Race and College Admissions

Surpeme CtSome time this month, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on a case that could further restrict the use of race as a factor in college admissions.  The issue is whether a student’s race or ethnicity can factor into admissions decisions.

There are many arguments to support why considering race is important, notably the legal rationale of correcting past wrongs.  But there are also others who argue that affirmative action does not work or that using economic status will do far more to help.

Ten years ago, the court’s stance is that student diversity is a compelling interest that can justify the use of race, but only as one among many factors.  A recent NY Times  article discusses the updoming decision.

The biggest obstacle to class-based affirmative action, as Richard Perez-Pena pointed out in The Times the other day, is the obvious one: cost. Poor and working-class students are by definition in need of more financial aid. That is why universities have shown little interest in switching. It’s cheaper to bring in students of color from middle-class or affluent families. (It also brings in kids with higher SAT test scores, which count so heavily in the obsessively watched college rankings.) Cost is the reason that even many proponents of class-based affirmative action favor what Tienda calls “a holistic approach” — class and race both.

Head nod to Bill Keller for surfacing this important issue in his article yesterday.

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Tuesday, June 11th, 2013 Admissions, Diversity, Education 2 Comments

Day Two of Latino Legacy Weekend

Passion. Storytelling. Leadership. Those are a few of the adjectives that were brought up today when the panels, guests, and speakers talked about changing the game for latino professionals in America today. And they quickly caught everyone’s attention, not only to keep us engaged in the panels today but also to help Latino Legacy Weekend pull off its second act this weekend.

Just minutes ago, we finished our second and final full day here for Latino Legacy Weekend. And as I suggested above, the event was very well executed. Similar to yesterday, the panels were exciting, engaging, and full of great and highly accomplished speakers. Unlike yesterday, though, the panels today were more panel-like, where they were more interactive and also left a more time for Q&A after the presentations, which I personally enjoyed.

In the first panel about political activism, we had a highly accomplished list of legal and political heavyweights, who chimed in on things like passion, leadership and accountability. The topic of storytelling also came up, and a Chicago Super Lawyer, Christine Martini, discussed the importance of a compelling message and telling a good story, especially for someone who may want to take on a political leadership role. In another panel, the speakers talked about the role of Latinos in society today. A current BCG consultant mentioned that it’s not enough to lead by example today, and that we all have to go beyond our comfort zones. They also talked about mobility and sharing information.

I personally liked the panel on children and youth, where we had a highly diverse panel, including a health service professional and DMD, as well as a couple of professors, including one from Stanford who discussed a 15  year test about high school graduation rates. My favorite panel, though, might have been the one on media in a panel later in the day, namely because media is one of my biggest interests, given I maintain my website and contribute to a few others. In some ways, the media panel did a good job summing up the weekend, as they gave a lot of ideas about being vocal and sharing information, learning how to mobilize a campaign, reaching out to more people, and building connections with other leaders in the community. And they talked about all of this in the context of working together as a team, using the example of becoming a “chorus of voices.”

In the end, my experiences at the conference reinforced my belief that teamwork is absolutely critical.  That a team working together can accomplish more than the sum of its parts and that to achieve our highest potential it’s critical that we leverage everyone’s diverse skills and talents to achieve common objectives.  So I’m glad that everyone’s still fired up about the great weekend. I hope that we’ll all stay in touch after the event. And after chatting with a few of my new friends, it sounds like everyone plans to collaborate together on some of the world’s most important issues in the future.

Thanks for reading everyone. And stay tuned for LLW 2011.

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Sunday, May 30th, 2010 Diversity, Leadership 3 Comments

Day One of Latino Legacy Weekend

Many people have good ideas, but few are willing to put themselves on the line for them. Often times they’re afraid of rejection or they fear the hard work it takes to achieve success. And other times, they’re simply afraid of failure, especially when other people are watching.  On the other hand, there are also leaders who create extraordinary results because they are deeply passionate about their cause. These leaders work tirelessly to bring others together and connect them with their mission and to steer their organizations to new heights.  And that passion was not only evident, but also contagious on the first day of Latino Legacy Weekend.

Despite long exhausting travel schedules and work schedules, not to mention sentiments during the current economic crisis, a sense of excitement filled the room from the very first minute at Latino Legacy Weekend. Leaders from every industry filled the room – law, business, finance, public policy, politics, academia, government, and education. It was good to see so many like-minded people together with the mission of “transforming power of ideas and building bridges across professions, ideologies, and regions.” And that certainly happened today across a series of panels, speeches, and collaborative discussions.

In one panel, professionals from California, Texas, and New York talked about challenges in the education space. In another, a Northwestern Professor collaborated with an employee from Goldman Sachs and another professional from Municipal government to talk about immigration. This was especially compelling considering we were at a Latino Conference, and considering that I am originally from Arizona, where immigration is the big issue of the day.

