Northeast Philadelphia native and Senior Vice Dean Debbie Campbell enrolled as a student at Temple University in 1985; she’s been there ever since
It’s Monday morning of spring break week on the campus of Temple University. Campus is mostly quiet, as one would expect, but that’s not the case in room 364 on Alter Hall’s third floor.
Inside, Debbie Campbell is completing paperwork for B4USoar, an outreach program of Temple’s Fox School of Business that introduces neighboring high school students to high-quality business education by enrolling them in a college-credit entrepreneurship course.
“This is kind of my latest thing now,” the senior vice dean says with a smile. “We’ve run the pilot for this program twice, so now I’m looking at how we can make this work long term. And how do we make it even bigger?”
While B4USoar may be Campbell’s “latest thing,” it’s just one of many projects that she’s been the driving force behind in her time at the Fox School. And, like many projects before it, it’s been Campbell’s tenacity that ensures it gets off the ground.
Campbell is a higher education lifer. She understands the bureaucracy of the system. She also understands that, sometimes, you just need someone to get things done.
“I’ve never been a fan of when you’re in a meeting, and then it just goes nowhere. Once I hear the same thing five times, I just do it. My mentality has always been, tell me what you need me to do, and I’ll figure it out,” she says.
The Northeast Philadelphia native first arrived at Temple as a student in the mid-1980s. After graduating with a degree in economics and marketing, she was hired at the university in December 1988 in a customer service role within parking services. Three years later, she joined the Fox School, then known as the School of Business and Management, as an academic advisor.
Over the next several years, Campbell honed her craft as a higher education professional. There’s been one consistent trend along the way: when an opportunity presents itself, she doesn’t say no.
When they needed an advisor to meet with prospective students on weekends, she did it. When they needed someone to work with the College Council to create more student professional organizations (SPOs), Campbell did that, too.
“It’s funny, I look back to when I first started, and I used to be an introvert. I certainly am not an introvert now,” she says. “If I see something that I think is going to make an impact or solve a problem, then I’m willing to jump in and take that on. I’ve always been able to risk failing to see if I could make the school better.”
In 1996, Campbell was promoted to director of Enrollment Management before being named executive director of the Fox Undergraduate Programs in 1999. Then, in 2003, she was named assistant dean of Fox Undergraduate Programs.
One of the primary reasons that Campbell has been so successful is because of how past supervisors trusted her, allowing her to thrive in autonomy. That’s become a staple of her own management style.
“Debbie is an excellent problem solver and an incredibly supportive manager. She is adaptable in the face of change, which is an important quality for anyone in business or higher education today,” says Tiffany Sumner, director of communications at the Fox School and a direct report of Campbell’s. “Thanks to her leadership, Fox will continue to pave the way as an innovative business school.”
Campbell’s rise at Fox has not been easy. She was and is an outlier as the vast majority of business school faculty members and upper-level administrators are still male.
But with every victory, she’s gained confidence.
In 1997, she helped organize volunteers for the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, a national summit organized by President Bill Clinton that was held in Philadelphia. A few years later, someone from President George W. Bush’s staff contacted Campbell to see if she could once again organize volunteers, this time for the Republican National Convention.
“That was a big turning point for me,” she says. “The White House told someone else in a different party to call me. My confidence level just changed.”
Campbell also counts the role she played in helping the university become a Yellow Ribbon School among her other chief accomplishments at Temple.
“Debbie’s leadership and influence has been undeniable here, for 30 years now,” says Charles Allen, assistant dean of Undergraduate and Honors Programs and a colleague of Campbell’s for nearly 20 years. “When there wasn’t a path, she created one. When there was an obstacle in the way, she figured out how to move it. That fearless attitude has helped thousands of students continue pursuit of their dreams here.”
Campbell admits that other institutions have courted her throughout the years. However, she remains fiercely loyal to Temple and the Fox School.
“This is my school. It’s been my school since 1985,” she says. “Yes, I can go do great things for someone else, but why would I not want to do those things here? That’s always been my mantra.”
The historic setting—Feinstone Lounge inside the nearly 90-year-old Sullivan Hall—only added to the significance of the message delivered during the Fox School of Business’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Networking Event.
Members of the Fox community joined together to celebrate the school’s history of inclusion and diversity among its faculty, staff and students.
