In 2020, the MIT Sloan School of Management strengthened its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion by establishing the Endowment for Enduring Diversity and Inclusion—a fellowship program that aims to encourage and empower students from underrepresented populations. The MIT Sloan community has since responded. Here is one of their inspirational stories...
David Gitlin, SF ’03, and his wife Stephanie are determined to make a difference at the intersection of education and race and are working to increase opportunities for advancing in corporate America that higher education can provide.
Following the recent killings of African Americans—including Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd—David, who serves as President and CEO of Carrier Global Corporation, initiated a series of monthly listening sessions as part of the company’s concerted efforts to improve diversity and inclusion. After listening to Black colleagues describe challenges they face at work and in their daily lives, it became clear to David that even though he thought he understood their difficulties, he did not.
At the same time, David and Stephanie realized that his education and training as an MIT Sloan Fellow helped him get into the corner office. “If more African Americans had that same opportunity, there would be more Black leaders in corporate America,” says David. “That would ultimately have a profound impact on inclusion in the workplace and in society.”
The experiences of David’s colleagues at Carrier, coupled with what he and Stephanie learned while at MIT Sloan, inspired them to establish the Gitlin Family Sloan Fellowship Fund. This fund, matched by MIT Sloan’s Endowment for Enduring Diversity and Inclusion, will support at least one newly admitted and deserving MIT Sloan Fellow in perpetuity.
“What MIT Sloan gave David was an opportunity, and when we decided to make diversity, inclusion, and advancement a top priority, we realized that ensuring such a high-quality education for others would give them a similar opportunity,” says Stephanie. “This is how we can help diversify corporate America: one student at a time.”
The Lasting Value of an MIT Sloan Fellows Education
“The MIT Sloan Fellows program was life-changing for me,” says David. “I not only learned critical skills from an impressive faculty in the classroom but Stephanie and I learned just as much from our friends and family in our program.”
David’s company at the time financially sponsored his education. “We were so lucky and privileged,” Stephanie explains, “because David never would have been able to do the program without the corporate sponsor.”
The sponsorship allowed David to take foundational courses in management science, participate in thoughtful exchanges with Lester Thurow and other world-renowned professors, and immerse himself in a cohort of rising stars from the top industries. It also granted the Gitlins the chance to befriend other MIT Sloan Fellows and their families who hailed from Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Japan, China, Europe, and many other corners of the globe.
“Steph and I formed incredibly close relationships with friends from around the world,” says David. “Listening to everyone’s stories was very powerful because you really got to put yourself in other people’s shoes. You learned how to better appreciate diverse cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives.”
School-sponsored and independent social gatherings gave David the chance to continue learning outside the classroom. They also allowed Stephanie and their three young children the opportunity to know more about their position in a much larger and more diverse global context.
“Along with David, we were learning so much,” says Stephanie. “This experience helped us recognize our privileged position and how much our perspective of the world is tied to the generous situation we grew up in.”
These lessons were integral during the family’s time in Cambridge, though their significance swelled dramatically after the killings of Arbery, Taylor, Floyd, and others—and throughout the social unrest that followed. Yet even amid these rising tensions, David believes the collaborative spirit modeled for him and the other MIT Sloan Fellows can help in a big way.
Paying It Forward
With the Gitlin Family Sloan Fellowship Fund, David and Stephanie want to empower a new generation of MIT Sloan Fellows to complete the program and have the opportunity to share that experience with classmates from diverse backgrounds and experiences.
By providing fellowship support, they hope to remove the barrier of financial pressure from the decision to attend MIT—similar to how David’s corporate sponsorship helped him. They believe this advantage will ultimately help recipients to become some of the top business leaders in the country.
“With this fellowship, we hope to encourage more representation at MIT Sloan in order to put more Black leaders in C-suites everywhere. It is very important that people see themselves represented on their company’s senior leadership team,” David explains. “It’s a real credit to MIT Sloan for establishing the Endowment for Enduring Diversity and Inclusion and other programs to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. I hope that many other alumni will come together to make a difference in this important area.”
Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ray Reagans agrees, for actions like these speak louder than words. This is why he and Associate Dean for Innovation and Inclusion Fiona Murray are working to foster a more inclusive MIT Sloan community—both now and in the future.
“We cannot unsee and unlearn what we have learned about our community. It can no longer be business as usual,” says Reagans. “So we must build a community with a constructive culture characterized by the conscious inclusion of all dimensions of diversity.”
Hence the importance of the human connection to Stephanie and David, as they hope to create a network of MIT Sloan alumni and corporate leaders who will continue to listen to and learn from each other for years to come.
“We hope to form a very close relationship with the students that we sponsor and encourage them to connect with each other,” says David. “We want to help the fellowship recipients to succeed, and we view the ongoing relationship as part of our responsibility to help them beyond the financial component.”