Texas Tech University

2015 Rawls Diversity Symposium

Trevor Bell

August 31, 2015

This story was provided by Emily Gardner, media relations intern for the Texas Tech University Office of Communications and Marketing. For photos from the entire Rawls Diversity Symposium, visit the Rawls College Flickr account.

Rawls College Hosts Inaugural Diversity Symposium: Ken Bouyer from Ernst & Young presented the keynote speech.

There's power in difference, Ken Bouyer, Americas director of inclusiveness recruiting at Ernst & Young, said in his keynote speech as part of the second day of the Rawls Diversity Symposium. The speech was followed by a reception where students, faculty and staff discussed the lecture.

The School of Accounting at Rawls College of Business partnered with the Division of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Community Engagement to host the inaugural Rawls Diversity Symposium, an event from Aug. 26-28 with guest speakers and panels.

"The Rawls College firmly believes that business organizations have taken a leadership role in setting the stage for progressive thinking, inclusiveness and promotion of diversity within society," said John Masselli, a Haskell Taylor professor of taxation. "The accounting profession, in particular the 10 largest international accounting firms, has consistently been a standard bearer for developing and implementing strategies designed to promote diversity."

Ernst & Young is one of the Big Four accounting firms, and the firm recruits Rawls College students, Masselli said. Bouyer was chosen as the keynote speaker because of the firm's commitment to diversity and their support toward the School of Accounting.

Bouyer, who gave a speech called "Achieving Competitive Advantage through Diversity, Inclusiveness and Global Mindset," started working for Ernst & Young on Oct. 1, 1990. He started his speech by comparing his first day at the firm to a book he read called "A Peacock in the Land of Penguins." He discussed losing his feathers and putting a penguin suit on, while losing who he was for a job.

"Everything about me at the firm, I was questioning," Bouyer said. "The good news, I have a great mentor who pulled me aside and basically said 'Ken, we hired you to be a peacock.' He didn't say those words, but that was the message. And really from that point forward things changed for me. I began to be more like me. So 25 years later I've had an amazing run at the firm. I give a lot of credit to the people in the firm who recognized my value and difference.

"Most of us, at one point or another has been the peacock on Penguin Island. Think about the emotions and feelings you went through when making that transition. Diversity's a lot like that. There's power in difference. Difference is a really good thing."

Bouyer challenged people to start preparing now for the diversity, inclusion and global mindset in the business world. He shared an approach Ernst & Young uses that classifies diversity in categories ranging from thought and perspective to generational differences to disabilities, while describing how complex the situation really is and how important it is to cultivate differences in people. One example is the invention of the iPod.

"When we talk about you bringing who you are to the workplace, it's so important that you bring your authentic self and your ideas," he said. "That's what we need at the firm because that's how you get better. Without your different perspective, we still have the Sony Walkman. That's the power of diversity of thought and perspective."

Inclusive leaders are needed to create an open dialogue and allow employees to share their ideas, Bouyer said, and the classroom and university level is an important learning experience when professors act as the leaders and facilitate the discussion and students feel comfortable with who they are and the ideas they have. It also is important for students to interact with people during group projects, especially in regard to a global mindset.

Bouyer offered other advice, including: being your authentic self; getting comfortable being uncomfortable; immersing oneself in a culture and understanding cultural differences; being ready to deal with other cultures in business deals; and recognizing bias and pausing to challenge that bias by having conversations and asking questions.

"Have real conversations, ask questions about why people celebrate certain holidays or not, why they are a vegetarian or not," Bouyer said. "Learn something. Here's a very safe environment to do that. On campus in your classrooms is a very safe place to do it. What's not safe is when you work with Dubai, spend time with a client and realize your bias or lack of knowledge or understanding about a culture almost blew a deal.

"Right now, at this moment and going forward, have real conversations with each other. Be respectful, but have real conversations. That's how you begin to develop a global mindset."

The first day of the symposium was a movie presentation of "The Imitation Game," and the third day involved faculty development breakout sessions, a meet and greet, and guest speakers Hansel Burley, professor of educational psychology at Texas Tech, who talked about "Multicultural Competence on College Campuses: The Research of H. Sarraj" and Leslie Ashburn-Nardo, associate professor in psychology at Indiana University and Purdue University - Indianapolis, on "What can allies and organizations do to reduce discrimination?"

There also was a panel discussion about the themes from "The Imitation Game" moderated by Shannon Rinaldo, an associate professor in marketing. Ashburn-Nardo and several Texas Tech faculty members, including Masselli; Kelli Frias, assistant professor of marketing; and Ron Milam, associate professor of history, sat on the panel.

The concept of the symposium began with ideas from Rawls professors and directors, including Masselli; Rinaldo; Jason Rinaldo, senior director of assessment; Robert Ricketts, Frank M. Burke chair in taxation and accounting department head; and Archie Pitsilides, director of grants and outreach, as part of a diversity grant proposal. The team was awarded a $5,000 grant to make the symposium a reality.

The purpose of the symposium included serving as a model for future Rawls College diversity symposiums, informing stakeholders of ways to achieve greater diversity in recruitment, retention, curriculum models and faculty development, supporting the expansion of Rawls diversity efforts, and creating a discussion regarding diversity among students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community. The committee hopes to host future symposiums and wants to help Texas Tech achieve a leadership role in raising awareness about the importance of diversity and inclusiveness.

"Striving for real diversity requires a commitment that goes far beyond compliance with legal statuses designed to avoid race, ethnic and gender discrimination," Masselli said. "Truly diverse institutions are comprised of people with varying characteristics including but not limited to religious and political beliefs, gender, ethnicity, education, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation and geographic location. Data shows diversity enhances productivity and competitive advantage while also motivating people to join the organization, embody its organizational missions and be productive into the future. For these reasons, we feel regular, ongoing discussions of diversity and inclusiveness are absolutely worthwhile and germane to continued progress."

This supports the efforts outlined in the Rawls College of Business Strategic Plan. Learn more about the LEADER 2020 Strategic Plan and follow our progress on Twitter at #RawlsLeads.