Led by a double Trojan, a new push is underway to build powerful working relationships with diverse businesses near both USC campuses — with social justice, opportunity and inclusion as part of the business plan.
With a leap forward in diversity and sound business practices, USC has created the Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity to better connect with small businesses owned by minorities, women and veterans.
The office, also known as the BDEO, will reinforce the university’s network with local businesses and expand opportunities for diverse enterprises.
“This has been an important priority for President Carol L. Folt,” said Sam Garrison, interim senior vice president for university relations.
“USC is uniquely positioned as an economic and civic steward to expand our role in helping strengthen diverse small businesses.”
To do that, the Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity will ensure minority-owned businesses are enabled and empowered to leverage their relationship with USC to compete for contracts with USC and other major public and private entities.
The office will also scale up business diversity programs to support growth and innovation. Education, mentorship and networking opportunities will all play a part.
USC Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity: knocking down barriers to business
Heading up the new effort is Michèle G. Turner, who will serve as associate vice president.
“It’s really important to me that the work I do mirrors the love of what I do,” Turner said.
“I want to leave a legacy that really is about reducing barriers to success, especially for diverse people. Many diverse business owners have never had the opportunity to compete for business with USC.”
Turner holds an EdD and a Bachelor of Science degree from USC; she earned her MBA at UCLA. Her career includes 25 years of entrepreneurial experience and executive leadership at top tier corporations like IBM.
You’ve got to take down institutional barriers that can keep those small businesses from competing.
As executive director of the USC Black Alumni Association, Turner pushed scholarship development up to the $10 million level. She sees both education and business as roadways to social equality.
“Business ownership is a way to generate wealth for diverse families,” said Turner.
“That’s a primary goal and it’s tied to social justice. To get there, you’ve got to take down institutional barriers that can keep those small businesses from competing.”
Building an ecosystem of opportunity via the USC Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity
USC is the city of Los Angeles’ largest private employer with over 28,000 employees, generating $8 billion annually for the local economy. The Office of Business Diversity and Economic Opportunity will help make sure the business generated by that engine is shared with diverse small businesses owners, who will be able to turn to the office for help with development, scaling up capacity and a chance at university contracts.
The office will be part of the civic engagement and economic partnerships team led by Effie Turnbull Sanders.
“This is part of a broader diversity, equity and inclusion strategy here at USC,” Turnbull Sanders said.
“You can’t have social or racial justice without economic justice that provides opportunities for jobs, housing, education, health care and sustainable public infrastructure.”
Many of the new office’s key directives will be carried out in collaboration with the Office of Financial and Business Services which oversees purchasing and compliance with university policies.
“Together, we’ll be integrating important initiatives into our work to expand opportunity,” said Rob Johnson, associate senior vice president of financial and business services. “It’s a partnership that benefits from the positivity and business acumen Michèle brings to the table.”
“Success always boils down to relationships,” Turner said. “There are many ways to step into relationship building to solve even very complex problems in this world — if provided the opportunity.”