UT and PepsiCo Partner in Groundbreaking Educational Diversity Initiative
Twenty-two students from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville's College of Business Administration have spent spring semester 2011 learning about today's globally diverse workplace. This is the inaugural offering of the PepsiCo Diversity Leadership Development Program, a program that prepares juniors and seniors in the College of Business Administration to work in fields or organizations where workplace diversity is a reality.
"This is a unique, innovative program that is breaking new ground for UT undergraduates," said Russ Coughenour, director of UT Knoxville Career Services. "Students are learning from executives how to be the best professionals they can be before they enter the workforce. They are being exposed to leadership soft skills and sensitivities that they might not otherwise learn in the classroom."
"We are extremely grateful to PepsiCo for partnering with us in developing and funding this program," says Tyvi Small, coordinator of diversity initiatives for the College of Business Administration. "We were particularly pleased with the diversity of applicants interested in attending."
To be considered for the program, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, be socially responsible, be involved in campus and community activities, and complete an essay on what they hope to learn from the program. Over the course of the semester, the students attend four sessions taught by PepsiCo executives. The first three sessions dealt with building the business case for diversity, understanding what diversity in business really means, and how to manage difficult situations in a diverse workplace. The last session was a roundtable format where students were able to ask questions of various PepsiCo executives.
"One of the key messages we wanted to share with this group is PepsiCo's powerful business case for diversity," said Buddy Lewis, vice president and general manager of Pepsi Beverages Company's Tennessee/Western Kentucky Market Unit. "Many people understand the importance of diversity when it comes to business culture, but we take it one step further and say diversity has a direct connection to business results."
Talent Sustainability is one of the three platforms of PepsiCo's Performance with Purpose mission in which the company has committed to providing employees with the skills they need to drive business growth in a supportive and empowering workplace. PepsiCo has been nationally recognized as one of the top places for women and minorities to work and was one of the first companies to hire minorities in professional positions.
Jennifer Rittenhouse, human resources director for Pepsi Beverages Company's Tennessee/Western Kentucky Market Unit said, "Our local team is committed to giving back to our community and building PepsiCo's diverse portfolio of talent. We hope these UT students will take these lessons to heart long after they graduate."