The Connector is the Alumni Newsletter of the Black Business Student Forum
Letter From The President
We are extremely excited to bring you our 2nd edition of The Connector, the Black Business Student Forum’s Alumni Newsletter. This time of the year marks the beginning of the Darden experience for a new class of first year students and for the second years, the excitement of being one year closer to May 17th, 2009, otherwise known as commencement.
For those of you that I have not had the chance to meet yet, I would like to introduction myself. I am a 2nd year student at Darden and President of the Black Business Student Forum (aka Darden Association of Black Business Students or DABBS prior to 1986). I am the second member of my family to attend Darden and one of eight siblings. I was born and raised in Philadelphia and graduated from Penn State University in 1999. Prior to Darden I spent eight years in the recruiting industry, started my own business as a Human Capital Consultant and will continue in that field with Deloitte after graduation. I am very excited about the opportunity to serve in my role during a truly exciting time at the Darden School.
We have had a great start to the year and it was extremely special to meet with so many of you at the National Black MBA Conference. There were over 40 students in attendance and more than 50 alumni at the alumni/student reception on September 19th. It was certainly a great turnout and from the feedback I received from other students in attendance, it was the highlight of their weekend. Overall the conference was extremely successful. We learned that despite what has been happening with many banks, the job market still looks promising for MBA’s. I recently read a BusinessWeek article stating that diversity candidates across the board may suffer because of the recent economic woes (click here). If that is the case, it only reinforces the importance of maintaining a strong network and I encourage you all to continue building your network and remain open to hearing from current and prospective students. Get to know us. Explore the new website and read about the students and events that make us a special group.
The purpose of The Connector is to provide another vehicle of communication in order to help students and alumni stay connected with important news and information that could impact the world in which we operate. For that purpose, we are including links to several articles that are relevant to our community. If you have any other important information to share, articles, research reports, etc., I encourage you to share them in our next newsletter by emailing them to email@example.com.
As we look ahead, we are extremely excited about the events that are planned for the upcoming year. Our Lessons in Leadership Lecture Series continued with a 2nd year panel of Presidents from several affinity clubs. Our open discussion about issues of race, gender and sexual orientation kicked off this series on October 1st. On November 12th, Ralph Holmes, Aetna, President of Middle Markets and Small Business in SW Region will be at Darden and on February 10, 2009, Allen Thomas, Chief Diversity Officer from Deloitte will visit. Our final presentation of this series will include a practitioner panel that will mirror the 2nd year panel and will be an open discussion of diversity from a professional’s perspective.
Here is a list of all events that we invite alumni to attend:
- October 24th and 25th – Discover Darden (please reach out to Kellie Sauls in Admissions)
- November 12th – Lessons in Leadership Lecture Series – Ralph Holmes, Aetna
- November 18th – World of Opportunities – Outreach program with Charlottesville High School
- February 3rd – Take a Kid to Class Day – Outreach program with local Charlottesville Elementary Schools
- February 10th – Lessons in Leadership Lecture Series – Allen Thomas, Deloitte
- April 10th and 11th – 21st Annual BBSF Conference – The Business of Social Change, BBSF Alumni Reunion
As you can see, we are expecting another very successful year and hope that you can make it out to these events. Over the years, BBSF has established itself as one of the premier organizations on campus and we would like to thank all of the alumni who have paved the way and created opportunities for our successful contributions to the Darden community.
We look forward to connecting with you soon.
President, Black Business Student Forum
Darden Names New Chief Diversity Officer
When Bob Bruner and Jim Freeland invited me to join the Darden leadership team as Associate Dean for Diversity, I was simultaneously excited and apprehensive. I was excited because I have been a scholar, teacher, and consultant on issues relating to race, culture, and diversity for nearly 20 years and this was an opportunity to actually try out some of what I have been telling executives all over the world to do. I was apprehensive because I have been a scholar, teacher and consultant on diversity for nearly 20 years. It is incredibly challenging to build the consensus needed to move an institution to the place where it can leverage the differences among its people in ways that transform the place. Ultimately, I accepted the position because I wanted to engage that challenge and try to make a difference at Darden.
As I embark on my new position, I am strongly committed to generating and communicating a strategy for driving diversity-focused change. And most importantly, I am committed to making every activity I support clearly connect to that strategy. In the vast majority of corporations and institutions I have studied and consulted with, one of the most prevalent patterns of action I saw was an organization launching into doing diversity activity—training, social events, cultivating diversity partnerships—without having a guiding strategy. So often, this led to unintended results. For example, this pattern happened in more than a few companies I worked with: a leader decides that increasing racial diversity is important, so he or she embarks on a headcount initiative designed to put more Black folks in the organization. The company creates incentives for hiring African Americans and quickly the number of Black employees doubles. Then, a few years later, the leader invites me to the company and, scratching his or her head, wonders why the large majority of their new hires had left the company, either by choice or because they couldn’t perform effectively. Of course, the problem was the leader assumed that an organization that was not used to fully including and valuing Black folks would magically change once a group of Black employees was on site. It usually doesn’t work that way. Representation is necessary, but not sufficient, to create sustained change when it comes to diversity. A well-crafted strategy compels us to look more carefully at the big picture and decide how to deal with all the important elements—representation, climate for diversity, institutional bias, leadership commitment, and the broader organizational culture—in creating an inclusive organization.
