It has been a little more than two months since racial slurs scrawled on whiteboards in the MBA student dorms sparked a campus uproar at Stanford Graduate School of Business. With the ugly incident still on many minds, MBA students at Stanford are looking to change the conversation with the second annual Dream Big, Lead Boldly, a workshop for Black college students and young professionals to explore whether to pursue an MBA. Organizers hope the event helps close the representation gap in MBA programs, at GSB and beyond.
Dream Big, Lead Boldly is a student-led initiative featuring Black students, alumni, and professionals working with undergrads and young professionals as they consider an MBA. Hundreds from universities and colleges around the United States have registered for this year’s free, one-day virtual workshop, scheduled for Saturday, April 30.
“An MBA can be a transformative experience that opens the door to new opportunities and economic mobility,” says Kelsey Aijala, a second-year Stanford MBA student and member of the event organizing team. “Unfortunately, this experience has not been as accessible to students from historically under-represented groups, especially Black students. We’re excited to host the second year of Dream Big, Lead Boldly to address that gap and provide opportunity for learning and resources to Black students considering the next stage of their careers.”
A ‘NEED TO SHIFT THE CULTURE ON MBA CAMPUSES’
While the virtual event was started a year before the incident that occurred on Stanford’s campus in February, it will be impossible to ignore — just as it could not be ignored by the authors of the school’s massive DEI report released in March. But it will not be a focus of the conversation.
“This is the second year of the workshop, so it was not born out of the hate crime last quarter,” Aijala tells Poets&Quants. “But it is extremely important in light of the incident and need to shift the culture on MBA campuses. We’ve focused our outreach on HBCUs and other underrepresented schools at top MBA programs,” she adds, including Howard University, Morehouse College, Alabama State University, Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and North Carolina A&T State University. In all, more than 200 have registered from more than 75 universities and colleges.
Themes for the event include “Deciding if an MBA is right for you,” “Paying for business school,” “Career paths,” and “Designing your life.” Speakers will include Stanford faculty, MBA students, and alumni, as well as Black leaders from nonprofits and professional organizations. Says Nate Schlein, Dream Big Lead Boldly co-lead and a second-year Stanford MBA student: “As current students, we’re intimately familiar with the daunting process of determining if business school is the right path for a potential applicant. Our team’s goal with Dream Big Lead Boldly is to help each attendee feel more comfortable and confident taking the next step in their personal MBA journey.”
HOW TO ATTEND
“Coming from a non-traditional background and being an underrepresented minority, the entire business school process was a black box, and I felt that I was already starting off behind,” says Jesse Lusa, second-year Stanford MBA student and member of the Dream Big Lead Boldly organizing team. “DBLB is looking to open up the contents of that box and make them more accessible for the next person who looks like me.”
“Facing down graduate business school admissions as a first-generation American was incredibly daunting,” adds classmate Chris Cobham, event co-lead. “Even with the privilege of coming from a family where my parents are college graduates, I had no idea where to begin. I joined the DBLB team because I want the next cohort of students to benefit from what my classmates and I had to learn through trial and error.”
Dream Big, Lead Boldly is April 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with networking from 3-4 p.m. Participants from all schools, majors, GPAs, and job roles are welcome. More details and a registration form are available on the Dream Big, Lead Boldly website.