External Relations - Onita Blanketfield and Kangkang Wang
Written by: Timiro Mohammed
As seen in the October 2019 issue of Lazy Faire magazine
In my time at the University of Alberta’s business school, three of my twelve professors have been women of color. For this month’s external affairs, I had the chance to sit down with two of the three. I interviewed Onita Blanketfield, a lecturer in the marketing department as well as Kangkang Wang, an assistant professor in the marketing department.
Can you tell me about your role in the business faculty and how you came into it?
Similar to the journey of many business faculty members, I began by working towards my PhD. My undergrad was in finance and economics, because there was no marketing major at my school. However, at the graduate level I had access to more choice. The purpose of having a doctoral program in business schools is to train students to acquire the basic skills to become a faculty member later on.
To be an instructor in both undergrad and MBA courses for both teachers and students has been very meaningful. I believe education is important for everyone so I take this position seriously.
What have been some of the most meaningful roles in your career in marketing and teaching?
It always comes down to the people; you’re either learning from someone or teaching. I think of all the people that helped and guided me, and I try to be what I had or what I needed in young people’s lives.
Did you have access to mentorship as you navigated academia and the industry?
As a junior faculty member, I have access to mentorship. Mentally, it is a large support. It gives you peace of mind.
One of my first work experiences was working at an engineering firm in Calgary in the 80s. To be honest, I’ve predominantly been in male-dominated environments. I was in a workplace with very few women in professional roles. I met someone who I’m still friends with today. She was the communications director for this company. The fight then- it wasn’t even that long ago because this was in 1989; it was so different. At work, you were allowed to have playboy centrefolds in your cubicle. The communications director had said “it’s time to clean up our act”. We’re having clients come in, some of whom are young female engineers. I remember it had caused such a wave, and I had never really thought about it. I wasn’t very comfortable, but I’m the type of person to just go with the flow, so I didn’t make a big deal of it. But there are people like that have made me look at things differently. There are people like that who have been quiet mentors in my life.
Was that a culture shock for you?
I’m the kind of person where I fit in and I’m not offended easily. If it's not materially hurting me I don’t feel like I need to comment on everything.
You say you’re someone who always fits in. Do you think it has also been about adapting for the ways in which those spaces don’t accommodate you?
Onita: I agree, I’ve always had a personal objective in my life and career, and I realized that my path to success would be faster if I maneuvered around obstacles rather than go through them. Sometimes, you realize it is easier for some people, or that it isn’t a linear path for you. [In those cases,] I said to myself, my strategy will not be to go on the same path, and maybe I won’t get there as fast, but I’m going to get there.
How do you think your presence in the faculty provides representation, assurance, and support for students of color in your classes?
We have a number of students from all over the world, [so my presence] may make them feel closer if there is something they want to talk about. Some students are from China or other parts of Asia. It makes them feel closer. If there's something they want to talk about, because they feel emotionally connected to you.
By sharing my knowledge and experiences, someone may be encouraged or be more confident to move forward. Whether they are in marketing or finance, they can hear from a real person what potential business environment may be like, and that they have a place in those environments.
In what ways can we begin to change the face of academia and the business world at large in the years to come?
More diversity in our admission decisions of future PhD students, because they go on to become faculty members in the future. We should take [diversity] into account as we admit new doctoral students. It can also be in the recruiting decisions of faculty .
To have more diversity could bring a lot of value. There is no one right way of doing something or looking at the world, so I enjoy having multiple viewpoints.