As I attempt to practice what I preach, I am beginning to craft a strategy for leveraging difference at Darden. It’s a work in progress, but here are a few principles that serve as its foundation:
- Learn continuously how to engage difference. Every person in the Darden community has to build greater skill at working with and living with others who are different in significant ways. When I talk about this, people sometimes decode my words as “straight white men need to learn how to deal with people of color, women, and gays and lesbians more effectively.” Well, yes, they do. But I’m saying more than that. Every single one of us, myself included, can identify the person or group of people whom we tend to avoid because it’s hard to carry on a conversation, or we don’t like their style, or we’re just not “in sync” with them. Reframing that aversion to difference is the core competency for leveraging difference. Being willing to deal with those folks is step one in the change process.
- Build relationships across difference. It’s all but impossible to build skill at dealing with difference in a vacuum. Relationships with people who challenge our worldview are the catalysts for diversity change. Stakeholders are motivated to rethink the status quo when they internalize the fact that the status quo is actually injuring those whom they care about. My work with CEOs and senior executives in Fortune 500 companies who have successfully driven diversity change bears this out. They got off the dime when they learned, through relationships with women or folks of color in their companies, that their people were being denied fair opportunity to be excellent.
- Experiment with new practices and policies that not only level the playing field, but help build a state-of-the-art stadium. The metaphor may not flow elegantly, but I hope my point is evident. I see part of my job as working to make sure there aren’t biases in how the Darden enterprise operates, especially with regard to underrepresented minorities, women, people of varying sexual orientations, and people of varying generational groups. But the more powerful opportunity for someone in my position is to help stakeholders in the institution identify the “win-win” alternative to the status quo. People on the margin have always had a unique window into the problems with the mainstream, problems that are usually invisible to those in the mainstream. The opportunity for us at Darden is to work together, marginal folks and mainstream folks, to come up with better, more equitable, and more energizing ways of operating and thriving as an institution.
Of course, there are some brass-tack activities that will be a part of what I do. Bob has made it clear that one of the priorities for diversity at Darden is increasing the presence and prominence of African Americans across the enterprise—alumni, students, faculty, administration and staff. Race is a dimension of diversity that is historically central to UVA and Darden and remains the single greatest “laboratory” in U.S. institutions in which to learn how to engage across difference. That’s why despite our national reputation as a leading business school in terms of racial diversity among faculty—we are unique among top-25 U.S. business schools in having a relatively large percentage of faculty of color and having 100% of those faculty tenured—we will keep pursuing racial diversity at all levels. I will also be working with our diverse community of women to foster greater gender equity within the school. Also, supporting the gay and lesbian communities and their allies is a priority as is working with the varying generational cohorts with Darden. Finally, I’ll be working with Peter Rodriguez, the incoming Associate Dean of International Affairs to support the international community at Darden as well.
I could have used some of this space to talk more about the business case for diversity and why Darden is and will continue to work toward a more diverse and inclusive community. But to be honest, business cases have been boring to me for well over a decade now. I prefer to spend time, not so much articulating the obvious, but exploring the opportunity for the innovation, for the new way of doing things that actually makes the entire community stronger. That is what my tenure as Associate Dean and Chief Diversity Officer at Darden will be about. I look forward to engaging all of you in transforming the Darden School.
Alumni Spotlight: Lemuel E. Lewis (Darden ’72, College ’69)
It takes a special person to be a pioneer and still have the humility of one who is incipient in their career and only beginning to come into their own. Lemuel E. Lewis possesses that special combination. As one of the first African-Americans to graduate from Darden almost 35 years ago, Mr. Lewis holds the distinction of being a “first;” as in the first to blaze a trail that opened the door for others to follow. Only a small subset of special people can claim such an accomplishment. Mr. Lewis is quick to point out, however, that he isn’t actually “the first” and that he “wasn’t alone” during those two years at Darden (then known as the Graduate School of Business Administration) between 1970 and 1972. Truth be told, he and David L. Epps, also African-American, both graduated from Darden the same year. In fact, he says, “since ‘E’ comes before ‘L’, David actually graduated before I did.” Technicalities aside, Mr. Lewis (and Mr. Epps) is a member of a small and distinguished group of Darden trailblazers that deserves recognition.
A “Double Hoo,” Mr. Lewis has had a distinguished career. In 2006 after 27 years of service, he retired from Landmark Communications, Inc., a privately held media company with interests in newspapers, television and cable, most notably the Weather Channel. Mr. Lewis joined Landmark as an assistant treasurer in 1980, rising through the ranks to executive vice president and chief financial officer. Prior to joining Landmark, Mr. Lewis worked for Wachovia Bank and the University of Virginia Financial Aid Office. In 2005, he was appointed to the board of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and currently serves as deputy chairman. He also served on the University’s Board of Visitors from 1986 to 1990 and also served several terms on the Darden Foundation Board.