Stained glass ceilings throughout the building told a story of how Temple University was created while Curtis Gregory, assistant professor of strategic management, shared stories of his childhood and the oppression his family faced.
“I had the opportunity to participate in a diversity workshop, and I heard the term ‘black tax.’ It was used in the context of faculty doing extra work. They described the additional burden and work when we are put in spaces to try to fix a problem we did not create,” Gregory said. “When I think about the sacrifices that my father made so that I can stand before you today, I’m willing to pay that slight tax.”
Gregory, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs Aubrey Kent, and Diane Turner, curator at Temple University Libraries, spoke to attendees before they headed downstairs to tour the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. The collection is one of the most prestigious collections of African American artifacts in the U.S.
“African-American history is American history,” Turner said as she stood next to Provost JoAnne Epps. “And African history is world history.”
The collection displayed business-related artifacts, including newspapers of the Philadelphia Tribune, the first-ever issue of Ebony from 1945 and lyrical notes from Tupac Shakur.
Turner said she had talked to Charles Blockson, who founded the collection, earlier in the day and he sent his greetings to everyone in attendance.
Surrounded by elegantly-framed paintings of presidents from Temple University’s past, Kent thanked attendees for their contributions in making the Fox School a welcome space for all.
“It isn’t just about ticking a box on a checklist of activities in a strategic plan,” he said. “It’s really about living through what we believe, which is that the Fox School is for everyone, just as Temple is for everyone.”
That was the takeaway from the event. Any lock of nervousness between incoming attendees was broken by a desire to create memories and friendships. Diversity must not be an exception, but the norm.
“If you don’t know where you come from, you cannot know where you’re going,” Turner said.
Money is at the forefront of the way we think about business—how can you make your company, and in turn yourself, more profitable? A recent Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey reports that “92% of surveyed corporate human resources executives agree that contributing business skills and expertise to a nonprofit can be an effective way to improve employees’ leadership and broader professional skill sets.”
We agree. That’s why the Fox School offers a well-rounded business education. In the classroom and the community, these three alumni gained tangible skills that empowered them to carry forward altruistic efforts that enhanced their personal and professional lives.
1. Empowering the next generation
MELANY BUSTILLOS, BBA ’16, believes that lifting up others is the key to helping the city of Philadelphia thrive. As the education officer for Prospanica, a nonprofit supporting the educational, economic and social success of Hispanic professionals, Bustillos encourages young adults to understand the value of education. She discovered her passion for mentoring students when volunteering in the Philadelphia public school system.
“A lot of kids feel like they can’t have big dreams or aspirations because their future is just set to what it is,” says Bustillos. Experiencing that response firsthand, Bustillos knew she needed to be a part of an organization that showed students the ways education could make their dreams a reality.
Bustillos works with local Philadelphia universities to foster relationships with students and transition them from campus life into career management through workshops on financial literacy, community service and personal branding. Bustillos serves on Prospanica’s board while working full time at Cigna as a risk and underwriting senior analyst. She also serves as a lead for Cigna’s Colleague Resource Group. She volunteers in a role that leverages cultural insights and connections to innovate approaches and solutions to increase engagement, performance and career mobility, while building enterprise capabilities to address the needs of diverse customers.
Bustillos continues to pursue opportunities in advocacy, and by investing in the next generation, she works to build the foundation for a smarter Philadelphia.
2. Studying the business of medicine
For NISHANTH SHAILENDRA, MBA ’18, finding a career in analytics was a driving force throughout his time in the Fox Global MBA program, but he didn’t know which industry to enter—until he discovered healthcare through networking with classmates. “I was very curious how the industry operates because what surprises me in the U.S. is the high cost of healthcare,” says Shailendra. Originally from Bangalore, India—a country with drastically different medical costs, quality of care and infrastructure than the U.S.—Shailendra wanted to better understand healthcare here and its unique set of challenges. In his role as business analytics administrator for Cooper University Healthcare, Shailendra uses data to improve affordability and accessibility for patients.
“We are trying our best to make sure that any patient that comes in does not need to come back. By reducing readmission and improving access, such as not waiting long to get an appointment when you’re sick, we’re working toward a healthier community,” says Shailendra.
