University of Arkansas

Walton College

The Sam M. Walton College of Business

Episode 86: Cindy Moehring and Barbara Lofton

Cindy Moehring is the Founder and Executive Chair of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative at the Walton College. Barbara Lofton is the Assistant Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Read More

Walton Productions Be EPIC Podcast · Cindy Moehring and Barbara Lofton discuss diversity, speaking up, and the new Let’s Talk series

More About This Episode

Cindy Moehring is the Founder and Executive Chair of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative at the Walton College. This initiative highlights the importance of ethics in business and the integration of these skills into Walton classes. Barbara Lofton is the Assistant Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. This fall, Cindy and Barbara will merge their skills to provide hands-on experience for students looking to grow their skills in using their voice to speak up about race through the Let’s Talk program.

Keep up to date with the Let’s Talk about Integrity and Race program and check back as information is available.


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Episode Transcript

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00:07 Matt Waller: Hi, I'm Matt Waller, Dean of the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Welcome to Be EPIC, the podcast where we explore excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality and what those values mean in business education and your life today.

00:29 Matt Waller: I have with me today, Barbara Lofton, who is Assistant Dean of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Arkansas. And she has been in the Walton College since 1996, when it was rare for a business school to have a director of diversity and inclusion, it's still not super common. So she's got a tremendous experience in this, and she just recently was promoted to Assistant Dean. And I also have with me today, Cindy Moehring, who is the Founder and Executive Chair of the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative, in the Walton College.

01:11 Matt Waller: And prior to this, she was with Walmart for 20 years and most recently, she was Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer, US. She's had a number of roles at Walmart over the years. And this is a fairly new initiative in the Walton College that has been... We started it earlier this year. I wanna cover a number of things today. I wanna talk just a little bit about your backgrounds and what got you into this, but I'd also like to explore a little bit about what is the relationship between our diversity and inclusion initiative in the Walton College and the Business Integrity Leadership Initiative? But I would like to jump into the... Some meat before we get into that, if you don't mind.

02:09 Matt Waller: You two have done a lot of work together recently. And you have come up... You're part of the diversity and inclusion taskforce in the Walton College. And you've come up with, you and your team have developed a plan for the fall semester of 2020, which is really important, given all that has been going on. So Barbara, I'd like to start with you, if you don't mind. I know that part of this plan includes a book this semester called, So You Want To Talk About Race. Why did we pick that book?

02:48 Barbara Lofton: We picked that book because it's an easy book to read. It also provides guidelines for persons who really don't know how to talk about race. I remember one of the explanations in the book it says, "Talking about race is like being like an abusive... A person in an abusive relationship. You don't see the bruises all the time." So in the instance where people are talking about race in a negative sense, you don't see the hurt that it causes. So getting people to understand talking about race in a negative sense, this book gives them a better understanding in very easy terms.

03:33 Matt Waller: So Cindy, you've come in from the corporate world, now you're in an academic environment, and you have adapted very quickly. So tell me a little bit about the process you've gone through to adapt and become a part of the academic community and also, how you and Barbara are collaborating, and what that means for the college.

03:57 Cindy Moehring: Sure. I think the adaptation to the academic environment has been facilitated by the fact that I did have some time to get to know people personally, many of the staff members, many of the academics and before COVID hit, which was great. But then it's also been nice to have the ability to continue to work on projects, like what we're building for the fall with Barbara and others, who we've had the opportunity to have essentially it's coffee via Zoom or coffee via Microsoft Teams and get to know each other. So that has certainly helped, I think, bringing the corporate perspective in terms of the the way the real world works, which I think business schools are one of the most inviting environments for that, because we are trying to prepare students to enter that work world. But while also reading a fair number of different academic articles and journals, and bringing that side into the conversation as well, and finding a way to marry those two together and showing the value of doing that has enabled me with the openness of Walton College to that approach to really find a good place to jump in.

05:14 Cind Moehring: And to that respect, I'd say that's sort of the intersection that you talked about between integrity and diversity and inclusion. So I'll tell you there are probably somewhere between four and six broad categories of topics where almost every integrity or ethics issue that I've seen can fall into one of those broad categories. And one of those categories is to remember to respect everybody's autonomy. So there aren't any second class citizens in business. There shouldn't be. And so that dovetails right into avoiding discrimination, avoiding harassment, obviously working to root out systemic racism. And I will tell you that in the world of business, there are still a large number of issues related to discrimination that come up in the workplace every day.

06:13 Cind Moehring: There are unseen and sometimes even unknown policies that inadvertently may be continuing systemic racism until you really try to peel back the onion and look at it in a different way to make sure that it isn't. So it's very relevant in the work world and that is the way that Barbara and I were brought together. I'd say the last point on that is through the second area of integrity which is important when you're talking about discrimination and racism, is the importance of speaking up and being able to figure out how to talk about those issues in a way that is respectful and that values others' opinions.

