The Collegian
Sunday, July 12, 2020

New business program for men upsets some women

A male-only Living and Learning community scheduled to start next fall for first-year students interested in business has ignited controversy with some women in the Robins School of Business.

The program, called "R" Business, is designed to help students develop necessary business skills through interactive programs, lectures and events, according to a statement released by Patrick Benner, associate dean for student life.

"Participants of the program will not only live together with other motivated business-minded students, but will have the advantage of direct connection to members of the Robins School faculty," Benner said.

The program is not connected to an academic course, however, like the Sophomore Scholars in Residence programs in Lakeview and Freeman halls. It is an addition to the line of communities already available to first-year students, such as "Moore International" for women and "RC Extreme" and "Spinning Your Web" for men.

But some women, such as senior Katherine Degnen, an economics major, said because there was no equivalent program for Westhampton College women, "R" Business would give too much of an advantage to men who wanted to be in the business school.

Degnen said making the program for first-year men could only enhance gender separations that already exist in the business school.

"By giving first-year men that opportunity, you're starting out with the stigma that men belong in the business world and need to be together," she said.

Benner, who led development of the program, said that although "R" Business was scheduled to start next fall, planning was still in its infancy and he was in the process of figuring out where the funding would come from and looking for a faculty adviser.

Benner called "R" Business a special-interest program, designed to cater to 16 Richmond College students who were entering the school with a great interest in business. Students in the program would attend a business-related event every two to three weeks. Another program for first-year students called "Explore UR World" is also new for next fall, and will serve 16 students with an interest in international studies, Benner said. Westhampton College also has a first-year program called "Women in Math and Science" that supports 20 students interested in those areas of study.

Senior Kelly Padden, a finance major and Westhampton College Government Association senator, was at the WCGA meeting in December where Andy Gurka, director of Living and Learning and the Roadmap programs, gave a presentation about the new Living and Learning communities.

"He mentioned that one of the communities was going to be men in business," Padden said. "That sparked the attention of WCGA senators."

Padden said she knew women who were already intimidated by the culture of the business school.

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"I'm a little bit more connected to it because I've seen it happening," she said. "I've seen girls go into marketing instead of finance."

Senior Chelsea Babcock, a finance major, is one of six women in a group of 17 students involved in the business school's student-managed investment fund. The fund allows the group to invest $300,000 of the school's endowment, providing them with real-time learning in securities analysis and portfolio management. Babcock said the six women in this year's fund were the most in its history, but the female applicant field for next year was not as deep.

"Only five or six women applied out of 50," Babcock said. "After the initial interview process, there are only three women left out of 31 applicants."

Charm Bullard, associate dean of residence life for Westhampton College, said in an e-mail that she planned to form a committee of students, faculty and staff to review the idea of creating a business Living and Learning community for first-year women.

"We particularly like the idea of a women in business community because women are underrepresented in the [business] school here and in the world of business generally," Bullard said. "In addition, the new [business] school dean is a woman who wants to see more female majors in her school."

Joyce Ann van der Laan Smith, assistant professor of accounting, said she hadn't seen the gender separations in the business school, but would be curious to see statistics on its gender breakdown.

"I teach both introductory and advanced accounting classes, and the split is fairly even," she said. "I don't see a drop-off of women in my advanced classes either."

Contact staff writer Zak Kozuchowski at zak.kozuchowski@richmond.edu

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