As for his personal life, Shailendra plans on translating his experience at Cooper University Healthcare to improve aspects that the healthcare system lacks in his native country. “I believe that the quality of care in the U.S. is one of the best, but there are cons—like the high costs. My goal is to take the ‘pros’ back to India and apply my experience to improve the health and wellness of the community there.”
3. Encouraging nonprofit work for all
LINDA MCALEER, MBA ’74, is the president of The Meilor Group, a strategic marketing research and consulting firm in Center City. McAleer also serves on three nonprofit boards and advocates that her employees do the same. “Part of the mission of The Melior Group is to give back; it’s part of the culture. Each employee is active or involved in at least one mission-based organization,” says McAleer. She believes nonprofit work supports well-rounded professional growth and has an impressive track record to prove it.
McAleer came to her nonprofit role as chair of the Philadelphia-area National Multiple Sclerosis Society and board membership at both JEVS (formerly Jewish Employment and Vocational Service) and Career Wardrobe through understanding the needs of those around her. When her sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the mid-90s, accessing information and resources was difficult. She joined the National MS Society and was immediately tasked with fundraising. “I didn’t know how to raise money, but I said I’ll figure it out—like we do as Temple grads. We figure it out and solve problems,” says McAleer.
Most recently, McAleer supports Philadelphia’s new MS Navigator Program that helps those newly diagnosed (and those with needs) by providing information about insurance, home modifications, support to live independently and other services. She also promotes the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride, one of the most successful fundraising events in the country that allows participants to have fun, raise money and see the difference the MS Society is making.
In this new section of the Fox School alumni magazine Fox Focus, the editorial team interviews Fox employees about what extra knowledge, credentials and support they offer students and alumni. Here, our faculty and staff share the ways in which they do everything they can to empower our students and alumni to reach their full potential and achieve personal and professional fulfillment.
Born, raised and educated in Philadelphia, Kamina Richardson, assistant program director and pre-law advisor for the Department of Legal Studies, has a strong desire to give back to the local community. Richardson is certified in American Sign Language (ASL), Safe Zone and Narcan/Overdose Reversal. She is committed to and passionate about providing knowledge, resources and services to meet the needs of Fox undergraduate students and alumni.
Why did you pursue an ASL certification?
I grew up with a deaf brother, and I really came to understand his struggles. When I learned that Temple offered an ASL certification, I enrolled because I realized there is no ASL translator at Fox. I believe we need one in order to best support our efforts to be diverse and inclusive, and I would like to be an interpreter nationally and at Fox events. I started two years ago and completed the certification in May. I believe this will help our community because we have a large population of students with disabilities at the school.
What does your Safe Zone certification mean to you?
I’m a minority and I understand the stereotypes and assumptions that people have. The LGBTQIA community suffers from this too. I am willing to listen and understand the different kinds of things they go through, especially in college. I want to open my door for advising and to offer a safe space to talk so that people can vent about the frustrations of coming out or figuring out who they are when it comes to gender identity.
Safe Zone is a two-day training that involves looking at assumptions that we may have regarding LGBTQIA. The training highlighted the privileges of those outside of the community and how we can be more understanding to those inside it. Through the training, I learned that there are different ways to talk about gender identity that won’t discriminate against members of the LGBTQIA community. If people come to me with questions, I can speak to them about this and other topics.
What led you to pursue a Narcan/Overdose Reversal certification?
I’m from North Philadelphia, which is one of the places impacted by drug issues. Drug addiction is intense, and students are often open to drugs without realizing the consequences of their choices. Some may need liquid courage or a pick-me-up for school and they don’t realize some substances can be deadly. I got this certification because I want to be there in a moment’s notice if a student is having an overdose on campus or in the community. It’s necessary, especially with young minds who are trying to figure out who they are.
What are your personal goals for your work at the Fox School?
I understand what it is like to be a student and to feel lost. My goal is to be a resource for as much information and as many services as possible. I never want to be in a position where I don’t know something that would help a student. Next, I’m going to get certified in Spanish to better support the local Hispanic community.
For more than a year, representatives of the Fox community have been working to pave the path for the school’s future. Since announcing the Fox Strategic Plan 2025 in October, Dean Ronald Anderson and the school’s leadership team have been planning ways to support the four pillars that outline our future.
