VSB Takes Significant Steps with DEI Initiatives


Graydon Paul

Bartley Hall was home to this year’s SAPA-sponsored sexual assault awareness panel.

Isabella Balian, Staff Writer

Diversity, equity, and inclusion [DEI] should have a place on every college campus and in every classroom, regardless of academic discipline. Villanova University prides itself on its Catholic Augustinian values that emphasize the importance of inviting and including all people of all identities. To be able to grow on this campus together, our Augustinian tradition emphasizes interacting and uniting with people who come from different backgrounds, and the importance of embracing diversity to celebrate all students. 

“As a person of color, I constantly questioned the motives of not including a VSB DEI requirement unlike CLAS; it seems unfitting especially when businesses have historically lacked diverse leadership. Both the integration of these concepts and the VSB Office of DEI’s initiatives are necessary for a richer core curriculum”, says Luca Covino, the  DEI Officer for the Villanova Finance Group. 

The Villanova School of Business Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion [ODEI] has recently taken significant steps to work toward integrating DEI concepts into the business curriculum to further educate students on the intersection of business and diversity. ODEI believes that courses regarding DEI concepts and business courses are not two separate entities, but can be intertwined to be able to equip students for a successful career in business fully. 

To begin integrating DEI concepts into the VSB curriculum, starting this year, all first-year students are introduced to these concepts within the Business Dynamics class (VSB1015). During this first-year course, in addition to the regular curriculum of accounting, finance, marketing, and other business disciplines, students will also learn the definition of DEI-related concepts and the ways in which they appear within the business workplace; including understanding the value of diverse teams, inclusive management, and avoiding pay inequity and hiring imbalances. The aim of this introduction is to lay the foundation for revisiting these points when pertinent to the course content later in the semester and interjecting the concepts throughout core business classes.

To continue the foundation for establishing DEI concepts throughout students’ education at VSB, ODEI collaborated with the course coordinators for the Backpack to Briefcase (VSB2000), a class all students must take during their sophomore year. Together, in Fall 2021 they introduced a specific module dedicated to allyship, where students develop an understanding of allyship as a dynamic behavior and how it relates to the business workplace. Still, under development, ODEI is aiming to continue business students’ exposure to DEI concepts in the junior level of Backpack to Briefcase (VSB3000). As envisioned, at this juncture in their VSB matriculation, students will be able to apply the foundational concepts explored in their first two years in the completion of case study competition. 

When fully executed, the phase of this journey would be the explicit consideration of DEI topics in Strategic Thinking and Implementation (STI, VSB 4002), a fourth-year capstone course for all VSB students before they graduate. “Our hope is that by their graduation the class of 2026 would have DEI incorporated in every stage of their VSB experience”, says the Associate Dean of DEI, Aronte’ Bennett. 

In addition to these adjustments, the ODEI has also developed a new elective for business students called “Reimagining Race, Justice, and Business Leadership” (VSB3500). This elective is currently offered to juniors and seniors (will be opened to sophomores in Spring 2023) and builds on the shared material from the Race and Justice Dialogue Course (RJDC) offered within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Within this course, VSB students will undergo an explicit investigation of the ways race and justice intersect in business domains. 

Extending their efforts to incorporate DEI into the curricular thread of VSB, ODEI recently delivered a list of learning objectives to senior leadership. Intended to inspire a reevaluation of the core pillars of a VSB education with attention to these new DEI improvements, these learning objectives will be used to measure the development of related competencies in the core curriculum. This shift elevates efforts to cultivate a more inclusive community with VSB and aligns those efforts with the two other strategic imperatives of the college, endowing students with core competencies that will make them successful graduates, and- supporting world-class faculty research. Professor Bennett reflects on what she hopes students will gain from these new and improved integrations of DEI concepts into the core curriculum, “I hope that it will help us get to a point where students recognize DEI as integral to the functioning of a successful business enterprise and that they will be endowed with the tools that help them actualize DEI efforts in their careers or next steps.”.