50 Years of Opportunity: WSB Celebrates Consortium Anniversary

The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
Students participating in the newly formed Consortium for Graduate Study in Management meet with Isadore Fine, WSB professor of marketing and longtime member of The Consortium board of trustees, in the 1970s.

History isn’t always a thing of the past. This year, the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin–Madison marks its founding role in The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of enhancing diversity in business education and corporate leadership by providing postgraduate opportunities for underrepresented minorities.

The WSB is one of three business schools—joining Washington University in St. Louis and Indiana University Bloomington in 1966—in a membership that has grown to 18 schools. More than 685 Consortium students have graduated with a Wisconsin MBA. Many have gone on to leadership positions with the more than 80 corporate partners who also make up The Consortium.

“The Consortium opens doors for all students because once there are Badgers in these companies, they’re pulling others along,” says Blair Sanford, assistant dean of the Wisconsin Full-Time MBA Program. “They’re looking out for their fellow Badgers, whether they are BBAs or other MBAs. It has helped us maintain recruitment relationships with organizations that demand diversity.”

The Wisconsin School of Business was a leader from the beginning. The Consortium’s first graduate, Larry Harris (MBA ’68), came from the WSB, as did the program’s first female graduate, Sandra W. Jones (MBA ’71), the first Native American graduate, Bernard Vigue (MBA ’74), and a member of the class that included the first Hispanic American graduates, Frank Gutierrez (MBA ’72).

Leadership in The Consortium was an early step toward the School’s growing diversity and inclusion efforts. Today the School has a comprehensive diversity strategy with goals and measures of success. Initiatives launched to support that strategy include Lunch and Learn programs designed to enhance awareness and understanding of different experiences for students, faculty, and staff, the EY Global Mindset Initiative, cultural competency for BBA students through The Compass Program™, as well as faculty and staff workshops.

“Race, gender, and socioeconomic status are all characteristics that influence our daily experiences,” says Binnu Palta Hill, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion at the Wisconsin School of Business. “We need to continue building skills that enable us to be empathetic and understanding of others’ experiences in order to foster the inclusive community we all want and expect at the WSB.”

Larry Harris (MBA ’68)

Larry Harris (MBA ’68)

Larry Harris never planned to come to Wisconsin for his MBA, but left prepared for a better career than he ever imagined.

Along the way, he made history as the first graduate of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management in 1968.

“The mere fact that I had an MBA from a great school like Wisconsin gave me great confidence,” says Harris, who went on to have a long career at Upjohn pharmaceutical company before retiring as the company’s human resources manager in 2000. “It made me feel as if there was nothing I couldn’t do.”

The path Harris took to get to the Wisconsin School of Business and Upjohn, now a subsidiary of Pfizer, was not one he had drawn up. His plan was to get a bachelor’s degree in his home state of Louisiana and find a human resources job with a small company in the South.

Fate had other plans for him.

While an undergraduate at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, he saw information on a bulletin board about a new program seeking minority students interested in pursuing an MBA. He took down information for The Consortium, applied, and was accepted. He was one of 21 African-American men to earn a place at one of The Consortium’s three founding partner schools.

“Then my life totally changed from what I thought it was going to be,” he says.

Harris says he felt a responsibility as a member of the first Consortium class.

“One of the pressures we all had, all 21 of us, was this sense of trailblazing,” he says. “There was a pressure for us to succeed so the program would.”

Once at Upjohn, Harris worked to bring more minorities into the company. He’s proud of a program he administered at the company that recruited local residents who hadn’t finished high school and allowed them to complete their GED while working. It was as if, Harris says, Upjohn realized its social responsibility role with The Consortium and applied it in its own community.

“The times were right for top management to say, ‘We’ve got to do something,’” he says.

Harris credits his Wisconsin MBA for the critical thinking skills and group discussions that helped him succeed in his career. He and the other Consortium fellows were just part of those groups like anyone else, Harris says.

“That’s what I wanted and what we wanted—no special treatment, just an opportunity to show that we could make it,” he says. “And we did.”

Cheryl Stallworth-Hooper (MBA ’81)

Education and experience helped define Cheryl Stallworth-Hooper’s destiny. So did a whole bunch of letters that came to her childhood home trimmed in red, white, and blue.

Stallworth had uncles in the U.S. Navy, and letters would come to her family in distinctive envelopes from other countries or ports of call. Sometimes they came with photos and gifts, and they always sparked the young girl’s imagination.

“I thought, ‘When I grow up, I am going to see the world,’” Stallworth says. “And I’ve been fortunate because I have seen the world.”

Stallworth’s wanderlust turned her into a global business leader who has worked throughout much of the world, either in promoting power brands such as Coke in senior marketing roles at The Coca-Cola Company and Colgate as vice president of multicultural marketing at Colgate-Palmolive, or working with companies to help them gain consumer insights.

