Meet Raji Srinivasan, McCombs’ First Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion

On July 1, Raji Srinivasan will step into a new role: first-ever associate dean of diversity and inclusion at the McCombs School of Business. In this position, she will spearhead new diversity and inclusion programs and push existing ones forward. McCombs Dean Jay Hartzell selected Srinivasan after an exhaustive search process involving faculty, staff, and students. Raji has been an outspoken advocate for the rights of many under-represented groups around campus, and she will guide our diversity and inclusion efforts with the focus and resolve that they deserve,” he said in a statement.

Srinivasan joined the tenure track at McCombs in 2000 as a freshly minted PhD from Penn State. Since joining UT, she has taught undergraduates, MBAs, and PhDs, conducted original research in marketing strategy, published her work widely, and received numerous awards. The Alcalde caught up with Srinivasan to discuss her new job.

What drew you to this new position?

I’m from India. I’ve been in the states for 22 years now, and Texas for 17. Texas has been warm and welcoming, but I’ve also been far from the mainstream at this school and in this state. At various points, being a woman and from South Asia, I have felt like an outsider. This makes me sensitive to how someone who’s not in the mainstream might potentially feel. It’s an opportunity to change some things I’ve experienced myself and heard from my students. It’s a way to give back to a community that’s been good to me. It’s a privilege to be in the inaugural position.

What existing areas of diversity and inclusion at McCombs are you proud of?

We’re proud of what’s been done at the undergraduate level to attract students from diverse groups and economically underprivileged backgrounds. We’ve also done a lot of work with the MBA program, achieving more of a gender balance.

What do you want to improve on?

I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but there are many areas for improvement. We want our school to represent the very diverse state of Texas. That’s my mandate, and I’m very optimistic.

What are your goals?

Students should be able to celebrate their diversity, which we’re defining broadly: not just in terms of race and ethnicity, but also sexual orientation, first-generation, and even religion. We have about 10 different characteristics. We want the classroom to be more inclusive and to make sure that the experience of all students is smooth. Finally, we are looking to support these initiatives with scholarships and internships. The top priorities are improving the climate and classroom experience. We also want our faculty to be more diverse, but that will take some time. Recruiting faculty and staff has its own cadence and timeline.

What obstacles do you expect?

We are an academic institution and people have the freedom to speak up. In terms of getting people on board, there is a committee of 26 faculty and staff who are committed to making this happen. There are many of my colleagues who want to do this. There are others who may want to help but don’t know how. Finally, in the spirit of diversity of thought, there are some who might need to be convinced that this is important. There’s work to be done on multiple fronts.

Borrowing from business school jargon, will McCombs get a good return on investment for this, in terms of time, effort, and money?

We need resources. That is my job: to convince Dean Hartzell and the corporate advisory council that this is something we should put money behind. When it comes to diversity and inclusion, it obviously seems like that’s the right thing to do at a state university in a state that’s so diverse. Recruiters and corporate America are asking for this. Millennials want greater corporate accountability.

We have that pressure. If we can produce a pipeline of diverse, well-qualified students, there will be a great return on investment. We will serve our constituency. There’s also a lot of interesting research to show that diverse groups make better decisions than homogenous groups.

Has the corporate world become more diverse and inclusive?

I think we are in a moment of change. Following the Me Too movement, wage inequities, and Black Lives Matter, there’s been a whole series of issues that have brought diversity to the fore. Corporate America is taking note. A lot of things came to a head last year, and this represents an opportunity for corporations and institutions like McCombs.  

In what areas does does it need work?

I don’t know where to start or where to end. Pay inequities are rampant and prevalent. If a woman is doing her job, she needs to be paid as much as a man, period. It’s a journey, and I don’t think that everything will get done in a day.

Any parting words?

I have a four-year mandate, and will be planing things for each year. Dean Hartzell is really behind this, and we’re all very excited. Change doesn’t come easy. It’s going to take a while to do all of this, but I’m optimistic.

Credits, from top: Lauren Gerson/McCombs School of Business

 

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