When the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages nationwide with its June 26th ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, it was another big step forward for LGBT rights and equality in this country. And this week marked another step forward towards inclusion in the MBA and business communities. Reaching Out, Inc. (largely known in the MBA community as ROMBA), a nonprofit and the nation’s leading organization for LGBT graduate business students announced the inaugural class of Reaching Out Fellows.
A first-of-its-kind fellowship, 22 incoming MBA students will receive full-tuition scholarships, mentorship, and other leadership components throughout their time two years. The fellowship is set up so students first have to get accepted to a school and then the school makes the decision on whom to award the fellowship.
“I’ll be honest, when we originally started talking about this, I thought if we could get five or six schools with 10 to 12 fellows, it’d be great,” says Matt Kidd, executive director of ROMBA, who also holds an MBA from NYU’s Stern School of Business.
MIDDLE-AMERICA SCHOOLS INCREASINGLY SHOWING INCLUSION
But 16 top B-schools jumped on board for this year’s fellowship, leaving Kidd thinking he should have increased the fellowship cap. Kidd does say some of the schools participating in the fellowship represent a larger trend of schools keen on admitting students with diversity in thoughts and opinion.
“There were schools like Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, where traditionally, they’d be lucky to get one out applicant, if at all,” Kidd explains. “All of the sudden, because they were part of the fellowship, they were seeing those LGBT applicants come in. And that’s the magic and intent of this program—to show that business school is a place for LGBT individuals.”
Indeed, the majority of the schools participating in the fellowship, so far, are located in traditionally progressive areas of the country, like California and New York City. But Kidd sees schools like the University of Texas McCombs School of Business, Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, and Carlson as indicators to b-school trend.
“I think you see schools not in metropolitan areas—not in New York City or San Francisco—wanting to use the fellowship as a way to attract those LGBT individuals for a diversity in thought and opinion to their campus,” Kidd says. “And they’re seeing the fellowship as a tool to really attract those candidates and let them consider their school in the first place.”
KELLOGG’S WARMTH ATTRACTIVE TO CANADIAN STUDENT
For incoming Kellogg School of Management fellow, Jeff Lindquist, finding a school that matched the LGBT inclusiveness of his undergraduate experience was essential. The native Canadian attended the Ivey Business School at Western University in Ontario in the Honors Business Program and knew he always wanted to get an MBA at a top U.S. B-school.
“It’s a celebrated and natural part of life,” Lindquist, 26, says of the Canadian LGBT community. “We had marriage equality in 2003. We’ve been on the forefront of LGBT equality issues. We still have our issues with diversity but with LGBT we’ve done a good job.”
Lindquist worked as an investment banker for top Canadian bank, Canaccord Genuity and then as a consultant at Toronto-based public affairs and communications firm, Navigator.
It took one visit on Kellogg’s campus for Lindquist to “hit it off with” the school. He cites the LGBT club, Pride at Kellogg, touring him around campus, and the continual contact with admissions, alumni and current students as key indicators to the Kellogg community. “Kellogg doesn’t just accept, they embrace and celebrate people who are different,” he insists.
Lindquist was accepted but did not receive word of the fellowship until June. But that didn’t matter to his decision. “No scholarship at any other school would have mattered,” he says.
The warmth towards Lindquist is what he says sealed the deal for his Kellogg decision.
“I definitely did see a contrast between Kellogg and other schools,” he explains. “Kellogg was completely warm and accepting. Every school was accepting, there was no school that didn’t support the LGBT community, but I would say, that Kellogg really does go above and beyond. And that’s what made me so attracted to them.”