Lessons from Oreo Cookies

Published in: Nota Bene, 2012 This year the iconic black and white Oreo cookie celebrates its centennial. One hundred years since the chocolate wafer sandwich first went on sale in the U.S., this favorite treat is now beloved around the world with $2 billion in global sales. Second only to the U.S. in Oreo cookie consumption is the world’s most populous country, China. But if you’ve traveled to the Far East, you’ll find the cookie you dunk in Shanghai is nothing like one you savor in St. Louis. In fact, the first Oreos sold in China crumbled. Consumers in a country not hooked on desserts thought the treat was too big and too sweet. Kraft went back to the kitchen and came up with a culturally conscious cookie that sells and satisfies. Kraft got it. As a global business they understood that diversity can drive and dictate the market.

At Webster, diversity is the tie that binds our institution. As a center of higher learning, it is our job to bring people together to achieve things they could never accomplish on their own. Our students and faculty represent 129 countries. And our programs mirror the world in which we live. We call it “inclusive excellence,” and it means drawing from all our generational and cultural strengths. This year’s Notabene 2012 is dedicated to that diversity in our students, faculty, alumni and programs. Inside you’ll read about students like Sara Gunn, whose passion for travel propelled her to visit 25 countries before turning 25, and Beverly Bland, whose unique lifestyle meant earning her degree on a journey of more than 2,000 miles. You’ll meet our Global Leader in Residence Yolanda Kakabadse, president of World Wildlife Fund International, whose drive for sustainability is changing the world. Our alumni are as diverse as the university they call their alma mater and include the man in charge of education for the United States Air Force Academy, and the Fortune 500’s newest female CEO (one of only 19 in the world), Graybar’s Kathy Mazzarella, a Walker alumni.

The ultimate competitive advantage emerges when you listen and learn from others and create something that is very distinctive and transformational. This inclusive excellence can be found in our new international programs like the MBA Global Track and our Global Hybrids. Each is designed so students graduate from the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology as true global citizens. Those who like their information fast and at their fingertips will want to learn about our new computer science degree, which equips students for cutting-edge careers in “all things mobile.” I always like to define competitive advantage as what you do that no one else can do even if they tried. You gain it through the ability to bring different perspectives and people together. That’s what we do at the Walker School of Business. We create the environment and provide the knowledge base that enable people to flourish in a world of uncertainty. By celebrating them we are making a true investment in the continued power of diversity.

So we raise a glass (of milk) in celebration of the unique strength that collective and diverse minds bring to our world. Dunk some Oreos and enjoy Notabene 2012!