06:52 Matt Waller: Barbara, of course you've been in the college a long time and you have made a huge impact, I know when I'm out talking to alumni they often mention you. And so given all of your experience and now working with Cindy on the plan for fall 2020, what are some things in that plan that really mean a lot to you or that stem from your experience?

07:17 Barbara Lofton: You know Matt when I first began working at the university there were a lot of them... I experienced micro-aggressions and people just didn't know and that's where that comes from. So I made it my mission at that time to help guide people along the way, help people to understand each other and try to meet each other wherever you are at that particular time. Well, here's let's move forward, Cindy walks in and says we need to meet and I said, "Oh okay, that's nice." And then I did a little research to discover what she actually does. And I was advocating for people to be treated appropriately at all times but then at the same time, I was giving values in a different way of asking people to meet people where they were and not to be so quick to judge because you can be judged at the same time.

08:22 Barbara Lofton: And I remembered a couple of podcasts back, you talked about untapped talent and I brought all of those things together in recent days to say, when we overlook people because of their race and we don't value what they say, sometimes you miss out on that untapped talent which is something a business school doesn't want to do because we help to develop the young leaders of tomorrow. So it's important for us to recognize that we do live in a society where race isn't... For us to recognize race, not as a negative but as a positive but also to recognize person's values and where they come from. Not all of us come from a privileged background, some of us come from an unprivileged background but we've managed to crawl ourselves out of that barrel and make it to the top. So we must recognize those experiences as well. So Cindy and I in talking about giving voice to values, we see where that has an important place in the college.

09:31 Matt Waller: When I think about the mission of the college to advance and disseminate business knowledge using a diverse, inclusive and global perspective and to encourage innovation in our primary strategic endeavors which include retail, analytics. But when you look at our mission statement it's right there in our mission statement, that we're to advance and disseminate. And when we talk about advancing business knowledge we're talking about research primarily, when we talk about disseminating business knowledge, that includes teaching but it goes beyond that. Cindy, with your legal background 'cause you're also a lawyer, I know you've been working with the Business Law class to make sure that we incorporate diversity and inclusion concepts within... Discrimination and racism within that context and Business Law is one of those classes, I don't know about you, but I know when I took it early in my time as an undergraduate I didn't appreciate it that much, [chuckle] now 35 years later, 36 years later I wish I would have paid more attention, it's such a great topic. Everyone who is in business wishes they understood it more, but Cindy, would you mind talking a little bit about your plans to do that?

11:01 Cind Moehring: Sure, so one of the things we've been undertaking within the initiative under the education plank is making sure that we have 100% coverage on the topic of business ethics and integrity for all of the students within Walton college. So that means moving the discussion of the topic all the way down to the freshman year, into freshman Business Connections and into freshman Business Law. And to your point, Business Law can be a difficult topic for an 18-year-old, 19-year-old to get their heads around and so in my opinion one of the ways to do it and to make it interesting is to use more real life current events that bring to live the legal and ethical and sometimes compliance implications of situations that they've been reading about already and hearing about in the papers.

11:56 Cind Moehring: So whether that is at this moment in time, all of the systemic racism issues and helping them understand employment law, whether that's talking about the COVID-19 issues and the ethical dilemmas that arise between health and safety and what we need to be doing from an economic perspective. So being able to talk about those kinds of issues in a way that the students can understand, even the e-liquids with JUUL and the way those were marketed, helping them understand consumer privacy rights with Facebook and the other big tech companies; so if you can approach it from a perspective and meet them where they are on an understanding of topics but then apply other layers of that understanding from a legal and ethics perspective, I think that will help them enjoy the class a bit more and actually see the relevancy of it in many of the issues that they hear about every day.

12:57 Matt Waller: Well, Barbara, I know you teach a course on the history of Blacks in business.

13:05 Barbara Lofton: Yes, I do.

13:06 Matt Waller: And would you mind talking about that just briefly?

13:10 Barbara Lofton: In our history books today well we don't find a lot of information about how minorities played a role in building America. So I was thinking as we were carving our new mission about disseminating information that also meant disseminating new information. So I decided after a lot of research that perhaps we need to start with doing a book on the history of Blacks in business, this particular class starts pre-slavery, it actually begins in West Africa, in Ghana where it talks about what the people in that country was doing at that time and believe it or not they had to their own algebraic system, they had their own social security system, they had their own tax system, even their own burial system. But each tribe was different in how they instituted those kinds of operations.

14:10 Barbara Lofton: But then in the class we bring it forward, we go through what slavery was like for Blacks coming from Africa, well, how to used their talents to help to advance America. So when the English came to this country they didn't have the same talents as the Africans did that came to America so actually Blacks trained Whites in certain skills. Whites were the apprentice of Blacks, in our books it's not gonna tell us that but as time went on Whites began to realize the value of a slave who had a talent and they would rent their slave out and would decide on how much the slave would keep and how much the master would keep, but the slaves were saving money so they could buy their freedom. So as you see that concept move forward you also see them buying land and building businesses and becoming architects and doctors and lawyers, and education became important.

