Cynthia Turner

Assistant Dean and Chief Diversity Officer Cynthia Turner has always been a trailblazer. In 1996 she became the first African-American woman to earn a PhD in accounting from The Ohio State University and now, more than 20 years later, she is the first such woman to be named to the dean’s leadership team at Fisher in its recorded history.

Turner (MAcc '95, PhD '96) discusses the college’s vision for its efforts the diversity and inclusion space as well as the outreach and engagement efforts that students, alumni and partners can look forward to in the weeks and months ahead.

Q&A with Cynthia Turner

  • Open/Close How do you define diversity and inclusion and why does it matter?

    I define diversity as the extent to which the people within an organization reflect the range of human differences and experiences that exists within the society in which it operates. This includes, but is not limited to race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, religion, age, physical ability, veteran status and socioeconomic status. On the other hand, I define inclusion as the degree to which those with these differences are valued and empowered to contribute within their organizations. 

    As a college of business, diversity and inclusion matter not only because embracing these constructs is good for society, but because it is also good for business. Research shows that increasing diversity (especially on the leadership levels) leads to, among other things, strides in productivity and innovation, which in turn, translates to improved financial performance. Thus, to ensure that we best equip Fisher’s future leaders to succeed in the marketplace, diversity and inclusion must be essential to our mission. 

  • Open/Close What is the vision for diversity and inclusion at Fisher?

    Fisher is committed to fostering an inclusive community that embraces diversity, pursues equity and fairness, and strives to create principled leaders prepared to effectively serve our multicultural and global marketplace.

    Since 1993, David Harrison, senior director of Fisher’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach (ODISSCCO), and his team have primarily served to carry out this vision. This office (formerly known as the Office of Minority Student Services) supports 15 diverse undergraduate and graduate student organizations at Fisher with resources and services that include student counseling, leadership development, scholarship opportunities, career support and tutoring. It also offers support internally to campus departments and organizations, and externally to corporations, companies, and agencies that seek to further their diversity and inclusion efforts.

    Nonetheless, to fully realize the purported gains that result from a diverse and inclusive environment, it requires buy-in, engagement and support within every unit and at every level at Fisher. To this end, our Undergraduate Leadership and Engagement Office developed programming in 2017 for our first-generation students (Fisher FIRST), and I, myself, as a faculty member created an initiative in 2016 within the Department of Accounting and MIS that provides programming and resources specific to the needs of accounting undergraduates who are underrepresented minorities (Project THRIVE). Both of these initiatives have significantly added to the growth in student diversity at Fisher.

    Further, under the direction of Steffanie Wilk, former associate dean of diversity and inclusion, Fisher’s leadership added diversity practices in faculty recruitment that continues to add diversity (particularly in gender) to our faculty ranks today. We are proud of the progress we have made to date.

    However, there is still much that can be done. Leveraging all of our current diversity and inclusion services and programming in ways that maximize reach and impact is critical. Raising more funds to support our diversity and inclusion efforts is paramount. Increasing diversity at the staff levels and continuing our efforts on the faculty levels is vital. Moreover, quality diversity and inclusion training for the entire Fisher body will be the linchpin to the success of a thriving diverse and inclusive community.

  • Open/Close What can Fisher students — current and prospective — expect from the college’s diversity and inclusion efforts?

    Through our diversity and inclusion efforts, my hope is that our students will find a place at Fisher where they all feel significant and empowered; where they are motivated and encouraged to respect and value each other’s differences in experiences and contributions; and where they learn and are equipped to lead in a global marketplace. 

  • Open/Close How can the college's more than 80,000+ living alumni and friends support the elevation of diversity and inclusion at Fisher and beyond?

    Fisher’s alumni can play a significant role in elevating diversity and inclusion at Fisher and beyond in any number of ways that is meaningful to them. They are welcome to engage with any of our 15 diverse student organizations. We encourage those looking for diverse talent to explore Fisher as recruiting and hiring pipeline. We always like to see the meaningful connections created when alumni serve as mentors to our students during their academic and professional careers.

    And we are extremely thankful when our alumni and friends who are in a position to give financially choose to support diversity and inclusion at Fisher. From impactful gifts that benefit scholarships and programming — like those from alumni Paula Bennett (BSBA ’71) and Corbett Price (MHA ’75) — to gifts from alumni such as Jesse (MBA ’76) and Cheryl Tyson — whose support continues quality work of Fisher’s ODISSCCO — the generosity of our alumni is extremely humbling and inspiring!

  • Open/Close How can new and/or existing relationships and partnerships with companies be a win-win for students and diversity and inclusion efforts here at Fisher as well as the business community?

    As our universities and colleges grapple with the fact that within the next 10 years we will recruit and compete for students from a smaller and more demographically diverse American high school graduate population, Fisher has the unique opportunity to get ahead of this change and strategically position itself as the college of choice for our country’s top talent, and especially, our top diverse talent. Thus, we are currently looking to expand our diversity and inclusion programs and services in ways that will make Fisher a career differentiator for students and a greater value-add to our corporate friends who choose to and/or continue to partner with us in our efforts.

  • Open/Close What can we expect from Fisher in the weeks and months ahead as it relates to diversity and inclusion efforts?

    I am thrilled to share that over the next few weeks we will be rolling out new communications channels devoted to matters related to diversity and inclusion at Fisher. These channels will be another way for us to celebrate our achievements and activities while showcasing the ways we’re advancing diversity and inclusion education and inspiration.

    Further, we will soon begin to accept nominations for our 19th annual Fisher College of Business Diversity Awards, which celebrate our corporate friends and external stakeholders who are integral to promoting diversity and inclusion at Fisher. The event will take place on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. 

    In addition, the leadership team at Fisher is currently working on a strategic plan for the college in collaboration with our internal and external stakeholders. Part of that plan will include a specific strategy for diversity and inclusion efforts at Fisher, which I will share upon completion. There are many other exciting happenings on the horizon, and I look forward to communicating them soon.

  • Open/Close What excites you most about your new role?

    What excites me most is being a member of a leadership team that is totally committed to our diversity and inclusion vision; serving alongside members of Fisher’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee — faculty, staff and students — who are passionate and ardent about ensuring that this vision is fulfilled; and being able to further engage our alumni and corporate partners in innovative ways that will support Fisher in equipping our graduates to lead and serve with impact in the global marketplace.

To ensure that we best equip Fisher’s future leaders to succeed in the marketplace, diversity and inclusion must be essential to our mission.

Cynthia TurnerAssistant Dean and Chief Diversity Officer, Fisher College of Business



Cynthia Turner Asst. Dean and Chief Diversity Officer, EY Faculty Fellow
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