As the Fox School works towards transforming student lives, developing leaders, and impacting our local and global communities through excellence and innovation in education and research, Dean Anderson elaborates on what a successful implementation plan means to him.
How will the Strategic Plan lead the Fox School into the future?
When you examine what the workforce may look like over the next several decades, it is dramatically different from what it is today or was 20 years ago. The Strategic Plan will position the Fox School as one of the leading business schools of the 21st century by building on a solid foundation of our four pillars: Educational Innovation, Research Leadership, Inclusive Workplace Culture and a focus on Community Engagement.
Educational Innovation is about delivering a curriculum and content that builds business leaders who will perform in the evolving marketplace over the next several decades. We strive to deliver educational experiences in a manner that best prepare our students for the future of work.
Being a research leader in business education means that we will commit to expanding research beyond the academic world. We will impact the way managers think about their business and the way industries operate. That requires translating research into impactful ideas that serve the business community.
What is the Fox School doing to engage an inclusive and diverse community?
Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) are important issues to us. The Fox School is creating DEI initiatives in several forms. We are in the process of identifying and will follow best practices and principles supported by DEI awareness events and training to mirror DEI advancements in industry.
We will facilitate and support collaborative work between and among Fox faculty and staff, including formal recognition of impactful joint activities, and purposeful school-wide communication of activities and achievements. We need to continue to grow as a place where everyone feels welcome and where everyone believes they can make a difference and impact student outcomes. That is why we need to continue to cultivate an inclusive workplace where all of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, business and social partners and all of our stakeholders can thrive.
How does the Strategic Plan increase students’ access to a business education?
Through a collaborative effort between the Fox School, the Freire Foundation and Build the Future Education Collaborative, we launched an initiative to recruit students from Freire and Freire Tech high schools to give students the tools and skills they need to succeed in college. The Fox School provides college mentors to the students in the classroom, as well as additional support to their originating high schools. The Fox School, with support from other Temple University offices, will provide these high schools and their students with workshops on career counseling, financial literacy and college admissions.
This is one way we strive to empower Philadelphian residents. We also will emphasize collaboration with others at our school, our sister schools here at Temple, our neighborhood in North Philadelphia, the city of Philadelphia, the U.S. and the global business communities. We want to create a vibrant society where everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential. Part of that process is building a more robust relationship with our alumni and corporate partners—allowing them to have a role in serving our students, our colleagues and our neighbors. I look forward to sharing more updates on the activities and programs that support this effort in the future.
How does the plan impact the business world?
Each year, we graduate a class of future professionals for the business world. By creating quality education, we put businesses in a position to prosper by hiring students that increase productivity, engage in problem-solving and bring new, innovative ideas to the workplace.
The Fox School has a tremendous experiential learning-focused curriculum that puts our students in a position to succeed. They learn how decisions are made, often in real-time through interaction with today’s business leaders. We want corporations and graduate schools to recognize that Fox students are the best in the marketplace. We want those corporations and graduate schools to line up to hire Fox students and alumni.
How will the plan enhance school?
We are evolving our culture to meet the demands of the business world, not just today, but for decades to come. If you look at this plan you will see the hands of numerous stakeholders, from students and faculty to staff administrators and alumni.
What comes next for the implementation of the plan?
The planning process is almost complete. We are identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) for initiatives, and the next steps are to execute those initiatives, measure these and report out to the Fox community. We want everyone to know where we are going so they can hold us accountable.
We are reinforcing our experiential-learning focus with the data-driven, emotionally intelligent insights that will serve our students and the business world for decades to come. The educational experiences we offer students are impactful, and we are looking at initiatives that will enhance those experiences to match the evolving market.
We also want to reach the wider world with our research. We are taking steps to translate academic research through efforts like the Translational Research Center (TRC) and by prioritizing researchers’ capacity for writing and presenting their research to non-academic audiences.
To learn more about this initiative and the vision for the future of Fox School of Business, visit the Fox Strategic Plan 2025 website.
Sabrina Volpone, PhD ’13, is an organizational diversity expert, researching topics of diversity and identity within the context of race, gender, disability, sexual orientation and immigrant status. Since graduating from the Fox PhD program, her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology, and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.
The On The Verge editorial team had the opportunity to chat with Volpone about how she got started researching the experiences of traditionally under-represented employees, how a more diverse workforce requires organizations to adapt and how they can do better.
