to form a mentorship of their own.

Thousands of training companies and products exist to help individuals grow in virtually any profession. Many of these tools are great, but often cover broad topics, such as communications, management, and business acumen. How do you go about receiving customized training for your unique situation? A great option is to find a career mentor.

A mentor should be someone you can sit down with individually and discuss areas that are important to you. They can help you scribe a personal development plan, and can be available to lean on for advice and wisdom. Sounds great, right?

So, how do you find the right mentor?  Below are four tips to keep in mind: Continue Reading

Events, Faculty, Health Care MBA, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Pioneering Health Care in Minnesota

hc-pioneer300Despite the threat of congress further changing the rules of our health care system, and a 16 day shutdown of the federal government, leaders across Minnesota and the Midwest have been working to increase the accessibility to insurance while improving patient care and reducing costs. So, instead of focusing on the political bloviating in Washington, let’s turn our attention to the opportunities being developed right here in Minnesota and in the greater University of St. Thomas community, where improvements have already changed the way patients receive new health care benefits. Daniel McLaughlin, M.H.A, the director of the UST Center for Health and Medical Affairs, shared his insight to the progressive nature of our evolving local health care models. Continue Reading

Career Services, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Improv: A Career Gold Mine

Usually the best advice comes from experience.  Tina Fey, actress and Saturday Night Live star, is just that. Experienced.

As a cast member of Saturday Night Life, her comedic history traverses decades of movies, parodies and skits.  The success to all of these humorous ventures centers around one acting principle, IMPROVISATION.  Several books such as What Color is Your Parachute, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and Who Moved My Cheese have long been the bibles to career advancement and professional development. In her book BossypantsFey accounts her comedic success to that of improvisation, and depicts the four rules to improv below.

To succeed in improvisation, one must master the ability to:

  1. Always agree
  2. Say yes
  3. Make a statement
  4. No mistakes

While these rules seem simple enough for a comedian, their value heightens in the professional world. Continue Reading

Newsroom, OCB Commentary, UST MBC

Corporate Messaging in Every Cookie

JanetandPhil / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

In a recent discussion in my Strategic Writing course, we considered a company called Mondelēz International.  Actually, we started by looking at a snack-sized package of Oreo cookies.  The point of the dialogue was to consider what “corporate” messaging  means to a copywriter in the marketing department asked to develop material geared to sell snack-packs.

Now, you may not have heard of Mondelēz International, but if you took the time to click through on the link above, many of the brands featured in the animation will prove familiar.  And there in the midst is Oreo, a product that still bears the Nabisco logo on the package (which ends up being a brand between other brands). Continue Reading

Health Care MBA, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

Voldemort vs. Health Care

Iain Browne / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Dr. Don Berwick, former administrator of the centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and former president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement spoke at the 14th annual Physician Leadership Symposium, held earlier this month at the Opus College of Business.

With his credentials, you might expect his presentation to be filled with medical terminology and jargon–however, Berwick began by introducing us to his beloved and most brilliant four-year-old grandson, and a character from the Harry Potter books, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.  As a proud grandfather, physician and expert in providing quality health care, Berwick is deeply concerned for the present status and future of U.S. health care.

What does Voldemort (gasp!), have to do with health care?  Using Harry Potter’s evil character as a metaphor, Berwick defined 11 monsters — economic and social variables impacting our health care system. The unspeakable hot topics included: Continue Reading

Entrepreneurship, Newsroom, OCB Commentary

3 Paths to Make It As An Entrepreneur

UST Photo by M JensenAnyone can opt to be an entrepreneur, but the real question is who will be successful.  At BeamPines we assessed many executives who, even when they were at the general manager level or higher, dreamed of leaving and running their own business. However, when given the opportunity, 90% of these executives opted instead to return to corporate life. Why? Since many of these executives had spouses, mortgages and children ready to enter or already in college, they worried about risk. So given an offer to take a high level job back in corporate with a good compensation package vs. the uncertainty of finding the right entrepreneurial opportunity, they usually chose the former.

The most famous entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg are unique. Brilliant, impatient and impervious to risk, they can’t even wait to graduate college before getting started. One of our clients, Bob Stiller of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, failed out of Syracuse twice before starting Easy Wider which became a big hit with people wanting to roll their own cigarettes. Once he sold this business, he took his profits and moved to Vermont where in 1981 he opened up a small cafe in Waitsfield, roasting and serving coffee. It was so good, demand for the coffee grew and local restaurants and inns asked to be supplied and Green Mountain Coffee came about. Doing very well, in 2006 he came up with the brilliant but risky idea to purchase Keurig, a manufacturer of single cup pods of coffee (the K cup). This gave GMCR a niche which enabled brought the company to new levels of success. The company’s stock is up 200% this year.

However, most executives don’t have the one “great idea.” To become successful entrepreneurs they need to either buy or start a business. They also need luck and the right timing. Here are three paths you might consider. Continue Reading