Since it was first announced less than a week ago, the University of South Florida’s new workplace diversity certificate program has already enrolled more than 34,000 participants. The free, seven-week course was created by USF’s Muma College of Business and two of Tampa Bay’s most prominent and highly successful organizations: Jabil Inc. and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Muma College of Business Dean Moez Limayem, speaking to the Catalyst, said he wouldn’t be surprised if enrollment tops 50,000 by the time the course, being held virtually, begins on March 24. However, he said that while big numbers are great, actions and results are what really matter when it comes to making people of all races, religions, genders, ages and sexual orientations feel welcome, respected and valued in the workplace.
“We are on the right track, but even with 50,000, we’re not going to declare victory because this is a journey, not a destination,” Limayem said. “We will never get there because we want to always improve, and we want to be a community where everybody has a shot at succeeding, everybody has a shot at a decent living, a decent job. And where we always ask, ‘Who is the best to do the job?’ regardless of physical appearance or any other factors that are not relevant.”
Limayem said the summer 2020 protests against police brutality and systemic racism sparked a national conversation that touched a nerve in academia and the business world. He expressed frustration that, despite thousands upon thousands of statements condemning the violent treatment of Black people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many others, little action has occurred. He said businesses have a chance to do more than just advocate for change by actually taking a look in the mirror and committing to fair and equitable policies and practices. That’s why a self-assessment will be a key part of the course curriculum.
“The bottom line,” he said, “is we want to have organizations know where they are now, and give them the tools and the know-how to improve and to make change and really improve and walk the walk, rather than just talk the talk.”
Muma, Jabil and the Lightning have assembled a star-studded lineup of guest lecturers for the course, including former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy and Bucs Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks. Lightning President Steve Griggs will also speak, as will Jabil CEO Mark Mondello and Valerie Alexander, a screenwriter and author of the best-selling book Happiness as a Second Language.
Class sessions will take place every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m., but for those who are unable to attend the live presentation, a recording will be available for the following two weeks. Participants will be quizzed on the material presented in each of the seven modules and will have to attain a passing score to receive their certificate in diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. They will also receive a digital badge that can be displayed on their LinkedIn profile.
Limayem emphasized that the course will be grounded in specifics as opposed to abstract ideas. Workplace diversity, he said, “is a business matter for us. It’s not just the right thing to do.”
He added, “I can assure you, the research is clear: Organizations that are diverse, equitable and inclusive have higher revenue, they have increased innovation, they have more effective decision-making, they have higher rates of job acceptance from more qualified candidates, and the bottom line is they perform significantly better than the competition.”
Sign up for the course, which runs through May 5, here.