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Denver MBA team helps City and County of Denver department craft EDI action plan

The City and County of Denver’s Technology Services (TS) agency has a new, robust Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) action plan thanks to the assistance of a Denver MBA student team at the Daniels College of Business.

As part of the Denver MBA program’s Social Good Challenge last winter, students were tasked with determining how the department’s 400 employees felt about its EDI initiatives and where there was room for improvement. While the City and County of Denver has an overarching EDI program, internal agencies and departments like Technology Services develop plans based on their unique needs.

Evan Pfaff, chairperson of the TS EDI team at the time of the engagement, and 11 other agency staff worked with current first-year Denver MBA students Matthew English, William Keating, Monica Lubin and Aaron Mallory to address the agency’s needs.

“It was great to have fresh eyes looking at things,” Pfaff said. “These highly capable students had self-selected to be part of this process. They identified hiring practices and other things we can improve on. We’re going to implement some of the recommendations.”

Lubin, who was recently was elected VP of Inclusion for a Daniels student group, said her group investigated the agency’s EDI initiatives and culture.

“I’m deeply rooted in wanting to give back and focus on creating equity and inclusion,” Lubin said.

The team ran a survey that included questions on whether people were comfortable at work discussing the initiatives, if they felt OK and if they had experienced microaggressions. They also conducted interviews with employees from other departments, including those involved in hiring.

While team members, including one working remotely from Germany, were involved in all aspects of the research and analysis, some were especially interested in particular areas. Mallory was drawn to allyship.

“If you’re in the majority, how do you help those in the minority group advance what they’re doing?” Mallory asked.

He said the city’s openness contributed to their success.

“In a project like this, it depends on how willing your client is to share information,” he said. “They were honest about where they thought their gaps were and where they want to go.”

He noted that the survey found disparities in how employees felt about EDI initiatives.

“In general, white males felt like the EDI initiatives were great, but minority groups within the organization did not have the same feelings. There was the perception of some voices being silenced,” Mallory said.

Bryce Kirchhausen

Bryce Kirchhausen

He said he’ll take the lessons he learned into his career in supply chain management.

“People are the most important aspect of any supply chain,” he said.

Denver MBA Program Director Bryce Kirchhausen said real-world experiences are designed into the program’s curriculum through four challenges: Entrepreneurship, Social Good, Corporate and Global. The Social Good Challenge pairs students with nonprofits, offering the first opportunity for Denver MBA students to work directly with organizations during the full-time, 21-month program. He said the program aligns with the University of Denver’s mission of benefiting the public good.

“The challenges are sequenced to build off each other. It allows students to take what they’re learning in the classroom and immediately apply it to the real world,” Kirchhausen said. “It provides for robust learning, working with a client in a professional manner, asking the right questions, managing the project effectively and adding value by the end of 10 weeks.”

 

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