York University’s Schulich School of Business has partnered with A Different Booklist Cultural Centre to launch an introduction to business certificate program for Toronto’s Black community for free 99.
Professor Ashwin Joshi, who is also director of the school’s MBA program, had been thinking about the need for a program like this for some time, when Alissa Trotz, who is a friend of his wife, introduced him to Itah Sadu, co-owner of Toronto’s A Different Booklist Cultural Centre, and created the ideal partnership to bring the academic opportunity directly to the community.
The course came out of a “desire to see a greater relationship between Schulich and community,” Sadu said. With common barriers that exist between Black people and business school or entrepreneurship, it’s acknowledging those barriers — access, academic streaming, seeing few Black professors — and this course is one example of “how creatively we can chip away at them.”
For Sadu, this is a moment where universities are being called to become more accessible and cater toward local and racialized communities. “We move to a time where there is a greater call for academia to be located in the community and to strengthen those relationships.”
The eight-week webinar course got underway last week and aims to teach things like the basics of marketing, operations management and human resources. It features lectures from various Schulich professors, Q&A opportunities and also invites Black entrepreneurs and alumni to appear as guest speakers.
Many of the attendees are younger, between the ages of 19 and 35, up to students in their 50s. Joshi mentioned that an indicator of success of the program would be to see students hopefully continue their business education with the school. But regardless, this is one of more ideas to come, Joshi said.
“This is one initiative and we hope that it will be one of several initiatives over a sustained period of time in terms of engagement with the Black community with the intent of having that community grow in strength, numbers [and] representation at the Schulich School of Business,” Joshi said.
This cohort admitted about 50 students and there is a waiting list available online at A Different Booklist’s website for a second upcoming cohort.