15:15 Barbara Lofton: So we bring that course all the way through that era up to about 2015 where we see African-Americans playing a major role in history, but yet and still we... As we were moving along we talked about systemic racism. You hear us say that Blacks have to work twice as hard than Whites do and we have to do that because we have to, as Cindy so eloquently said, we have to peel back the onion of systemic racism so that we can find our way through that to be treated appropriately. So those are the things we talk about in that class, we even talk about the Negro Baseball League which a lot of students get excited about. But the most interesting thing as I talk about people who've made history particularly in the music and entertainment industry, the students would say to me, we don't understand who you're talking about because if we were to talk about the Jay-Zs of the world...

16:13 Barbara Lofton: And I wanna talk about people like Al Green or how did Motel come to being, what did they do for the recording industry or do you know who Sam Cooke is or I'll ask them about John Johnson who founded Ebony magazine and John and his wife founded Fashion Fair what it actually did to the industry, they have no clue so when they find those kinds of things out, students get excited. They really get excited. It helps them to find their identity about who they are and about the people who came before them so it's a really exciting class that I really enjoy teaching, but it is a very interesting class.

16:55 Matt Waller: Well, Cindy that brings up something to my mind, there's an event that we have every year called the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and I've gone to it every year but I've also read about previous inductees and it is amazing to me how little I knew about some of these players in business and society in Arkansas and beyond. But it gets to a question of speaking up about racism and discrimination and I know that one of the core tenets or principles of business integrity has to do with speaking up, would you mind talking a little bit about that and this Mary Gentile that we're having come in, let's talk about Giving Voice to Values.

17:54 Cind Moehring: Yeah, absolutely. So speaking up is an important tenet for business integrity overall, it's really one of the main tenets that everything else rests on is being able to create the kind of culture whether in business or at a university or really anywhere where people feel as though they can speak up and that's one of the reasons why we created the program this fall called, Let's Talk about Integrity and Race, that will include reading the book, So You Want to Talk About Race, having the opportunity to hear from the speaker of that book, Ijeoma Oluo, but then also creating an opportunity to have a conversation around not just what racism is, but how to speak up about it. And so the approach by Mary Gentile in a book that she wrote called Giving Voice to Values really gets into some very practical approaches to being able to give voice to your values, and so we're gonna be using her approach and workshops that we have created to discuss the book, so you wanna talk about race as well as how to talk about it and then Mary is gonna come speak too. Ao this fall we've got a book and we've got two speakers about how to speak up.

19:23 Cind Moehring: And about speaking up on racism, and we've got some workshops around that. But one of the most important premises in Mary's book about how to give voice to your values, well, there are several, but I'd say two of the most important, not one, is finding a common way to have the conversation. You break it down into where you can find some commonality, and that typically comes back to a list of some very short core values that through time and throughout history and geography, research has shown that a certain core set of values we all share as human beings. So if you could break down your differences and communicate on that level with one of them being respect, another is humility, compassion, pretty short list, then you're more likely to be able to have a conversation, even though it may be difficult. So we think the marrying of those two together, talking about racism, but also empowering people how to speak up, not just about racism, but more broadly about any issue is gonna be a powerful combination for everyone this fall, the students, faculty, staff, and hopefully the community at large.

20:31 Matt Waller: Well, I know you all have created some proficiency and competency badges about business ethics and about diversity and inclusion. And so some of the things we just spoke about are potential events or activities that can help build up to where you get a competency badge in that way, would you all mind speaking to that.

21:00 Barbara Lofton: So when Cindy and I met, she told me that she was working on the badge and it was something that we had discussed in my ODI advisory board. And I told her, I said, "I have to create the same thing. So why don't we marry these two things together? Here's how I see it, if you are a good leader, I mean a really good leader with integrity, diversity inclusion is gonna be a part of what you do because you see it as being the right thing, and you see it as being the responsible thing. And as we graduate our students, that's what we want them to be." So Cindy said, "Yes, let's join forces," and then we realized there was a lot of synergy right away. So we're actually gonna start with the freshman class on Tuesday nights. Any student can join us. We will have lectures every Tuesday night for an hour from So You Wanna Think About Race and we'll give students an opportunity to earn a badge by attending one session of a lecture hearing both speakers and Cindy, what's the fourth?

22:10 Cind Moehring: You read the book, read the book, So You Wanna Talk About Race.

