The Connector is the Alumni Newsletter of the Black Business Student Forum
Annual BBSF Conference: The Business of Social Change
On April 10, 2009, the BBSF will be hosting its annual conference on Darden Grounds. Building on the success of last year's conference, this year's conference will be designed around the Business of Social Change. We spoke with Vincent Harris (D'09), event chairman, to learn more about the upcoming conference.
What is the goal of the conference? This year's conference seeks to deliver a program that not only resonates with our members, but also "contributes to the overall Darden experience." This conference will bring together thought leaders and practitioners in the areas of Social Enterprise and Sustainability so that attendees can take part in a rich discussion about the role of business in pursuing social objectives. The program is designed with three main audiences in mind: students, alums (particularly African American alums) and the community at large. We want to offer each of these groups an opportunity to learn, network and be engaged in discussions around our topic.
Why this topic? Because the Corporation is the central institution in modern society, a space occupied at various times in history by the Church or the State, it is now incumbent on them to exhibit leadership in the upholding of the social contract. That may sound very esoteric, but the fact is that many of us intend to be change agents at some point in our lives. But we didn’t choose seminary or law school or public policy as our vehicle. We chose business school, because deep down we realize that businesses are the catalysts for change in this society. There is a vigorous debate to be had around exactly what form that involvement should take.
Furthermore, I just felt that there’s still a perception that black folk only operate on the receiving end of social change operations. And that’s just not true. We are leading foundations and endowments, NGO’s and other organizations. That’s a story that needs to be told.
Why now? When Warren Buffet made his historic declaration in 2006 that he would relinquish the bulk of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, some $30 billion, it was a game changer. All of a sudden the world beyond the philanthropic set got curious about this sector. Heck, everybody wants to know what Buffet thinks is a good investment! With this move he stated very clearly, what he thought the best investment of the next century would be.
When Fortune Magazine put Bill Clinton on its cover later that same year, lauding his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, there was again a certain cache that was bestowed on the industry. Let’s face it Bill Clinton is a rock star. Fortune rightly pointed out that the former president is using that star power to shine a light on some incredibly important issues and get people to think differently about how to solve old problems. Sir Richard Branson and others have made similarly bold commitments since then.
There’s a reason that these and other highly regarded public figures have pledged their fortunes and their good names to these endeavors. It is because the new breed of philanthropists have created organizations that are fast and nimble, well versed in the language of Wall Street and often led by (former) A-list corporate chieftains. They are well capitalized, but they don’t have quarterly numbers to hit so they can be deliberate in their thinking. And they don’t have to fool with all the red tape that governments have to contend with. So as a result, they are able to do some phenomenal things to impact the lives of people around the world. When they have to, they can move very quickly. It’s really pretty amazing.
Thank you to Vincent Harris for giving us a snapshot of the upcoming conference. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact him.
Alumni Spotlight: Reginald Fullwood (MBA '99)
By: Trina Ntamere (D'10)
Since graduation, Reggie has made a meteoric rise to the top. In two months, he will celebrate his first year as Senior Vice President and General Manager of Ameristar Black Hawk Casinos. Reggie was tapped for the position because of his considerable industry experience, commitment to exceptional performance, and track record of success. In fact, the July / August edition of Savoy Professional Magazine selected Reggie as one of its 2008 Top 100 Most Influential Blacks In Corporate America.
Prior to joining the team at Ameristar, Reggie was at Harrah's Entertainment, Inc., where he served as Vice President and Operations Controller of Harrah's Atlantic City. In that position, he was responsible for business planning and forecasting, financial analysis and cash management for the $553 million gaming operation. While there, he also served as the Vice President of Table Games at Harrah’s Atlantic City, Vice President of Service Strategy for Harrah's Atlantic City region, as well as Director of Customer Service at Harrah's Atlantic City and Showboat Atlantic City.
