Expanding Opportunities

Upholding Henry’s vision for the Bloch School
Students in Bloch School - one stands near camera and looks at it, smiling, while the rest are in the background studying and sitting on furniture.

Building on the Bloch School’s legacy of serving Kansas City, the Henry W. Bloch School of Management has more than doubled its enrollment of graduate students from underrepresented groups in the last four years.

Between 2017 and 2021, enrollment in Bloch graduate degree programs increased 170% for Asian students, 148% for Black students and 127% for Hispanic students.

“We want to be Kansas City’s business school. As part of this, we have focused on community engagement, outreach, and finding ways to make our programs more accessible and flexible.  These efforts are helping us meet needs throughout our entire community for engaging, cutting-edge business education,” said Dean Brian Klaas.

Addressing the needs of students from across our entire community has been a long-standing priority at Bloch, dating back to Henry W. Bloch’s original 1986 endowment. Lately, 21st century tools have allowed the school to broaden its reach and become more accessible to students throughout this community.

The school has implemented several new tools that have created expanded opportunities, such as flexible class modality for people with unpredictable work hours or those with childcare responsibilities.

“We’ve found that moving from a largely on-campus and traditional program to more blended offerings has increased our ability to serve many working professionals and others who are juggling a complex life with a range of work and family obligations,” Klaas said.

According to Klaas, flexible classes have allowed students to find their own comfort levels while deciding which modalities work best for them.

Brian Anderson, associate dean of the Bloch School and associate professor of entrepreneurship, said by allowing students to take some classes remotely or on a hybrid model, or take extended periods off, the school has been able to expand its reach and appeal.

“Having a full range of modalities allows us to build engaging and inclusive classroom experiences that can better serve all of those within the Kansas City community,” Anderson said.

In addition to offering flexible classroom modalities, the school has also used digital marketing tools to share opportunities with a larger and a more diverse community.

“Back in the day, we often relied on word-of-mouth, networking and events to share information about our programs,” Klaas said. “Now with digital marketing and social media, we have more tools and more capacity to connect with candidates throughout this community. We are better positioned to highlight for candidates throughout this community the opportunities available here at Bloch and programs that could help meet their needs and achieve their goals.” 

Technology and outreach aren’t the only factors that have played a role. One-on-one contact has been just as important.

“We aspire to offer concierge-level service for every student. Not everyone comes with that built-in network that some students do. We’re here to give you that network and then show you how to continue to build it,” Anderson said.

The resulting network needs to be diverse as well. Toward that end, the Bloch School has expanded experiential learning opportunities to organizations with diverse leadership and/or a mission to assist underserved communities. Students from Bloch graduate programs are working closely with organizations such as AltCap, Pipeline and The Porter House KC, participating on faculty-led consulting teams to provide services and assistance to entrepreneurs from underserved communities. 

The Porter House KC was co-founded by Daniel Smith, who currently teaches a course at the Bloch School. Smith said it’s important to be intentional about the different needs students from underrepresented backgrounds bring with them to their MBA experience – and it’s important for students to get an opportunity to see themselves represented in the organizations they work with.

“It requires encouragement, doubling down and going into spaces universities don’t typically go into,” Smith said. “It’s beneficial for the university and the community they serve. The ability to counsel and walk alongside these students is invaluable.”

Melissa Vincent is the executive director of Pipeline Entrepreneurs, a professional development network for high-growth entrepreneurs in Kansas City. In an effort to better support entrepreneurs from underserved backgrounds, Pipeline recently created Pathfinder, a year-long virtual program partnered with Bloch’s E-Scholars program to help earlier-stage businesses develop resources and gain traction.

“We recognize that it’s not an even playing field right now in multiple senses,” Vincent said. “One of those is access to networks, resources and programming. The other side is funding. In order to be able to really change the trajectory for underserved entrepreneurs, we have to answer both sides of that equation.”

“At the Bloch School, they truly care about training their students, and with that comes a genuine belief that their students have the capacity to contribute to the community regardless of their age.” - Jennifer Alexander

Vincent said that the combination of Bloch education and outside support from organizations like Pipeline can be a winning combination for early-stage entrepreneurs, especially those from underserved communities.

Another key part of the Bloch School network is Central Exchange. Central Exchange was established as a non-profit in 1978 and since then has played a critical role in developing and offering professional development and leadership experiences for women in the region. It works closely with corporate members to provide impactful leadership development for women at key junctures in their career.

Throughout the past few years, the Bloch School has been partnering closely with Central Exchange. Assistant Teaching Professor Ann Hackett provides leadership and strategy support for Central Exchange as part of her role at the Bloch School, working to expand leadership development opportunities for women in the region, including students in the Bloch School. The partnership not only offers opportunities for Central Exchange members to participate in Bloch School programs, but it also provides opportunities for Bloch graduate students to engage with Central Exchange. 

The school has long-prioritized Henry W. Bloch’s vision for being a community-centered school, according to Klaas, and the initiatives being implemented today are very much consistent with that long-standing priority.

Jennifer Alexander, a student in the MPA program, said her experience with mentorship within the Bloch School helped her feel valued.

“Throughout our careers, women under the age of 40 have had to prove we’re qualified in ways men under the age of 40 have not had to prove themselves. My experience at Bloch was that I never felt like I needed to prove myself as a young woman,” Alexander said.

Alexander, who is Chinese-American, said she felt supported by Bloch faculty and staff as a student in a way that exceeded her experiences in the working world during her mid-to-late twenties.

“At the Bloch School, they truly care about training their students, and with that comes a genuine belief that their students have the capacity to contribute to the community regardless of their age,” Alexander said. “It was such an encouragement to me in that I didn’t necessarily experience that trust in my earlier nonprofit experience. The Bloch School believes in giving you opportunities to advance and move forward. That’s the biggest impact they made on me.”

"I had a lot of professors who encouraged me to use my voice and speak up when I had an idea." -Gretchen Metzger

Recent PMBA graduate Gretchen Metzger said she felt her instructors made an effort to support all students voices in the classroom.

“Being a woman in an MBA program, I can say from personal experience that there’s a tendency for women to speak more timidly and less boldly,” Metzger said. “But I had a lot of professors who encouraged me to use my voice and speak up when I had an idea. I admired that a lot.”

None of the initiatives Bloch has implemented over the past four years have been particularly groundbreaking, Klaas said, in part because the school has always prioritized Henry W. Bloch’s idea of a community-centered school.

“Henry W. Bloch was deeply committed to efforts to support inclusive prosperity in Kansas City. This was his goal in helping to build a community focused school. Today, we are continuing to work on achieving the goals that Henry established for the school years ago,” explained Klaas. 

“He wanted us to have great programs, but he also wanted us to get the word out to the whole community that there were opportunities here in business, entrepreneurship and the not-for-profit sector, no matter what your background,” Anderson said.

Klaas acknowledges there is always room for improvement, and the Bloch School is no different. Pursuing Henry’s vision for offering great programs that serve all of Kansas City is a work in progress.  A key priority for us is attracting and serving a student body that looks like this community,” Klaas said. “Being Kansas City’s business school is a key part of our mission. As part of that, we are very much committed to serving all parts of the community.” 

The enrollment numbers in Bloch’s graduate programs suggest that the school is finding ways to reach and serve the needs of students across our community, Anderson explained.

 “We’re focused on fostering community and opportunities for engagement. We do so in a way that leverages new tools and new technology to meet students where they’re at and offers them a chance to engage,” Klaas said. “We recognize the success of this depends on having faculty that look like this community, as well as a student body that looks like this community. These are important priorities for us, and we’re striving to make significant progress in these areas.”

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