Corporate America could use a makeover. It’s not that it doesn’t have its beauty marks here and there, but the wrinkles of male dominance need to be straightened and patches of white dominance could benefit from more professionals of color. Of course the blemish of greed needs smoothing with a balanced application of responsibility, compassion and giving back.

But before beginning any makeover one must first examine the areas in need of improvement.

From the crud of racism to the scars of sexism, there are numerous reasons why the business world is in need of a bit of a change. If anything is to accelerate that change, equal opportunity is key. Unfortunately, many minorities and women do not always have the same opportunities to learn about business careers as do whites or men.

This is not to say that there aren’t successful minorities and women in business or that the entire industry suffers from prejudice or that minorities and women are the only ones responsible for change. Indeed, there are extremely qualified minorities and women in businesses and minority-run businesses are in fact on the rise. And certainly we can’t forget the benefits of affirmative action and diversity programs, which have effectively remodeled many components of the business world.

While rising business professionals may not be able to immediately makeover the business world, they can make sure they are empowered with the know-how to get started and succeed.

As an African American woman pursing a degree in theology, I know that it is necessary to equip myself with the knowledge, skills and networks necessary to excel before entering the religious journalism business. That’s why I’ve enjoyed being a Georgetown University Baker Scholar and would encourage minorities and women – as well as any interested students – to apply for the program.

Designed specifically for students with liberal arts backgrounds who are interested in business-related professions, the program is an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of business careers first-hand. There is no one definition of what a Baker Scholar is. The most common thread amongst all is that each scholar has an interest in business, and the array of backgrounds and interests makes for a dynamic group. The program is open to sophomores in the College who have an idea of what field they would like to enter but are not totally sure.

Baker Scholars gain invaluable insight about careers of their interest. This year alone, the current Scholars met with Anne oore, CEO of Time, Inc., visited the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and chatted with Ascend Venture Capital Group, LLC. At other points during the semester, Scholars have participated in community service, realizing the importance of giving back and helping those in need.

Another valuable component of the program is the mentorship aspect. Each scholar is assigned mentors who are GU alumni. All were liberal arts majors and are now in business. Mentorship undoubtedly allows for more in-depth learning and acquaintance with the business industry.

David A. Thomas, in his book Breaking Through: The Making of inority Executives in Corporate America, found that minorities whose business careers remain in a rut usually do not have mentors with whom they could seek advice, get instruction or talk openly about the racial barriers often prevalent in the business world. Having mentors, therefore, is a crucial component in the recipe for making a successful business.

Opportunities like these are few and far in between where I come from. My situation is far from unique, however, and that’s why the Baker program can be especially beneficial to minorities and women as well as students in general; it equips students with the information and networks necessary for pursuing business. It gives that competitive edge that sets you apart from the rest.

Of course the Baker program is not the only option. Some students may choose to attend business school, or just put the rubber to the road and venture out into the business world with no formal training. But the Baker Scholars program is an extremely effective way to learn what it takes to get one’s business career off the ground and running.

As the Baker program prepares and develops all types of students for the business world, I believe we will see a change at the board room table. It will not just be a making over of its outward appearance, but will be a better way of doing business, period.

Cherise M. Williams is a senior in the College.

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