Dr. Charla Griffy-Brown on the Value of Diversity in Higher Education
No one ever said going against the status quo would be easy, but trail-blazers in our lives remind us that it is possible. With every experience and interaction, we develop our value systems that define who we are and essentially, discover our purpose in life. The future is what we make it and it all starts with one story, one background, one life.
For Dr. Charla Griffy-Brown,her undergraduate experience represented a pivotal moment in her life, which shaped her world-view and perspectives. Throughout her professional career, Charla has continued to uphold her values and share pride for her heritage, inspiring all with whom she crossed paths. Today, Charla serves as the senior associate dean for Executive and Part-Time Programs, and professor of Information Systems Technology Management at the Pepperdine Graziadio Business School. She’s also an award-winning member of the Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET). Her contributions to the graduate business school extend beyond the Graziadio community into a society of visionaries who are empowered to incorporate diversity in every aspect of their lives, for a lifetime to come.
Learn more about Charla Griffy-Brown’s path to success and how she led the charge for Latinas within education and business below.
Read Her Interview:
1. Tell us about your early experiences in education as a student. Specifically, what it was like being a young Latina at Harvard and how that experience helped you grow into the professional you are today.
When I was an undergraduate at Harvard University, I was fortunate to be a part of an extremely open and inclusive community. What stands out as most challenging was not my heritage but instead the socio-economic difference between myself and some of my classmates. For example, I arrived on campus by myself and was unprepared for the Boston weather. Many people were from the Northeast and came from wealthy backgrounds very different from my own. I am so grateful that some people who soon became some of my closest life-long friends noticed and took me to Filene’s Basement, a bargain hunter’s paradise, where I could get a good coat and boots (I owned neither). Additionally, many of my peers had stronger educational preparation from Prep Schools which was very daunting. I had to work twice as hard and cover a lot of ground quickly to be on an even playing field. As a professor, this has deeply informed my instructional development. We all come from different backgrounds with varying levels of preparation. When designing a class it means that initially I spend time “scaffolding” or weaving in background and preparation so that we are all developing from a similar foundation. As teachers, I think it is critical to create opportunities for everyone to reach their highest potential which means designing instruction that takes into account systemic challenges and opportunities to create the best possible learning community for each class.
2. How has your heritage influenced your overall career within higher education and how you approach your personal teaching and leadership?
My lived experiences with intersectionality have truly strengthened my ability to drive greater business and social impact. These experiences enabled me to sharpen my creativity, navigate hardship with resilience, and build bridges. My teaching and leadership builds upon these lived experiences and compels me to ensure there is always room at the table for others. I encourage my students to lean into the gifts that these unique life experiences have imbued in each one of us.
3. You were recently honored at the Portland International Conference on Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET) and had a “seat at the table” with very impressive leaders in their respective fields. Please share more about that experience and the big takeaways (professional and personal).
It was such an incredible honor to be recognized for my contributions to the field of Technology Management at the award ceremony for PICMET. I was the only woman and person of color this year inducted as a Fellow into this well established academic society. I had the privilege of sitting at the table with Dr. Jim Utterback from MIT as well as Dr. Mel Horwitch and Dr. Edward Roberts. When I was an undergraduate at Harvard, I had the privilege of doing my thesis with supervisors at MIT and Dr. Utterback’s work was very instrumental. Also, there were other scholars I greatly admire in this distinguished group, such as Dr. Robert Burgelman from Stanford University and Dr. Henry Chesbrough from UC Berkeley, who were at the event.
It was really impactful to have a seat at the table with Dr. Utterback, Dr. Horwitch (his work in Europe is legendary), Dr. Burgelman, Dr. Chesbrough, and others who received the same recognition. I never imagined that as a young Latina girl at Harvard, long before there was any scaffolding, that our paths would really ever cross, much less circle-back. Not only was it an honor to be among them as a scholar but so many young women, particularly women of color, approached me afterwards to express how inspired they were to continue in the field. We really need them and as many diverse optics as possible in this area of decision-making, design, and scholarship as we address the many challenges we face in our technologically-driven world.
It was a wonderful experience. My presentation was well-received at the conference, I chaired a conference session, and also served on a panel of Editors-in-Chief of academic journals
4. In your opinion, why is it important for leaders and educators to come from diverse backgrounds?
Diversity of all types is critical in all areas of leadership, including higher education, as we address the grand challenges we face in the 21st century. When we bring different perspectives to challenges, we will identify new opportunities and most importantly ask different questions. It is this critical curiosity driven from different perspectives that brings the incredible creativity and optics we need to create a future worth wanting.
5. What advice do you have for young Latinx professionals today?
Take risks. Don’t negotiate your self-worth with anyone because you are infinitely and divinely valued. With that in mind, extend grace and take risks. When things don’t work out (and they will), it is a growth opportunity so keep moving forward. Keep asking good questions and authentically building relationships. This is the path to leadership - and we need your voices, minds, networks, and great questions in every boardroom, c-suite, and design meeting. Let me know how I can help you.