Three Pit Stops on Babson’s 75 year old diversity journey
It’s not often that a business school looks at its history through the lens of diversity and inclusion, but Babson has had a long and fascinating journey with its diverse population dating all the way back to its founder and first president, Roger Babson. This quest was captured in Chapter 7 of “Continuity and Change”, a detailed history of Babson College written in 1994 at the 75th anniversary.
- Race and Ethnicity: Annual class photos from 1919 to 1943 as having all white men except for Edith Babson, the first woman to study at Babson and D.W.K Chin, from Hawaii, the first person of color to study at Babson. Nathaniel Wright Jr. from Los Angeles was the first African American to attend Babson. The international student population sought support in the form of a student group called BISO (Babson International Student Organization) in 1975. There were about 5 similar organizations before, but none were officially recognized or funded through the Student Government Association. A BISO member was quoted as saying “We don’t want to separate international students from the rest of the Babson community… we want to bring them closer.”
- Faith & Spirituality: Mulkern states “there was a pronounced Protestant tone to religious activities on campus. The school chaplain was Protestant, as there were weekly chapel services held in Park Manor”. That’s right folks- where we play volleyball and gather for social hours used to be a place to gather for spiritual enlightenment!
- Social and Economic Class: The socio-economic fabric was shaken up by young working class men returning from World War II, but even then Babson was a mix of people from all walks of life, according to Mulkern. Student loans at Babson actually started as an entrepreneurial venture; “a rotating loan fund, which deferred the tuition payments of ‘deserving young men of limited financial means… sound character and high scholastic standing”.
With all of these things happening in our early history, one thing was clear; everyone in attendance at the time regardless of “race, creed or color” found the education at Babson to be worth any cultural conflicts they encountered. It actually strengthened their ability to be responsible leaders. Mulkern nicely concluded the chapter by saying “it would appear from Babson’s expanding concept of diversity that the college is engaged in a never-ending process”.
A journey it is indeed! Read the chapter and share your thoughts! Check back often as we chronicle the rest of the journey all the way to our centennial!
Link to list of chapters: http://www.babson.edu/about-babson/at-a-glance/babsons-history/Pages/historical-documents.aspx