The Consortium: Opening doors for 50 years

In the mid 1960s, when civil rights protests were growing and calls for radical social change permeated all walks of life, Sterling H. Schoen, a professor at Washington University’s business school, realized through his research that Fortune 500 companies employed no African Americans in management. Schoen, an expert in labor relations, wanted to open the doors to business education and corporate career tracks for underrepresented minorities.

Sterling Schoen in 1974.

Sterling Schoen in 1974. Photo courtesy of WashU Archives.

Schoen’s research and dedication to diversity in business education and management led to the creation of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. Better known as “The Consortium,” it is a unique alliance of top-tier business schools and corporate partners dedicated to increasing the ranks of underrepresented minorities in business education and corporate leadership.

“We’re here today because of Prof. Schoen’s vision,” said Peter J. Aranda III (MBA and MIM ’87), a Consortium alumnus and current executive director and CEO of The Consortium. “We need to remember we stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. The opportunities that exist today are bigger and greater than they were in the early days of the organization, and that is truly because of those who came before us.”

“Few people are able to recognize what happened in America in the 1960s. While I was at the University of Chicago on a post-doctoral fellowship in 1962–63, I witnessed the burning of Chicago …. It was there that I first conceived of the notion that our business schools might take a more active and constructive role in promoting equal-opportunity employment in our country. I soon realized that Washington University by itself could make little impact on the problem, and so the idea of a consortium of leading universities was conceived.”
–Prof. Sterling Schoen in a 1996 letter reflecting on the founding of The Consortium.

The first cohort of Consortium MBA students included 21 African-American men who enrolled in three founding member schools in 1967: Washington University, Indiana University-Bloomington, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The students were connected to mentors, leaders, and recruiters representing 27 corporate partners. Two years later, the University of Rochester and the University of Southern California joined The Consortium.

In 1970, Consortium membership opened to include women, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. This sparked growth in the number of member students and corporate and university partners. In 2004, The Consortium evolved to include all U.S. citizens and permanent residents who have demonstrated a commitment to The Consortium’s mission.

Between 1973 and 2013, the following universities joined The Consortium:

    • 1973: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    • 1983: University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
    • 1984: New York University and The University of Texas at Austin
    • 1992: University of Virginia
    • 1993: University of California, Berkeley (withdrew in 2003, rejoined in 2010)
    • 1999: Dartmouth College
    • 2001: Carnegie Mellon University and Emory University
    • 2008: Yale University
    • 2009: Cornell University
    • 2010: University of California, Los Angeles
    • 2013: Georgetown University

In 2016, The Consortium offered membership to more than 480 incoming students attending 18 member universities. Over the past 50 years, The Consortium has helped more than 9,000 of the country’s most talented MBA students achieve their goals.

Wallace Jones, former CEO of The Consortium, and Sterling Schoen

Wallace Jones, former CEO of The Consortium, and Sterling Schoen. Photo courtesy of The Consortium.

The Consortium–WashU connection

Olin Business School has never wavered in its support of The Consortium. From the nine inaugural students in 1967 to the 18 enrolled first- and second-year students in 2016, the school has remained steadfast in its commitment to The Consortium’s mission.

By agreement among the founding schools, Washington University initially served as The Consortium’s employer, fiscal agent, and administrative support. The Consortium was a department of Washington University, and Consortium staff were university employees with all of the implied benefits.

When The Consortium began operations in 1967, it was housed in Prince Hall with the business school. In 1981 The Consortium terminated its longstanding relationship with WashU and moved off campus. It became an independent 501 (c) 3 July 1, 1999.

Consortium celebrates 50th anniversary in 2016

Barbara Britton Jones, former vice president for finance and administration for The Consortium, authored Leading the Challenge of Change, a history of the organization, in honor of its 50th anniversary in 2016. Through archival documents, photographs, and interviews, the commemorative book tells the stories of numerous pioneers involved in launching and sustaining the organization.

“The vision of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management is to increase the representation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in management careers in the United States. We realize this vision by recruiting outstanding students who have shown a commitment to diversity and connecting them with top-tier MBA programs and corporations.” Learn more at cgsm.org.

Photos courtesy of WashU Archives and The Consortium. 

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