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The Wharton School is now offering a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) concentration for undergraduates and a major for MBAs.

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Beginning this fall, Wharton began offering a new diversity, equity, and inclusion undergraduate concentration and MBA major. 

The DEI program was approved by Wharton’s Curriculum Innovation and Review Committee, along with the new Environment, Social, and Governance Factors for Business program on Sep. 27 of last year. The first students who can major and concentrate in DEI will graduate in 2024 following its start this academic year.

The Management Department’s website says that the major will prepare students to “face the challenges involved in creating and maintaining organizations that are diverse, inclusive, and rooted in equity… [Students] will also be prepared to be leaders of change in any organizational role.” 

The majority of classes that can be taken for the concentration and major will be offered by the Management Department, as well as the Business Economics and Public Policy, Legal Studies and Business Ethics, and Operations, Information and Decisions departments.

The new program was spearheaded by Management professor and faculty fellow of the Coalition for Equity & Opportunity Stephanie Creary and Business Economics and Public Policy professor Corinne Low.  In response to a request for comment, Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Management professor Lori Rosenkopf said that coursework will include "both evidence-based academic research as well as practice."

Creary told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she created the first diversity-focused course — Leading Diversity in Organizations — at Wharton when she joined the University in 2017. Low started teaching her self-designed course — Economics of Diversity & Discrimination — in 2022. Both of the professors' courses build off of their individual research interests.

After offering both courses, both professors said their students wanted to further their DEI work. They also expressed interest in having a new DEI major or concentration, as they had to specialize in a different field in order to graduate while still taking the DEI-centered courses of interest.

“There was something about declaring a major and concentration as a testament to their efforts to cobble together all of these courses that was really important for them,” Creary said. 

Creary and Low then went to their department chairs to demonstrate that the new major would be backed by interdepartmental support, beginning with the Management and BEPP departments. In addition, the professors highlighted students' course evaluations where they expressed interest in a new major or concentration.  

“Part of the challenge for me in teaching the course is that it's not just about my course anymore; it's about this sort of bigger unmet need that many students who take the course have,” Creary added.

Rosenkopf cited an "uptick in student interest in creating and sustaining diverse, equitable, and inclusive organizations."

Initially planning to major in strategic management and marketing, Wharton junior Mario Paez said he switched to the DEI concentration and joined the Wharton Equity Diversity and Inclusion Group shortly after. He said that he wants to make the workplace more equitable, specifically to retain underrepresented minorities as employees. 

Two courses that inspired Paez to change his concentration were the courses taught by Creary and Low. 

Despite positive reception from students and faculty, the program received national attention at the time of its announcement

“All of our institutions are tragically corrupt. Wharton is now offering a major in racism & virtue signaling that will never generate any revenue for any actual business," Ted Cruz posted on X, formerly known as Twitter. "But— fear not —Joe Biden will forgive the student debt for these useless degrees.”

Low called Cruz's post “nonsense” and added that understanding equity and inclusion is essential to learning at Wharton and beyond. 

"It's critical from a people management perspective, and also critical from a profit perspective in terms of actually being able to innovate, attract, retain the best people, and develop the best products," Low said.