Prior to entering the gaming industry, Reggie served in Credit Suisse First Boston's investment banking division and as a Captain and Company Commander in the United States Army. As you see, there appears to be no sign of slow down for Mr. Reginald Fullwood; however, he did pause for a brief moment to share insights with us from his extensive background and fond memories of Darden.
- Current Home: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- Darden course or professor that impacted me the most: I was greatly impacted by Mr. Brownlee [affectionately referred to as Mr. B.] and my accounting courses. Accounting was like a foreign language to me when I came to Darden, but this is one of the courses that stretched me the most. Additionally, Mr. B’s approach to the subject and his students was both caring and demanding. His way of facilitating accounting made it very salient, and after awhile, it all made sense.
- My fondest Darden memory: I transitioned from the military to business school, and I have a collection of fond memories of my classmates. I remember being surrounded by bright students with interesting perspectives who were also extremely supportive.
- The advice I have for Darden students: The technical aspects of business are very important, but a firm understanding of organizational behavior and leadership is equally as important. Most students focus on the technical aspects of business, but as their spheres of influence and responsibility expands, the organizational leadership becomes just as important, so do not underestimate those lessons.
- The best book I ever read is: Good to Great, by Jim Collins. The book is great in its entirety, but the chapter, “The Hedgehog Concept,” is particularly informative. In it, Collins states that the hedgehog is a clear, singularly-focused concept that flows from the understanding of the following three “circles”: What you can be the best in the world at (and, equally important, what you cannot be the best in the world at)? What drives your economic engine? What you are deeply passionate about? I have applied these principles to my professional life. I believe that I can be the best at leadership; leading a team in accomplishing very important business objectives. Leadership clearly is what drives my economic engine. It has allowed me to differentiate myself in the marketplace. Finally, I have a deep passion for leading which makes what I do everyday fun.
- The quality(s) I most admire in another person: is critical thinking. The answers to business problems are not always readily apparent. So I admire a person who has an intellectual curiosity, critical thinking skills, and a passion / drive for excellence that gets to the salient issues and provides appropriate solutions / alternatives. Similarly, I admire a person who has the ability to take disparate points of view and bring them all together.
- My most prized possessions are: the memories of my football team at West Point. We went from a team that had a 2-9 record (freshman year) to one that improved greatly to 8-3-1 (sophomore year), 9-3 (junior year) and 6-5 (senior year) while taking home two Commander-in-Chief’s Trophies (presented by President Reagan) and playing in two bowl games. That experience demonstrated how any adverse situation can be turned around through hard work, dedication, and discovering the strengths of a team (and the individuals who comprise it). These lessons have served me well at Darden and throughout my career.
Race, Religion, and The American Presidency
A Discussion Series hosted by Paul T. Harper (MBA ’05, PhD ‘09)
Director of Special Programming, Office of Diversity
This fall I had the pleasure of leading three exciting conversations relating to this historical American presidential race. In three consecutive weeks we used the symbolism of Barack Obama as a vehicle for understanding how our community sees race, gender, and religion operating in our national politics. The timing of these conversations was critical because we did not know yet that Obama would be president and that the complications of identity would not ultimately derail his presidential hopes. There is no leadership position greater than the American presidency, and it was valuable to have the Darden School’s perspective on the various leadership challenges facing the president and also how identity complicates or exacerbates those challenges.
The first talk was titled: “Barack Obama and the Politics of an (Un)Compromising Identity.” For the first thirty minutes I showed a Bill Moyers (PBS) Video interview of conservative social theorist Shelby Steele. In this interview Steele explicates his belief that Obama cannot win the presidential race. Steele’s argument is interesting because he highlights the fact that both blacks and whites were suspicious of Obama’s intentions. In designing this event I wanted to present the ideas of a black conservative to further eschew notions that blacks are a monolithic group, who speak monotonously, and articulate monosyllabically. The Darden School is a great place to make this point since it has been successful with globalizing blackness, e.g. our students represent countries from all over the world. An unexpected highlight of this event was the discussion about the importance of Michelle Obama as an asset to Obama’s campaign and how she augments his symbolic value. The talk was covered by British Channel 4 and you can find a link to their story here.
