In a 1992 article in Parade magazine, James Jackson reflected back 23 years to the day he earned his MBA at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin–Madison as part of a fledgling organization called the Consortium for Graduate Study in Business for Negroes.
Jackson was part of the first class of 21 Consortium students—all African-American men—and he recalled the naiveté of the corporate recruiters on campus in 1969. “Everyone wanted one of these black MBAs,” he told the magazine, adding that once they were hired, the companies didn’t know what to do with them.
As The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management now celebrates its 50th anniversary—with an incoming class of more than 480 students—Jackson’s story is a great example of the impact the program has had on diversity and inclusivity in corporate America. It also illustrates one of the many “firsts” resulting from the University of Wisconsin‒Madison’s association as a founding Consortium member school.
Conceived to combat the severe underrepresentation of minorities in business school and corporate leadership, The Consortium’s first class walked on campus in the fall of 1967. Of those first 21 Consortium students, Jackson was one of six entering the Wisconsin MBA Program that year.
More early contributions
With counseling from Consortium founder Sterling Schoen and support on campus, Jackson completed his MBA at Wisconsin. In 1972, just three years after graduating, he became the first alumnus to serve on The Consortium’s governing board.
Jackson went on to have a successful corporate career with General Foods and, at the time of the Parade article, as a vice president of operations at Taco Bell. Jackson died on Oct. 15, 2015. Jackson’s contributions only represent a few of Wisconsin’s parade of firsts in the history of The Consortium.
- First alumnus Larry Harris was a classmate of James Jackson’s in the first class of Consortium recruits. He received his MBA in 18 months from the Wisconsin School of Business, thus becoming the first Consortium alumnus. He went on to a 32-year career with The Upjohn Company in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
- First woman graduate. The Consortium expanded its mission to include women, Native Americans, and Hispanic Americans in 1970. That year, two women were admitted: Sandra Washington Jones to the Wisconsin School of Business; and Minnie P. Johnson to the University of Rochester. Jones graduated in 18 months and became the first Consortium alumna.
- First Native American graduate. Again, Wisconsin jumped on the opportunity to diversify its Consortium enrollment, admitting Bernard Vigue to the Wisconsin MBA Program in 1972. After earning his MBA in 1974, Vigue, of the Menominee Indian tribe, became the first Native American Consortium graduate.
- First Hispanic American students. Wisconsin also admitted one of the first four Hispanic Americans to enter The Consortium. Frank Gutierrez received his Wisconsin MBA in 1972, graduating at the same time as Louis L. Garcia from Indiana University‒Bloomington (another founding school); and Jesus M. Martinez and William Santiago from the University of Southern California.
The Consortium’s commemorative book, Leading the Challenge of Change: The Riveting Story of The Consortium’s 50-Year History, outlines the tremendous contributions in those early days by Erwin A. Gaumnitz, dean of the Wisconsin School of Business, who eagerly accepted an invitation to join as a founding member school. Early board members Dr. Isadore Fine, professor of marketing, and Dr. Roy Tuttle, professor of accounting and information systems, from the Wisconsin School of Business were tireless in their efforts to advance the mission of The Consortium and its growth.
The Consortium has long valued its enduring relationship with the University of Wisconsin‒Madison and recognizes the many significant contributions Wisconsin has made in advancing diversity in business schools.
Kurt Greenbaum is communications manager for The Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management, based in St. Louis.
Read more about the Wisconsin School of Business’s commitment to The Consortium and diversity in the past and the present.