22:13 Barbara Lofton: Read the book. And we want them to really get engaged in this conversation, and then they don't have to get engaged with us. Start with us, the topic, the overall umbrella is let's talk about... And we wanted a friendly way to approach talking about race, as it is an area where people do feel uncomfortable talking about. So we hope through talking about race and giving voice, students will want to talk and want to earn a badge along the way. Now the way Cindy and I have this set up is level one and level two. Level one would be for freshman and sophomores, and level two would be for juniors and seniors. And we think it is something that will set them aside from the person sitting next to them who's also interviewing for the same job. We think it's that important.

23:06 Cind Moehring: Absolutely, it's part of student success. And it will be a verifiable badge that they can show on their LinkedIn profile, that they can put on their resume, that the university will be able to verify, and it will be able to show that they've developed competencies in certain areas and that they're proficient in those competencies by these badges. And so the value of it for students, like if I were a student and somebody were to say... I would ask, "Why would I wanna do this?" Well, the answer is, it is a fantastic way to distinguish yourself among all of those other job applicants to show that you really understand two very important areas of leadership and that you've gone the extra mile to really develop proficiency in those competencies, both in the classroom, but also outside the classroom. So it's a way to set themselves apart. So it's students achieving milestones in business integrity and separately as well in diversity and inclusion.

24:08 Matt Waller: Barbara, in addition to being Assistant Dean here in the Walton college, you are also a Senior Fellow for Outreach and Engagement at the university level. Would you mind talking just a little bit about what your role is there?

24:23 Barbara Lofton: So my role as Senior Fellow for Outreach and Engagement is really, really interesting. I have the opportunity to meet and learn even more information. So for an example, this coming up year, the university is gonna invest in and learning about what we call indigenous or First Nation people and to see what their needs are and how the University of Arkansas can actually play a major role. COVID brought out many disparities between majority and minority and the haves and the have-nots, but even among the American Indians or First Nation, the disparity is even much greater. So they're looking to the university for assistance in helping to develop businesses further. But prior to this year, we've helped with recruiting in what we call our underrepresented areas, not just persons from underrepresented groups but underrepresented on this university.

25:23 Barbara Lofton: So we would make connections with those school districts through our university and connect them with businesses within their community so that students could have internships, mentors, new experiences and create the desire to want to go to college because they wanted to achieve the status of their mentor. So it's been an exciting role, like I said, I've learned a lot about people, I've learned how important it is for us to meet people where they are and it puts me in the community. So I'm able to bring knowledge that I've learned in the community back to the university so that we can build that bond between community and the university.

26:06 Matt Waller: That's an important part of our land-grant mission as a university. Cindy would you mind from your perspective, earlier I talked about how the mission of the college speaks to what we're talking about here today, what you all are working on really advances the mission of the college. What I'd like you to do if you wouldn't mind at a strategic level, tie this together: The values of the college, the diversity and inclusion initiative and the business integrity initiative.

26:40 Cind Moehring: So the way I see those functioning together is the values live on a piece of paper, that's how you first have to become familiar with those words. That's kind of the touchstone that people go to. But if they live only in words then it's not real, it has to be carried forth in action. In my opinion, the work that Barbara's office does and the work that my new initiative is doing is helping to bring the values of the Walton College and the university at large to life strategically so that people can touch it, people can feel it, people can understand what it means, people can see that we're truly living that out in it's fullest form. So I think at Walton College that's exemplified in the work that initiatives and offices like mine and Barbara's do.

27:34 Matt Waller: I think about our EPIC values, excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality. Specifically if you look at our definition of professionalism, it includes the idea of diversity and inclusion. So it's explicit in our values but also if you think about excellence, professionalism, innovation and collegiality, an ethical approach in all of those has to be a given.

28:07 Cind Moehring: The word integrity is in professionalism as well...

28:10 Matt Waller: True, yeah.

28:11 Cind Moehring: It's explicitly listed in your values so...

28:14 Matt Waller: So I think all of these things that we're talking about have to be done under the auspices of integrity. And I think the kind of things that you two are working on are so critical from a foundational perspective for the business students that we're graduating because again, one of the things that I'm always amazed at when I go out and meet with alumni, we've got alumni all over the world that are very successful business people, leaders, entrepreneurs, financiers and you think about how much of an impact they can have from a positive perspective. And now we've got all these students here, we can affect the future. But I think that having you two also working together on this initiative and the plans for the fall really takes all of that and makes it very actionable, execution-oriented that will move us forward now. So I appreciate the work you all are doing, thank you so much and thank you for taking time to visit with me today.

29:33 Barbara Lofton: Thank you.

29:33 Cind Moehring: Absolutely.

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29:36 Matt Waller: Thanks for listening to today's episode of the Be EPIC Podcast from the Walton College. You can find us on Google, SoundCloud, iTunes or look for us wherever you find your podcasts. Be sure to subscribe and rate us. You can find current and past episodes by searching beepic Podcast, one word, that's, B-E-E-P-I-C podcast and now Be EPIC.

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