Illustration by Leigh Douglas

Following UC-wide attempts to diversify the undergraduate population, business and management school deans and executives gathered to announce the unveiling of a fellowship for students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on Tuesday.

Together, Robert S. Sullivan of the Rady School of Management and Rich Lyons, dean of UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, announced the fellowship’s inauguration. The fellowship will seek to introduce “business curriculum in an exciting format,” to first-year students who have never been exposed to business and management studies, Lyons said.

Over time, Lyons hopes this fellowship will “bring the kind of diversity, creativity, and innovation our programs are built on and that California is built on.”

By bringing students from HBCUs, which are primarily located in the southeastern United States, Lyons and his fellow administrators hope to “attract as diverse as a population as we possibly can.”

The fellowship is geared toward students from HBCUs outside of California in efforts to entice them to join the UC student body.

“HBCUs are a terrific pool of talent,” Lyons said of the decision to focus on HBCUs in the first stages of the fellowship.

The goal of the HBCU fellowship, said Lyons, is to get first-year students to begin thinking about their futures.

“We want to excite them about the world of business and their potential, their role as leaders,” Lyons said.

The program itself will be offered to 25 recipients who will be awarded an all-expenses-paid two week Summer Institute for Emerging Managers and Leaders session at one of the six UC business schools. The six schools include the UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA and UC Riverside business and management schools.

This year the inaugural session will be held at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Berkeley has been a hub for start-up companies and focal point for recruiting new talent, making it an apt location for the fellowship.

“You’ve never seen anything like this — it’s a kind of a beehive for enterprise,” Lyons said. “Why not give them a taste of what we’re best at?”

Anthem Blue Cross and Wells Fargo are funding the fellowship. They will cover the roughly $100,000 a year required for the two-week sessions.

“We have been very excited about how much support we’re getting from the private sector — we know we need it because it’s not coming from the public sector,” Lyons said, predicting a trend in increased university donations from non-federal monies.

Erika Walker, executive director of Undergraduate Program Haas School of Business, has been working with a similar program for business training, the Business for Arts, Sciences, and Engineering (BASE) program. BASE has been running every summer for the past 15 years, and served as a template for the HBCU fellowship.

Walker will be implementing the inaugural program at Haas-Berkeley this summer. She hopes the program will spur students into eventually pursuing an MBA at one of the UC campuses.

“We’re looking for that kind of transformative change,” Walker said. “We’re just trying to excite them and energize them about what these various opportunities [in business] are.”

Jacqui Smollett, a first-year global economics major and SUA representative for African/Black Student Alliance, said while the program is a step in the right direction, diversity among UC faculty needs to be addressed.

“There are currently very few faculty of color at UC Santa Cruz,” Smollett said. “It is nice to be taught by a diverse community.”

At UC business schools, the major itself is also highly impacted. Of HBCU graduates, 49-64 percent are business majors, according to the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

With classes filled to the brim, Smollett says it is important to have “different viewpoints from different people on how we do business.”