April 4, 2019
The first African American Leadership Conference provided a forum for university students and members of several corporate partners to meet and share important insights. The conference was hosted by the Black Business Student Association on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Moore School.
The seven-hour event included more than 90 participants and 16 corporate partners. The conference consisted of several TED Talks, two panels and a networking lunch for students and visiting professionals. The event attracted an impressive number of corporate partners such as Boeing, UPS, Geico and Eastman Chemical Company.
“The African American Leadership Conference really focuses on the importance of diversity in the corporate realm for students and companies,” said Victoria Penny, BBSA treasurer and fourth-year finance student. “The companies in attendance are known for their amazing diversity and inclusion initiatives and putting money towards recruiting African American students.”
Alice Leri, associate dean of diversity and inclusion at the Moore School, agrees that the focus on diversity is an important cultural shift.
“We need to empower our students to select and recognize inclusive employers, build meaningful mentor relationships, effectively respond to abuses and engage with professional communities,” she said.
In addition to networking with experienced professionals, the conference encouraged an open dialogue between students and members of the different companies. This included keynote speaker, Cynthia James Walters, corporate director of diversity inclusion at Prisma Health.
While this is the first African American Leadership Conference to take place, BBSA plans to make the event a tradition for years to come.
“I am very pleased with the inaugural African American Leadership Conference and am looking forward to future conferences,” faculty adviser Deborah Hazzard said. “I truly believe the best is yet to come.”
BBSA’s mission is to provide professional development and academic support for minority students of the university. The professional development includes networking, alumni outreach and programming for its 28 members. The organization is intended to foster a sense of unity for students at the university.
“BBSA’s goal is to create a sustainable network for students and help with professional development,” Penny said.
The student organization was founded in 2018 when a group of students, including co-presidents Janae Bowman and Anisah Reed, saw an opportunity for the organization on campus. They decided to use their different backgrounds and skills to create an organization fulfilling their mission.
“Organizations such as the Black Business Students Association are a great resource for our students and our institution,” Leri said. “BBSA has a key role in making students feel like they belong on campus and it allows students to engage in relevant discussions in a safe environment.”
More information about BBSA can be found on Garnet Gate.
By Samantha Hayes