At the Robins School of Business, the same professors that teach the nation’s aspiring entrepreneurs and stockbrokers are now teaching business practices to executives of Virginia’s minority companies.
To Richard Coughlan, senior associate dean of the Robins School, that’s a natural outgrowth of having a faculty whose knowledge is based not only on academic experiences, but on professional ones as well.
“When you have that kind of expertise among your faculty, you have a responsibility to share that expertise,” Coughlan says. As director of the school’s graduate school and executive education program, it’s part of his job to identify and develop ways to do that while addressing the needs of the business community.
Coughlan’s staff worked with the Virginia Minority Supplier Development Council (VMSDC) to develop a leadership-training program for executives of minority businesses. The council, which focuses on developing minority suppliers, wanted to offer an educational experience that would increase capacity within their companies and build stronger executive teams.
In the past, leaders of Virginia’s minority enterprises had travelled to schools in Illinois, New Hampshire and Wisconsin for this type of training.
“We needed a local program that didn’t take people away from the work environment for too long,” says Tracey Jeter, the council’s president. Having a Virginia program also means that the participants share common experiences and clients. Their classmates are their peers, representing a cross section of industries throughout the state.
Last summer’s program, taking place over a three-day session in June followed by another three-day session in September, was tailored for the participating executives. When they asked for more on certain topics — such as accounting and finance — the curriculum focused on them. Popular topics included analyzing competition and business growth.
“… We’re building better businesses that are becoming more solution-driven,” says Jeter. “They’re learning strategies that allow them to … drive costs down.” That means winning more contracts, which puts participants in a position to create more jobs for minorities and create wealth in the communities where they live.
Participant Lawrence Davis of Young Moving & Storage won the contract for moving MeadWestvaco to its new headquarters shortly after the program's completion. His company was proud to accept the President’s Award at the VMSDC’s annual awards ceremony in December.
The council also recognized Coughlan and his staff for their dedication to the program’s development with the Chairman’s Challenge award. Past recipients of the award include Gov. Tim Kaine, who was recognized for his work on Virginia’s minority procurement initiative, SWaM.
Jeter believes the school’s support and commitment to this program say a lot about the University’s involvement in the community. “In the last few years, [the University of Richmond] is really becoming part of the greater community and I’m really excited about that,” she says. “We’re hoping that the program has longevity at the University.”