From April 9 to April 13, NYU Stern will host a slew of events to arm the Stern community with the tools to be an ally to the many different groups of people that call Stern home.
The week-long program, dubbed Ally Week, will feature panels, training workshops, and other events to educate Stern students about what it means to be an ally to members of marginalized groups—and will hopefully prepare students to translate knowledge into action to the benefit of the entire Stern community.
Ally Week has been hosted by and for various NYU degree programs for years—but the variance of academic calendars and class schedules across these programs makes it difficult to coordinate shared Ally Week programming. NYU, for example, has had its own undergraduate Ally Week for years, but it is scheduled to suit undergrad students and, therefore, struggles to garner attendance by graduate students. Stern has worked to open its events up to students outside of the MBA program; NYU Law students, for instance, are invited to certain events at Stern’s Ally Week.
Despite the frequent tie between the concept of “allyship” and the LGBTQ community, Stern’s Ally Week strives to connect it with all groups represented at Stern.
Stern began developing its own Ally Week in 2015, in an effort to ensure that its students knew their school within NYU took the concept of allyship seriously. The Stern programming has turned into a large-scale endeavor conducted through the collaboration of the Military Veteran’s Club, Stern Women in Business, the Association of Hispanic And Black Business Students, Outclass, the Diversity Committee (DivCom), and the Jewish Students Associaton (JSA), among others. In addition, Stern’s Office of Student Engagement (OSE) and these student organizations were able to lean on their strong connection with NYU’s Center for Multicultural Education and Programs (CMEP) to create a multi-faceted week of programming.
Such an expansion led to the event programming and sponsorship being opened to any student affinity clubs that wanted to participate—and that move needed a lot of coordination.
“My role is to ensure that everyone stays on track,” said Diana Hyde, Senior Director of OSE. “We started meeting biweekly in November.”
Beyond wrangling all of the contributions from student organizations, Hyde felt that the administration’s role in Ally Week should show, through participation and engagement by members of the administration, that the school fully supported the efforts of its students to create a powerful and successful event.
“For me, it’s really important to highlight that the school thinks [Ally Week] is an important concept and event,” she continued. “The partnership between our office, the clubs, and DivCom is important, because it shows that [Ally Week] isn’t just student-driven. It’s also OSE-driven.”
This year, organizers made an active effort to incorporate programming that would lead to supportive action, rather than just perpetuate superficial discussion of sensitive topics.
“I really wanted to see skill building as a main focus, versus lectures; I think students get enough of being talked at through other avenues,” Hyde said. “There’s a difference between educating yourself on these topics and actualizing them, putting yourself into action, and having a safe space to actually practice being a better ally.”
The Real Meal event series, scheduled for Monday April 9 and Tuesday April 10, returns this year to focus on topics of interest discussed in safe spaces facilitated by event organizers. The “de-escalation workshops” scheduled for Monday, April 9 are meant to help equip attendees with the ability to “actively address tense or problematic situations in professional and academic settings.” These experiential learning sessions, led by representatives from the Center for Anti-violence Education, are designed to train the concept of being an “UP-stander,” and to deal with microaggressions within an individual’s circle instead of the often-covered challenge of standing up to strangers.
Hyde sees additional ways through which Stern can educate the next generation entering the workforce. Recruiting, in particular, is a prime area for which Stern students can be trained to behave as allies; when MBA degree-holders find themselves in the position to make hiring decisions for their companies, or in the position to lead by example through the corporate governance they design, they are in a position to affect real change in their organizations.
“[Ally Week] can be positioned everywhere,” Hyde said. “You’re going to be graduating from Stern and you’re going to be working with diverse people. If you don’t educate yourself on how to do that, you’re not going to be a very good manager. I think and hope that companies are moving away from lip service on this and institutionalizing it by incentivizing their employees to create inclusive environments.”
Best practices in recruiting are an opportunity for Stern students [to exercise allyship] after graduation.
“As the hiring manager for a team, it’s easy to post ‘where we’ve always posted,’ hire at schools ‘where we’ve always hired.’ We have a chance to work on the implicit bias of the hiring process,” Hyde said. “Some students may ask ‘what happens when I’m not in the stern community anymore? I have the opportunity to effect change, but I don’t even know where to begin.’ We’re trying to evaluate what may be missing in a given person’s skill set and trying to fill in those holes.”
The industry panel on the schedule is designed specifically for people who intend to participate in industry at the managerial level or higher after graduation. Many diversity and allyship trainings offered at universities and companies alike are run by diversity consultants, or by members of Human Resource departments—very rarely by other members of corporate organizations who nonetheless find themselves making decisions that impact large swaths of those organizations.
Beyond that, student programming about allyship is frequently limited through selection bias. As Hyde, mentioned, a lot of programming is opt-in.
“The people who tend to show up often have a desire or a skillset already,” she said. “And the people who aren’t showing up, instead of engaging and learning how to [be an ally], are disengaging, and, naturally, protecting themselves in a challenging environment. But that’s exactly the opposite way in which we need to move as a school. We need to create opportunities to have these conversations, and in a space where it’s okay to screw up. We’re not going to move forward if people aren’t engaging in the conversation.”
In all, Ally Week at Stern is dedicated to traversing the complicated communication and action required to be a good ally, to all groups. From an intimate storytelling event run by the Moth, to the keynote address delivered by Ken Harbaugh (former President of Team Rubicon and current candidate for Congress), Stern Ally Week is working to ensure that all members of the Stern community, will all experiences and backgrounds, can use the event to better their experience at Washington Square and beyond.
“[Ally Week] is building awareness and creating an opportunity to educate yourself and to build skills, and for Stern to come together as a community,” Hyde said.
Students interested in learning more about Ally Week, in RSVPing for events, or in taking the Stern Ally Pledge should visit sternallyweek2018.com.