“Pastor v. Politician: What did we learn from the Rev. Wright Controversy?” was designed to highlight the role of the Christian religion in this election season. But, as with the first talk, we needed to be clear whose Christianity was deemed valuable to public leadership and whose was dismissed as radical and subversive to the American nation. Rev. Wright is a distinguished black theologian and the first half of this talk was spent unpacking his theories about how Christian theology built from the experience of an oppressed minority can be a resource for national renewal and redemption. We are all familiar with the ways that this theology changed American history through the figure of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But, Rev. Wright is no Dr. King. The second half of the discussion focused on the Wright’s modes of communication and how his performance many times got in the way of the message. There were many important take-aways having to do with the choices we make about how we communicate sensitive topics and when to present our “authentic” selves in public spaces.
I was especially happy to add a third event to the series, “What if Obama Were A Muslim? How Perceptions of Identity Affect Conceptions of Leadership.” Having had a conversation about the diversity within Christianity it was then important to explore how “Islam” had become the evil other in the common conversation of the election politics. Because of his global upbringing and name, Obama – a Christian - was consistently mis-characterized as being a Muslim. While it is important to have the record straight about Obama’s religious affiliation another question was brought to the surface: “What if Obama were a Muslim?” e.g. why would that have been a problem? Participants watched the documentary “Muslims in America” and then a panel of doctoral students from Anthropology, Religious Studies, and Political Science presented various perspectives on Islam in the public discourse. This event was in many ways a reaction to a talk given on main grounds by a public intellectual who characterized all Muslims as inherently evil. With the great support of Dean Martin Davidson, I was able to provide these students with a high profile venue in which to air an important counterstatement.
These talks were as much about Darden talking about leadership as they were about Darden leading on important issues within the UVA community. Darden was the last place that the Muslim community thought they would have found this kind of interest, attention, and solidarity. I am especially happy that there was a significant showing from the BBSF at all of these talks. If there is an ultimate goal for a series like this it is not just to make people aware of the issues we face individually and collectively but also for us to take ownership in and identify with other people’s problems. As this series becomes more global we will be able to explore more specifically issues related to gender, class, and nationality.
Darden for the Cure
When Vincent Harris (`09) decided to take part in the Susan G. Komen for the Cure 3-Day Walk in Washington D.C., he committed to raise money for the charity by soliciting donations to support his walk of 60 miles during those three days. Along with his wife, Veronica and his stepmom, “Teamwork Makes the Dream Work” committed to raising $6600 in total. It was then that BBSF decided to help Vincent and his team reach their goals. “It was actually my wife’s idea to take a part in this walk, so that is what started this whole thing”, Harris would concede.
After a lot of brainstorming between Michael Peters (`09), Jaclin Warner (`09) and Harris, BBSF decided to host a Pink Party. “In order to generate the type of support we needed to raise this kind of money, we needed to have a lot of additional support”, Peters said. “I sent an email to all of the Presidents of all of the student organizations to ask for support for raising money for this event. Within two days, we had 39 clubs agree to support and co-sponsor this cause.” It was at this point that Darden for the Cure was formed. The “Pink Party” would be billed as an event sponsored by Darden for the Cure, a coalition of 39 student clubs and organizations and was held during Discover Darden, the biggest diversity recruiting event held at the school. “We wanted to make sure that this event was aligned with our diversity recruiting efforts as well. It is important that the incoming class see firsthand the type of positive impact the students of color can have at a school like Darden.”
In order to raise funds, BBSF purchased pink wristbands with the words, “Darden for the Cure” and sold them for $8 each. Because 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, the symbolism of $8 took on a greater meaning. No one complained about the price and the event was well attended by students, alumni and prospective applicants. Over 400 wristbands were sold as Darden for the Cure raised over $3200 in less than one week. Thanks to the hard work of BBSF, this event was a smashing success. Michael Peters, the current BBSF President would add, “It has been the goal of our entire class within BBSF, to maintain the level of significance of our organization amongst a growing number of student clubs on campus, and raise the bar of what is expected of all groups. With every program, every event, every commitment we make, we want to leave Darden a better place than when we arrived. We are in the midst of our 30th year in existence as an organized presence at this school. We owe it to everyone that came before us to continue building on that historic tradition. The Pink Party was the first example of bringing together every single club on grounds together as co-sponsors for an event. This was an historic moment and represents just a small part of what we are capable of.”
