Nineteen students from the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, recently participated in the PepsiCo Power of One: Diversity Leadership Development Program in February.
Buddy Lewis, a senior executive in sales at PepsiCo, facilitated the program’s workshops.
“A critical need is for our leaders of tomorrow to see diversity beyond the normal definitions,” Lewis said. “This allows them to leverage the skills and experiences of their team and rise to the challenge of globalization. The result is a synergistic workforce that leverages the strengths of each member to create depth and breadth in business strategy and execution.”
Consisting of four workshops held weekly, PepsiCo Power of One was open to juniors and seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
Other factors of the selection process were social responsibility, involvement in campus and community activities and an essay. Participants were awarded a $225 stipend upon successful completion of the program.
The series prepares Haslam College of Business students for the changing dynamics of workplace diversity. In addition to examining the business case for diversity, the program provides tools for managing a diverse workforce.
Sharmaine Ross, a senior marketing major with a collateral in entrepreneurship, was drawn to the program for its growth opportunities.
“It’s easy to say something or someone is different, but it’s more difficult to understand that behind those differences are factors like culture, background and personality style,” Ross said. “Something that I learned through the workshops is that in order to lead in diversity initiatives you must start with yourself.
“I always look for opportunities to develop soft skills that are applicable in the workplace,” she said. “As a leader, it’s vital to understand the role I play in relation to diversity. I have a greater appreciation of others and the skills to be more conscious of my actions.”
The workshops facilitated by Lewis covered a range of topics including why diversity makes good business sense, what diversity actually means and dealing with difficult situations.
“Many of our PepsiCo employees are University of Tennessee graduates,” Lewis said. “We believe this program is one way we can give back to the university while continuing to invest in the leaders of the future.”
Recognized nationally as one of the top workplaces for women and minorities, PepsiCo values diversity and inclusion as a factor in building and maintaining the top-quality workforce crucial to its success.
“Diversity is one of the foundational cornerstones of our company,” Lewis said. “It can be seen in the countries where PepsiCo operates and in the products we sell. Most importantly, however, it can be seen in the employees that work at PepsiCo.”