Last month, I was working on my mission statement as part of my annual review process. I reflected on the legacy I hope to leave behind at NYU Stern and how close I am to realizing it. An integral part of my mission is to combine my identity as a Black Woman and my leadership ability in order to normalize Black success broadly. Typically, we are just seen as idols in sports and entertainment, but there is much more that we bring to the table.
This mission applies to my MBA experience because the lack of tangible examples of Black and Hispanic success normalizes non-inclusive environments in business contexts. This normalcy stymies progress toward diverse and inclusive businesses and society.
Being a co-president of the Management Consulting Association at Stern was my way of manifesting that mission. It was important to me that my classmates see a Black Woman in a position of leadership in a major student organization. This would be my part in the effort to normalize Black and Hispanic business success for my classmates. Little did I know that protests around police brutality, systemic racism, and diversity and inclusion (D&I) would soon grow to be a broader part of popular culture. These events would inform my classmates on how all individuals should act and lead with respect to D&I – not just Black and Hispanic people. Now, more than ever, it’s important for prospective and current MBA students to be very intentional about what they and their school are doing with respect to these issues.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AT STERN
I chose Stern for similar reasons as Cynthia Salom, a co-president of Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS). We both saw the commitment to diversity through its connection with the Consortium and the community that AHBBS has built on campus. When going through the admissions process, Cynthia attended Stern’s Diversity weekend, hosted by AHBBS and the admissions office.
“The panels, events, and workshops I attended got me excited about the program and allowed me to meet the current students,” Cynthia shared with me. “Seeing first-hand the tight-knit bond the AHBBS members had across both classes made me want to be a part of the community. It was also great to see so many allies at the events too, showing that not only the AHBBS members, but also the rest of the community supported diversity and inclusion as well.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER AND BEYOND
When the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests started over the summer of 2020, Stern’s response was timely and comprehensive. A plan was set forth with clear steps for the 2020-2021 school year, including sponsoring events, implementing new anti-racism trainings, and providing wellness support to its students and faculty. Much of this was organized with the support of AHBBS, Asher Eddy (also a co-president of AHBBS), and Cynthia. However, as Asher notes, there is much work to do in terms of increasing the population of minority students, minority faculty members, and improving D&I within the curriculum. For instance, Asher asserts that D&I should be a larger aspect of MBA curriculum. This applies not just in terms of talking about why diversity is important, but also in seeing Black and Brown founders, owners, and operators reflected in case protagonists and the faculty leading the classroom.
“As we MBA students prepare to re-enter the workforce as future leaders, I believe that it is paramount that we stop to think of what we can do locally first,” says Asher. “If Stern is the main local community that we operate in, AHBBS is the platform for us to facilitate conversation, engage members and allies, and effect change.”
Cynthia added that AHBBS has increased collaboration with Dean Gary Fraser, NYU Stern’s Associate Dean for Diversity & Inclusion, over the last year to have a greater impact. “We worked closely with him to present the Anti-Racism Proposal to the rest of senior management and have worked with him to host panels regarding D&I issues, both generally and specifically related to COVID.”
INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY TO DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
There is also an individual responsibility to D&I that needs to be embraced by the students on campus. AHBBS does a lot of work to support diversity and inclusion broadly. Similar to Stern’s Veteran community wanting to expand civilian ally engagement on campus, there is an onus that needs to be put on individuals to commit to being engaged and involved, whether with AHBBS or more broadly. One of the key initiatives that Asher shared for this year was to reduce the impression that the club is only for Blacks or Hispanics through offering a clear membership option for allies. AHBBS also successfully launched a book club this year that has focused on books tackling conversations on D&I, such as Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva and So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
Going from having no ally-focused events to a consistent slate of ally programming has been beneficial in two ways. First, it has helped the club to grow its membership outside of the typical self-identifying members. Second, inclusivity is a two way street and these events for allies demonstrate the club’s commitment to being a safe space to explore new cultural identities and perspectives in a respectful manner.
The firm where I interned – and will return to – has also studied the business case around diversity and inclusion in the workplace. This research is just as relevant in a business school context as it is a workplace context, Asher explains.
“One thing that 2020 proved to us is that America’s long history of inequality is not a relic of the past. AHBBS has remained committed to upholding the mission of diversity and inclusion throughout Stern by raising awareness and championing relevant causes among students and administration.”
We all hope that with the efforts put forward by AHBBS and Stern, future student leaders and allies of AHBBS will be able to bring people together to learn about, support, and celebrate Black and Hispanic cultures and make our communities a better place in the future.
Call to Action:
1. Join your local school’s affinity group for Black and Hispanic students. More likely than not, they are especially looking for allies to help further their mission. Attend a meeting and ask how you can help.
2. Find out what action plans your MBA program has to support diversity and inclusion on campus and think about what you can do to help promote it.
3. Try out one of Cynthia’s suggestions for meeting your individual commitment to D&I: volunteer your time, money, or knowledge to engage and give back to your community.
Cortne Edmonds, who claims both New York and New Jersey as home, is a second-year MBA candidate at NYU Stern School of Business. Prior to business school, she worked as a general manager in the language services industry for eight years, with experience working in New York, Japan, South Korea, and Israel. After school, she will be working in management consulting. Each month, she offers her advice and perspective for prospective and current students looking to maximize their MBA experience.