Stallworth is CEO at Firefly, North America, based in Norwalk, Connecticut, which handles qualitative research for Kantar Millward Brown, a WPP company. Firefly innovates by using emerging technologies and has pioneered research through the use of consumer theater, partnering with the famed Second City improvisational troupe.

“Our goal is to work with clients to uncover the deep, universal human truths that unpack the inherent tensions people have in their lives and how clients can respond to them,” she says.

It’s the latest act in a stellar career for Stallworth, who came to the WSB as a Consortium MBA student wanting to shift from a career in radio into marketing and beyond. She remains connected to the School, having served on the advisory board of the Center for Brand and Product Management as well as mentoring students.

Stallworth says her staff at Firefly is diverse, something she’s proud of in an industry where she says there is much progress yet to be made.

“You have to impact it at the corporate level and the recruiting level, and the way to do that is for companies and business schools to work together,” she says.

At the Wisconsin School of Business, Stallworth says she found the intellectual stimulation, collaboration, and applied learning opportunities with local companies inspiring, which gave her an opportunity to build her global career upon a strong foundation. Even so, though, she kind of misses it.

“If I could rewind and go back to grad school, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” she says. “It was nirvana.”

Brandon Shileds (MBA ’17)

Brandon Shields (MBA ’17)

People find inspiration for their careers in all sorts of places. Brandon Shields found his in a can of Pringles.

While deployed in Afghanistan in 2012-13, the then-Marine Corps lieutenant received care packages filled with products from home.

“There would always be something that brought me out of the combat zone,” he says. “A can of Pringles would bring me back to a memory of sharing them with my siblings. I thought I could help foster that relationship between products and the connection people have to them.”

That’s what forged an interest in marketing that brought the Marine Reserves captain and Consortium student to the Wisconsin School of Business to pursue an MBA specializing in brand and product management.

Shields graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, before joining the Marines. In researching his post-Marines educational plans, he discovered The Consortium and its commitment to helping to provide opportunities for qualified MBA candidates from underrepresented minority groups.

“I can’t even think of many minorities with MBAs that I met before this,” Shields says. “I can think of black lawyers and black doctors that I’ve met in my life but MBAs? No. It really is an underrepresented degree within the underrepresented minority community.”

Shields is helping recruit more veterans into the Wisconsin MBA Program, working part-time as a student for the Wisconsin Full-Time MBA Admissions Office.

“Companies know what veterans bring to the table, and I want to make sure every veteran who is qualified realizes that as well,” he says.

Shields’ military experience helped him keep his eye on the big picture as he juggles academics and family life as an MBA student. He is the single father of a 2-year-old son, Brandon Drew II.

“In the military, you have to think strategically,” he said. “You can’t get worked up over a grade or something very small. You have to think about what’s going to happen next.”

Shields accepted a fulltime offer from DuPont after his summer internship there, and as he plans his future he says one part is certain: his desire to be part of the Business Badger community.

“Wisconsin alumni are so powerful,” he says. “It’s a great network. I can’t wait to be part of it and help people and my fellow Badgers.”

Jorge Cardona (MBA ’96)

Even though Jorge Cardona is a numbers guy, it’s his words that can make the greatest impact.

Each year he speaks with high school students at Madison College’s annual Latino Youth College and Career Fair and knows his presence makes a difference.

“It’s like letting them open a book to see what the world has to offer them so they can envision it in a Hispanic face,” says Cardona, vice president of finance at the World Council of Credit Unions in Madison, Wisconsin.

Cardona’s career was enhanced by the MBA he earned at the WSB as a Consortium for Graduate Study in Management fellow. While he still uses the technical skills he gained from his MBA, he says he values the relationships and collaborations he experienced at WSB most.

“I learned from my classmates here, not just the professors,” he says. “That’s why having high-quality classmates is so important.”

The MBA helped put Cardona on track to move up in his finance career, most of which was spent at Oscar Mayer and its parent company, Kraft Heinz.

Finance was always part of the equation for Cardona, who grew up in Milwaukee.

“I was the little kid in junior high who would walk around with a calculator,” he says. “I would read the newspaper because the SALT II treaty negotiations were taking place, and I would take out my calculator and do the math myself.”

His first job after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee was working in collections and customer service for Toyota Motor Credit Corporation in Deerfield, Illinois. He enjoyed it, but wanted something better and decided to pursue an MBA. He was recruited by Oscar Mayer immediately after earning his Wisconsin MBA in corporate finance and investment banking. Though he moved up the ladder in finance over his 19 years at Kraft Heinz, he still found himself in a unique situation of rarely encountering others who were born and raised in areas with few Hispanics.

“When we’d get Hispanics or people who spoke Spanish at Oscar Mayer, they were always from out of town, from another country, or a state with a heavy Hispanic population,” he says.

He hopes that changes for future generations, and does his part to ensure that it will. That’s why he tells students about his career, in English and Spanish.

“It almost doesn’t matter what you say,” Cardona says. “They see you, they realize anything is possible, and say, ‘We can do that. We can go to college.’”

Jorge Cardona (MBA ’96)

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