Black History Month: Harvard’s Inaugural RISE Fellowship MBAs Speak Out On Inclusion In Business

HBS Rise fellows

Eight of Harvard Business School’s first class of MBA RISE Fellows. They are, from left top, Adan Acevedo, Siham Adous, Jerome Fulton, Jr., Aaron Hancock, Lanita Patton, Nashae Roundtree, Diego Salas, and Xonana Scrubb.

Xonana Scrubb’s own brush with housing insecurity led her on a path to managing a billion-dollar affordable housing portfolio and later.

After losing both parents to gun violence by age 5, Jerome Fulton Jr., hopes to work in the VC space to provide funding to Black business founders.

Nashae Roundtree wants to build pipelines for marginalized communities to the highest levels of business management.

There is a common theme in the aspirations of Harvard Business School’s first RISE Fellowship class: Leveraging business experience and representation to lift the economic status of marginalized communities and people of color.

HBS COMMITS $25M OVER 10 YEARS TO PROMOTE RACIAL EQUITY 

The RISE — Recognizing Individuals Seeking Equity — Fellowships were created as part of HBS’ Action Plan for Advancing Racial Equity launched in September. HBS also hired its first Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Terrill Drake, and committed a $25 million initial investment over 10 years to support racial equity initiatives as part of the plan.

The new fellowship awards $20,000 over two years (on top of other need-based scholarships) to support students showing “exemplary commitment to serving Black/African-American/Hispanic/Latinx and other marginalized communities of color prior to enrolling at HBS.” Twenty Fellows were selected to join the inaugural RISE class: Adan Acevedo, Jerome Fulton Jr, Amari Griffin, Tarebi John, Zoe Matthew, Alejandro Molina, Ted Obi, Chidalu Onyenso, Lanita Patton, Nashae Roundtree, David Velasquez, Mireille Verdonk, Siham Adous, Aaron Hancock, Brian Hollins, Diego Salas, Devon Sandford, Lucas Santos, Xonana Scrubb, and Tracey Thompson.

The school profiled eight of the Fellows in celebration of Black History Month, and Poets&Quants found their comments about the power of business in elevating marginalized people and communities especially timely. Read them below, and find the Fellows’ full profiles here.

Siham Adous, MBA ‘22

Siham Adous HBS

Siham Adous

Siham Adous is the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants. As a consultant at Boston Consulting Group, she worked on solutions to the representation gap in higher education for underrepresented minorities. She’s also worked with Harlem Capital, a venture fund investing in women and minority-owned businesses, and with Emerson Collective’s early-stage venture team, supporting investments into impact-focused startups.

“How can we both equitably allocate capital and scale innovative business models to address disparities in the wealth and well-being of marginalized communities? That was my ethos coming into business school,” Adous tells HBS. “It’s not just about impact, it’s also smart business: Investing in and uplifting marginalized communities has proven to drive more innovation, better businesses, and higher returns.

“I am excited to see this turning point in the private sector where we’re acknowledging much more that impact and profit could and should be intertwined.”

Jerome Fulton Jr., MBA ’23

Losing both parents to gun violence by the time he was 5 years old, Jerome Fulton has dedicated his professional career to lifting up minority students. He is an inclusion champion for the American Institution of CPAs and founder of Angel B. Wilson Foundation which helps Miami youth affected by gun violence. At HBS, he is the DEI representative for his class section, and aims for a career in venture capital.

Jerome Fulton, Jr.

Jerome Fulton, Jr.

“I believe in using my story to empower others, especially Black students who come from lower socioeconomic areas. I came from the public school system, I didn’t grow up with parents, I experienced many tragic woes, but if I can do it, you can do it. I want everyone to feel like they have a resource–and while I can’t be there for everybody, it’s seldom that I don’t respond to LinkedIn requests because I want to be that person for others. I’m very transparent about my journey,” Fulton tells HBS.

“One of my goals is to help provide access and funding to Black founders so they can have the capital needed to scale and grow their businesses. The VC ecosystem is a great tool for wealth creation, especially in Black and brown communities. I want a career where I can have impact, where it’s not taboo to say that I want to hire more Black people or invest in initiatives that are specifically for people of color, women, or people from the LGBTQ+ community.”

Read more about Jerome Fulton’s journey in this Poets&Quants profile.

Aaron Hancock, MBA ’22

Working in private equity and real estate, Aaron Hancock helped develop internships and other training programs to help young college women and people of color break into the industries. He also forged a partnership between Seizing Every Opportunity, which trains students for jobs on Wall Street, and the Pension Real Estate Association to coach college students in careers in commercial real estate.

 Aaron Hancock

Aaron Hancock

At HBS in 2019, he was elected one of three incoming co-presidents African American Student Union just as the murder of George Floyd was forcing institutions across the country, including Harvard University, to confront their own racial inequities. His work with fellow co-presidents contributed to the development of Harvard’s Action Plan for Racial Equity. Hancock returned to Harvard this fall after taking off last year because of the pandemic.

“When I started in real estate, I didn’t see many other Black people. It’s important to me to be visible — for my students to see that this can be a path for them. Being able to bring the diversity piece into real estate investing creates a lot of purpose and energy for me in my day-to-day work,” Hancock says.

“At HBS we all talk about making a difference in the world. The spring and summer of 2019 was a huge learning moment — there were real life events taking place, and we were in a position to do something, we just didn’t know exactly what. It’s important to recognize that we all have the ability and power to make a lot of change, we just have to take the onus, the responsibility, to set out and try and make it happen.”

Next Page: RISE Fellowship winners Adan Acevedo, Lanita Patton, Nashae Roundtree, Diego Salas, and Xonana Scrubb

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