Opening Doors Policy

Martie Burris, the second Dean’s Impact Scholar, brings product management acumen and DEI expertise to Foster

As part of a renewed effort to diversify the Foster School faculty, Dean Frank Hodge created a new visiting professorship in early 2021. Dean’s Impact Scholars are leaders from the Seattle business community with demonstrated expertise in diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) who join Foster to teach and mentor students and participate in the school’s DEI efforts.

Martie Burris, the director of product management at Salesforce, is serving as the Dean’s Impact Scholar for the 2021-2022 academic year. Having previously taught at Purdue University, her alma mater, and led product management education at various companies and conference, she is developing a course at Foster that views entrepreneurship, strategy and product development through a DEI lens.

The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation with Burris.

What role should universities play in advancing diversity, equity and inclusion?

Martie Burris: Schools have always played a key role in the promotion of DEI. It dates to segregation. Remember Brown vs. Board of Education? The micro and macro effects that schools can have on our society are limitless. Universities, in particular, provide perspectives that shape the way young adults will forever see the world. I’m excited to see how UW Foster will play a role in this effort.

What aspect of being a Dean’s Impact Scholar motivates you the most?

Helping students. I’m a first-generation college student, and the first person to graduate from college on both sides of my family. There were so many people who helped me on that journey and continue to help. I just want to be to students what I needed someone to be to me during my collegiate years.

Do you feel that a more diverse faculty will lead to new and exciting ways that the Foster School can become “better today, better tomorrow?”

MB: One phrase you hear in corporate a lot is: “it starts at the top.” And it’s totally true. To create change or move people to a goal, you need the highest levels of a hierarchy aligned towards a common vision. We call that vision a “true north.” For students to feel like DEI is at the forefront of the university’s mind it’s imperative to have faculty reflecting the ideals the university wants to promote. We’re all still learning, we’re all on a journey, but having a bias for action to make change is something I’ve always respected. It drew me to UW as well. The faculty here is walking the walk and talking the talk.

What is your central message to Foster students regarding DEI?

I just want to help students relay their own messages of DEI better. We all have unique perspectives; I don’t want to teach them mine. I want to hear theirs and empower them to share their inclusive voice well after their days on campus.

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Accelerating Opportunity

New Foster program is expanding inclusion in the product management profession

A fortuitous meeting of Martie Burris and Professor Jeff Shulman, founding director of the Foster School’s new Product Management Center, has led to the creation of its Inclusive Product management (IPM) Accelerator.

The accelerator is inspired by a coaching initiative that Burris created in 2018 to advance the careers of early career Black and Latinx product managers. Her “Folding Chair” program honors the famous Shirley Chisholm quote: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Looking for ways to scale this initiative, Shulman and Burris have created a free, ten-week professional development program for product management that broadens access to economic opportunity by bringing more diverse voices to the PM community—professionals from historically marginalized communities who can inspire innovations that universally improve lives.

This initiative is in partnership with Platinum sponsors T-Mobile, Amazon and Salesforce, and Silver sponsor Starbucks.

Foster’s new IPM Accelerator is already offering knowledge, connections and a community of support to empower its first cohort to excel in interviews and on the job.

Eric Nobis Managing Director, Marketing and Communications Foster School

Eric Nobis is managing director of marketing and communications at the Foster School. In his 25-year marketing career he has been a PR pitch man, brand consultant, ad copywriter and leader of marketing teams. Eric is also the executive director of Foster’s Center for Sales and Marketing Strategy.