As one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers, or PwC, has a history of success and experience which has led to a longstanding relationship with the Pamplin College of Business. Scholarships, internships, industry-focused panels, and faculty fellowships are among the many rewards to have come from this fruitful association.

Time to add another benefit to the list.

As part of the Pamplin Community Committee efforts, PwC is offering the Pamplin teaching and research faculty a series of workshops centered on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). According to Jamie Harvey, a tax partner with PwC Trust Solutions and Pamplin alumna, the workshops are “an interactive, engaging experience which covers a wide range of DEIB topics to help faculty develop inclusive and empathetic competencies and enhance their data-driven, inclusive classroom practices.”

While a workshop on the topic of auditing, tax law, or any one of the other professional services PwC specializes in makes sense, a workshop focused on DEIB may seem like an odd fit for the multinational brand. Not so, says Harvey.

“PwC has a longstanding commitment to building a diverse and inclusive workplace.  Over the last several years our chair and senior partner, Tim Ryan, has been very focused on our development in societal concerns,” Harvey explained. “As a firm, we’ve taken a broader stance in the community, asking ‘how can we make a difference.’”

She continued, “As we look at the world, there is a significant lack of trust in traditional institutions. If you can’t trust your government and your leaders, what is the next level to move that trust to? It’s business.”

According to Janice Branch Hall, assistant dean for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, several Pamplin faculty have requested training in the area of DEIB. Hall connected with Harvey during a meeting of the ACIS Advisory Board, of which Harvey is a member, and they discussed the importance and need for DEIB training. From there, a relationship was born.

“People don’t think they have blind spots, and it isn’t until you start talking about them and you get humble and you get vulnerable do you realize how many blind spots you have,” explained Harvey. “Though they are completely unintended, those blind spots have a real impact on people.”

The initial training session, held last Dec. 3, was offered as a hybrid workshop, with the in-person component held at the Inn at Virginia Tech. Around 30 participants discussed unconscious biases, how to identify them, and how they can impact the ability to build trusting relationships; first impressions, judgments, how to be free of false impressions, and the impact the impression has on the student/colleague; and understanding data and how to act on that data.

Most importantly, the significant role that faculty play in DEIB was examined.

“Knowing that students are incredibly trusting of faculty – they lean on the faculty to prepare them for the future – we thought it would be a great next step to talk about how faculty make an impact in their classroom,” said Harvey. “We wanted to help the faculty understand their impact on students and really make a difference.”

Future sessions are expected to focus on creating a sense of belonging for students and colleagues and how to turn that sense into a feeling of belonging.

“The end goal is to further empower the faculty with the knowledge, the research, and the data so they can implement it in their classrooms and have an impact on the individual students,” she said. “The hope is the student will then mirror that behavior and mentality and take it out into the world with them.”

The students are primary motivators for the training, according to Harvey.

“I believe wholeheartedly that when faculty demonstrate and lead in that way, the students will be better prepared for when they walk into the real world,” she said.

“They are truly who we need to carry that through.”