For more coverage and to view the videos about this party, please go to:
Hot Topics in Marketing: The Miami Mortgage Company
By: Professor Ronald T. Wilcox
Just to the left of a Skyline Chili poster, and just under a cardboard moose head, my office wall displays a simply-framed piece of paper. The header on the paper, typeset with a formal font and black ink, reads “The Miami Mortgage Co.” The handwritten contents of the note are reproduced below
The Miami Mortgage Co.
Miamitown, Ohio 9/7 1921
This is to certify that Arthur Knose has purchased the John Fourger house at Harrison, Ohio for the sum of $1800. Three hundred to be paid on delivery of the deed $1500 to be carried by the Company. $25 has been paid on this bill.
The Miami Savings and Loan Co.
Amos Pickens, Sec’y
Arthur Knose was my maternal grandfather, and this paper is part of the mortgage contract for the home he bought in the town where he raised his family and where I too spent my early years. The contract is simple, unambiguous in its terms, and the mortgage security it represented was no doubt held by The Miami Savings and Loan until the day my grandparents paid it in full.
There are new lessons to be learned from this old piece of paper. The widespread practice of securitizing mortgage contracts has generated some important social benefits. It has allowed banks and credit unions to more easily manage risk and in so doing helped create a low mortgage rate environment. The American dream of home ownership has been helped in no small measure by securitization. But it has also had a potent downside. Securitization created anonymity between borrow and lender in the mortgage market. Amos, and his company, aren’t lending to Arthur anymore. Bank X originated the loan to Ron, packages it with other mortgages and sells it to who knows who in who knows where, who resells it to somebody living somewhere. Who’s on first?
This anonymity matters because it makes it nearly impossible to renegotiate the contract, even if it is clearly in everyone’s interest if that happens. No one wins when a home is foreclosed upon; not the bank, not the town in which the house is located, and certainly not the person from whom the house is taken. If my grandfather ran into hard times, he knew who held his mortgage and they knew him. In all likelihood they could work out a deal. Everyone could be made better off through an understanding of the idiosyncrasies of the particular situation and a little communication. This ability to understand, and communicate effectively, on a one-on-one basis is lost in the current marketplace for mortgages.
The contract on my wall also has sub rosa moral quality to it. My grandfather knew Amos. Arthur Knose would have rather been shot full of arrows than have not paid this debt. I can’t even imagine him uttering the word “bankruptcy,” let alone seeking shelter in it. The social and moral contract would have been very real for him. Who would be hurt if you walked away from your mortgage? You don’t know and neither do I, but my grandfather knew. And this knowledge led to more stable financial relationships.
We should not return to the days when all lending institutions held all of their mortgages on their books. That would be both impractical and unwise. But, as the upcoming election fades in the rear view mirror and we begin to take a tough look at reforming many of these financial markets that have caused us so much distress of late, we should seeks to balance the good from the past with the realities of modern markets. One place to start would be to analyze the social welfare effects of a requirement that those financial institutions which originate mortgages hold some proportion of those mortgage assets on their books — not 100%, not 0%. I don’t know the correct proportion to balance the advantages of securitization with the advantages of reduced anonymity. But it sounds like a solvable problem to me. It is also not the kind of regulation that would lead to the Potemkin battles between the left and the right. Much like Arthur Knose and Amos Pickens, there is a broad common ground here where we can all be made better off.
Ronald T. Wilcox is Professor of Business Administration at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is the author of “Whatever Happened to Thrift: Why Americans Don’t Save and What to Do About It,” published by Yale University Press.