The inherent value of diversity.

February 5, 2009

On occasion I fill some of my free time watching network news on television. This was particularly important to me during the recent election, as I felt it was important to be an informed citizen prior to voting. Of course, I did not restrict the information I used to educate myself to television media, but I did find it a convenient way of covering a lot of ground while shoveling down oatmeal and yogurt before heading to class.

Sometimes I’m a little inflamed by the content or the spin shown on these news programs. Many people would recommend changing the channel or turning the television off. I have a slightly different take.

A big reason why I came to Darden was the case method. All too often, any given case discussion in class does not end with full agreement. The fact of the matter is that the debate itself is healthy (and in the case of business school, serves as an impactful way to learn and retain complex business concepts).

So I find myself debating with the television occasionally. This is an honest, albeit embarrassing confession. Only when I feel the antagonist is beyond whatever redemption is possible by my proclamations made to an electronic box do I actually change the channel (Discovery Channel is always a safe bet).

A portly, balding nightly news commentator on a mainstream news network has recently begun stirring my ire due to his attacks on the H1-B visa program and his irrational attachment to protectionist trade policies. The H1-B visa attacks have become increasingly virile as the economy has gone from awful to nearly catastrophic. To make matters worse, a non-profit organization (likely political action comittee) called the Coalition of the American Worker has begun showing misleading commercials showing laid-off workers leaving their offices. Their preposterous insinuation is that these jobs are not being lost to a downturn in the economy due to myriad factors that should be the focus of our collective examination, but rather that legal foreign workers are taking their jobs. This disgusting xenophobia and barely-concealed bigotry is taking direct aim at some of my closest friends at Darden.

Darden is an international business school, with a class made up of students from dozens of countries. My class (2009) boasts a population of over 35% international students. Many of these students are happily planning on returning to their home nations after graduating, and some are headed to other nations. Some are planning on taking positions here, in the U.S. for at least a few years… and possibly extending their stays until they can legally become U.S. citizens.

We would be lucky to have them. The fact is, the H1-B visa program is not bringing in blue collar workers to depress labor rates, nor is it bringing in masses of workers that have mediocre credentials and skills. This program is for exceptionally gifted people: doctors, scientists, and business leaders. I’m talking about people in these professions showing the most potential for greatness, not your typical C student.

These people are value creators. America, still the beacon of opportunity, is the best place for them to flourish. The value they create will create a sustainable strategic advantage for America’s businesses and institutions… an advantage that without a doubt has led (and will continue to lead) to significant job creation and continued feasibility of our way of life.

Could an American do these jobs? Of course. America boasts a plethora of her own high-potential, gifted individuals (some of whom are my classmates as well). However, at this level, at the very top of these professions (now and in their future state), there is a constant shortage, regardless of how bad the economy becomes. It will take the best efforts of all the best qualified people, including our H1-B professionals, to lead us out of this mess.

My sense of the issue of diversity is well-defined but remains difficult to articulate. I feel strongly that there is an inherent value in diversity. Bringing people with different backgrounds and perspectives together in order to allow them to bring collective talents to bear on a problem is far more effective than bringing in a homogenous group of gifted problem-solvers. Furthermore, the overall diversity of the group enhances the learning opportunities for each participating individual, broadening their horizons and making them more effective leaders and problem solvers.  The classroom at Darden has provided me with convincing proof of concept for this theory. I know my business education has been significantly enhanced by the contributions of my classmates, particularly due to our collective diversity.

I would hate to lose that advantage when I return to the working world this fall. And I shrudder to think of an American economy struggling to resist depression without the benefit of her diversity and the world’s highest potential professionals.

4 Responses to “The inherent value of diversity.”

  1. Irene said

    Hey Mike, thank you for a great post.
    ‘these people are value creators’. well, I am.
    And the constant shortage of talent? I sympathize with this!

  2. mandy said

    once again, my dearest astute neighbor in section c makes a great point. i admire how you word your thesis, and how it would seem without much reproach. i, too, struggle with the talking heads and the spin. i am saddened by a population that gets its news from solely this. while we are the land of opportunity, we are also a land with a slippery slope into complacency and laziness due to our high standard of living. if you wanted to convince yourself that all foreigners are a threat, there are entire counties (okay, subdivisions) and populations who agree and they welcome you into their beige existence. these people hide from that which they do not know, and protect their children from the threat of “others”. this is a sad squandering of the opportunity that america’s melting pot affords. boo on them.
    but i digress. thanks for expressing your thoughts so well. i am so glad that i know you!

  3. Anand said

    great post as usual. Somehow I took my time to get to read this. You have laid out the issue pretty well. Only thing I would add is that maybe US can take a leaf out of the Australian or UK immigration system.
    I am eagerly waiting for your next post.

  4. Gaurav Purohit said

    hey Mike,

    That is an interesting post. Currently, I work as a transaction advisor for infrastructure projects (known as P3 in US) at Grant Thornton. I was planning to visit Darden this May but my visa app got turned down on grounds that I don’t have ties to me home country (no family or parents to speak of!!).

    Now this situation won’t change and I wonder whether I could ever get a student visa cos even then I would still be single and still won’t have parents!!

    I have been tracking the infrastructure sector in the US and thought that my skill sets could be pretty useful. So while I’ll apply at Darden and a couple of other schools in the US, I am not sure whether I’ll get a student visa even after getting an admit from these schools.

    So well, I think that the authorities in the US could do well to take a cue from the process, which is being followed in the UK.


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