These days, Mr. Lewis is enjoying retirement but he hasn’t slowed down. He has reinvented himself as an entrepreneur, recently founding IV Media, LLC. “IV Media, LLC is an internet-based company that owns over 1000 domain names including Asian-Americans.com, BlackAmericans.com and Hispanic-Americans.com,” he said. He also continues to serve on the board of directors for Landmark as well as publicly held companies, Dollar Tree and Markel Corporation. Best of all, he isn’t too busy to share a few words of wisdom with the Darden students.
- Current Home: Suffolk, VA
- Darden course or professor that impacted me the most: It is difficult for me to choose just one professor because they were all great and all very supportive. The school was much smaller than it is now and I had good relationships with many of my professors. Alex Horniman, William Sihler and Ray Smith are a few that come to mind.
- My fondest Darden memory: The first day of school. I remember we had a simulation that day. Most of the class had come prepared to spend about two or three hours at school but we didn’t leave until after midnight. [An odd fond memory?] It may not sound like a fond memory, but it was because it set the tone for the entire two-year experience. I liken it to high school. The teachers that were the toughest on you end up being the teachers you love the most because they prepared you the best. It’s the same with Darden. [After learning that students no longer have a simulation on the first day of school] I’m going to have to come back up there and find out what they are teaching.
- The advice I have for Darden students: Spend as much time as you can both inside and outside of the class dealing with teams and working with people. Alex (Horniman) once told us that we spent a disproportionate amount of time on all other subjects and less time on OB, yet OB is the one subject we would need the most. He was absolutely right and mind you, my career has been primarily in finance and op.erations. I have found that it is easy to figure out what to do, the hard part is getting it done through other people
- The best book I ever read is: A book I wish I had read 10 or 15 years earlier than I actually read it. The Warren Buffet Way, by Robert G. Hagstrom.
- The best advice I have ever received: (from the vice-chairman of Landmark) When you go into a new situation, take time to get to know the people and the lay of the land before you start making changes. So many people go into a new situation believing they know what is best and make changes quickly. However, if they took the time to truly understand the situation, then they would make better decisions.
- Quality(s) I most admire in another person: Listening skills and tenacity.
- The most influential person/people in my life is: My father and mother. They were both extraordinary people. They taught me to stay focused and never give up.
- My most prized possession is: Although I don’t view it as a possession, it would have to be my network of acquaintances and friends I have made over the years. That is what I value most.
By Folake Omotola ‘08
Alumni Create Marietta and Sherwood Frey Scholarship
During this year's NBMBAA Conference reception, Tom Baltimore (D'91), Carroll Warfield (D'81), Warren Thompson (D'83) and Michael Woodfolk, Vice President of Alumni Relations announced the establishment of the Marietta and Sherwood Frey Scholarship. The Scholarship was established to provide financial support to students, who, as a result of the opportunities afforded them by their education at the Darden School, show promise and commitment to being role models for future generations of African-American leaders. The Scholarship is named in honor of Professor Frey, who joined the Darden faculty in 1979, and his wife, Marietta. Frey is the Ethyl Corporation Professor of Business Administration at the Darden School, where he has served as the faculty advisor of the Black Business Student Forum for the last 25 years.
Congratulations to Michael Peters (D'09) who was selected as the first recipient of the Frey Scholarship.
New Admissions Officer Highlights Discover Darden
“I am happy to be here.” I’ve said that many times since starting in my position with the Darden Office of Admissions in November. I am one of the Associate Directors in the office and serve on the Diversity Team focusing on underrepresented minority recruitment. The road to Darden has been a non-direct one growing up a military brat, having worked in early childhood education, been a social work and psychotherapy practitioner, and doing a brief stint in medical school. I found my way to graduate management education in 2000. I started working at Wake Forest University in the Career Management Center career counseling international students. I transitioned to admissions in 2003 following my passion of helping minority students and applicants. My first big opportunity to do that at Darden is with the Discover Darden event.
Discover Darden is an admissions program designed to help potential and current applicants get to know the Darden, UVA and C’ville community better and answer questions related to being a minority student in such a community. The day includes all one would expect on a typical visit: attending a class, participating in First Coffee, observing a learning team, talking to students, faculty and staff. The day also includes presentations by Financial Aid, Student Affairs, and the Career Development Center. The Black Business Student Forum and the Hispanic American Network at Darden are working together to make sure that the more “social” part of the event is fun and shows off C’ville’s best assets. Having alumni participate in the event goes a long way. Prospective students have an opportunity to find out directly how the Darden MBA has come to play in the professional world. I must admit, one of the things that drew me to Darden is the passion alumni and current students demonstrated about this program. I get excited just thinking about having a group of eager, anxious and impressive prospective students at Discover Darden having a great experience that can only be had at Darden.
Alumni can help this effort by encouraging those they know considering obtaining an MBA degree to look at Darden and consider attending Discover Darden. Currently there is still space available for the event scheduled October 24-25, 2008. The application is online and can be found on the Discover Darden webpage. Questions can be directed to me. It’s great to be at Darden, working with top notch students and having the support of dedicated alumni. I hope to see you soon!