How did you become interested in diversity and inclusion?
When I was growing up in Texas, I was not exposed to much diversity. The Dallas/Fort Worth area was very different 30+ years ago then it is now; the only people I knew were white and Christian.
My mom, who had a business degree in accounting and worked for a huge company in Texas, told me a story about how she got fired because she was getting sick at her desk too often when she was pregnant. Her company shrugged it off, saying that they assumed that once she became a mother she would be leaving her job anyway. Hearing these things opened my eyes to small-town values—taking care of your neighbors, for example—being pushed aside when stigmatizing factors were introduced.
Then, when I was working toward my degrees, both my bachelor’s from the University of North Texas and PhD in Human Resource Management from the Fox School, I wanted to do something meaningful that could speak to people’s experiences at work. The research I was seeing did not capture what was going on for women, people of color and other disenfranchised groups.
What are the differences between diversity and inclusion? How does your research incorporate both?
Diversity is more than just checking a demographic box or filling a quota. To really leverage the benefits of diversity we have to talk about inclusion, a separate, but related, topic. The difference has often been illustrated in the following quote from Verna Myers, the vice president of inclusion strategy for Netflix: “Diversity is being invited to the party, and inclusion is being asked to dance.”
In a recent research project, my team went back to basics to investigate how organizations actually define diversity. There are a host of organizations that would like to improve how they are managing diversity because they are facing lawsuits, or simply because they want to be more strategic about managing human resources. There is an increasing need for organizations to collectively rebuild and expand the way we think about these topics.
For example, we looked at the way a few Fortune 500 firms were defining diversity and found that only 38 percent had established definitions on their websites. A large number of those who did listed standard descriptors typically found on HR hiring paperwork that are based on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws, stating that the company does not discriminate based on age, sex, race, etc. Other companies take a different approach, however, and use language that extends beyond “legal” terminology.
In my work, I am trying to illustrate that diversity and inclusion must work hand-in-hand. The diversity element establishes the organizational environment and the legal mandates required by law. Inclusion facilitates a climate where employees feel valued and included as a result of their unique characteristics. This is important because, as some of my other research shows, leveraging diversity in this way can result in financial gains. We found that one small change in a diversity definition can relate to more than $2 billion in current profits and more than $1 billion in profit growth. Thus, being inclusive when defining diversity results in increased financial outcomes for companies.
How does inclusion impact companies?
To explore the importance of inclusive policies and procedures in the workplace, I was part of a research team that examined the experiences of breastfeeding women in the workforce. We interviewed women in the morning, afternoon and night to see how the quality of their breastfeeding space throughout the day improved work outcomes. The data and quotes from the women illustrated a powerful point: the legal definition of what must be provided (a space to pump that is not a bathroom and is shielded from view) will not make a satisfied, productive employee. When companies provided more than the bare minimum for breastfeeding mothers, we noticed an increase in their work goal progress and their breastfeeding goal progress while also seeing improvements in their work-family balance satisfaction.
How does a more diverse workforce and consumer base require organizations to adapt? How are businesses innovating around majority-minorities, women, people with disabilities, millennials, and other demographics?
Some companies are not, and their workplace cultures and even financials are seeing the impact of that. Many organizations that are not evolving along with their workforce may cease to exist in 10 to 20 years because of their inability to strategically manage their human resources in a way that captures the diversity of their employees.
For example, in a paper that my coauthors and I recently published, we looked at the hiring process for people with concealable stigmas. Specifically, we examined the relationship between applicants disclosing their hearing disability during the interview process and whether or not they received a job offer. Changing our policies and procedures throughout each human resource function to be inclusive of employees with non-visible disabilities is an example of adapting from systems that, historically, have been focused on accommodating employees with visible physical disabilities.
But those who are thinking about the lived experiences of employees, they create policies and procedures that capture that. They are also being strategic through all of their human resources functions—processes like hiring, training and promotions—and are threading the importance of diversity and inclusion practices through all the ways they do business. Executives are making sure that employees are being heard and taken care of. In order for companies to survive, these considerations will become a requirement.
This article is a sneak peek of the next issue of On The Verge, the Fox School’s flagship research magazine. For more stories, visit www.fox.temple.edu/ontheverge.