I was on the Business and Finance panel, which came next. Ironically this session was lot less technical than some of the others, despite being the finance section.  One former BCG consultant talked about how important it is to following your passion, while a fellow Stanford grad that I met there talked about finance and public policy. As for me, I gave my pitch about why it’s so important to share information not only with each other but also with the next generation behind us. At the last minutes, I decided to divert quite a bit from the presentation I prepared, not only because my prepared one was a bit long but also because I wanted to talk more from my gut and discuss a topic that I’m passionate about. And in the end, a few of the participants told me that they liked my talk, so I’m glad I decided to change things up.

We also had a panel on Politics and on Corporate America, both of which went well. The common theme between these two is that we need more Latino Leadership in these areas – at the executive level, the board level, and high level political roles. As part of that we talked about the low number of CEOs and about the prospects of a Latino president in America’s future. But we also discussed how that transition will not be easy, and we talked about leadership strategies that we need to keep in mind as we navigate the business and political spheres.

In my view, that’s because public issues are inherently ambiguous. Leaders must weigh tangible issues against intangible principles, account for diverse views and beliefs in the community, anticipate skepticism from just about everyone, and balance all of that to eventually take a stand.  Leadership is less about command and control than it is about bringing people together and building consensus. To do that, leaders must not only understand the complex issues but they must also have a compelling message.

And in the end, day one of the conference was filled with compelling messages and was inspiring. And the night was also fun. We had dinner at Star of Siam, a Thai restaurant in Chicago, and after that had a fun night out.  I look forward to day two of the conference.

Stay tuned !

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Sunday, May 30th, 2010 Diversity, Leadership 3 Comments

Recap of MLT’s Kick-Off Seminar In Houston

I’m not surprised that MBA applicants are feeling a little more nervous than usual.  Given the uncertain economic times, many experts don’t even know what to expect in the admissions cycle, let alone inexperienced applicants. It doesn’t help that some applicants still rely heavily on too few schools, so the odds are stacked against them. Others have been superstars since graduation, but now fear the prospects of failing. And for a third group, job insecurity reigns. These applicants work at unstable firms and fear being laid off, so they feel the pressure to get in.  These and other applicants should strive for nearly perfect applications. That not only includes good scores and a well-written application at fit schools, but it also includes a career roadmap and a compelling story to tell the committee. At least that’s what John Rice came to discuss at MLT’s kick-off seminar in Houston.

At long last, the newest class of MLT’s MBA Prep Program was finally welcomed in person at the 2010 kick-off event.  The event took place at Rice University, and the good news was that I was able to get a sneak peak at this year’s new class. Even though I haven’t even finished my first class at Kellogg yet, MLT asked me to volunteer at the event. And I’m sure glad they asked. For one, it allows me to contribute to the MLT community, which is something that’s been on my mind a lot these days, even as a first year law student. It also give me the chance to meet and help current fellows, to re-connect with alumni and with the awesome MLT team, and also gives a chance to become part of a movement that’s much larger than myself.

And so all of that began late Thursday night when my flighted finally landed in Houston around midnight. Interestingly enough is that fact that a current MLT fellow was also in my SuperShuttle, and so that we chatted on the way to the hotel MLT reserved. Like a large number of fellows, she was from New York and also very nice. Arriving at the hotel sometime around 1:00am, I unpacked a few things, took care of a few dozen emails, and prepped for a couple of phone calls and a meeting I had the next morning. Time flew by, and before I knew it, I was hopping in a cab to head over to the conference.

Shortly after entering the building, I joined the current fellows in a session about “MBA, leadership, and success.” As I walked in, a tsunami of laughter went across the room. I suspected that everyone was probably having a good time. Gazing around the auditorium, I noticed the room was jam-packed with over 200 fellows, all intensely concentrating on the guest speaker.   I noticed right away that the crowd of fellows was incredibly diverse. It was especially good to see that there was a good mix of women in the room, something I suspect that MLT is keeping in mind. Before entering the room I figured everyone would all be a lot younger than me, but boy was I wrong.  Not only did I come to find that the average age was something similar to mine, but I also found a number of students that were older than me, and others who were in my class back at Stanford, including my really good friend Khalilah Karim.  (Any current fellows who stumble on this post should definitely take a few minutes to meet her!)

And not only did I catch up with her for a bit, but I also spoke to a number of fellows on Friday. Working with Michael Pages, a friend from my MLT fellowship class (2009), we spoke with a good number of people at lunch, between sessions, and later that night until the wee hours of the morning. Working with a bigger group of MLT alum on Saturday, we discussed application myths and took part in a Q&A, as part of an organized panel. Our approach was to structure part of the initial discussion and then let everyone pick topics based on interests. The session was highly energized, non-stop, and went well.

But more than a single energizing panel, the conference was the combination of lots of interesting sessions led by alumni, staff, and guest speakers, many of which were compelling, especially to the new fellows.  Similar to my year, almost every session was informative and interesting, and collectively the sessions began to foster ties between having goals in business and concurrently having goals that improve the community, where that topic pinnacled during John Rice’s session about passion on Friday.

It’s no surprise that the highlight of these weekends often tends to be John Rice’s session, “Defining your passion.”  It’s funny, inspiring, insightful, and participatory. John did a similar session my year, which was a big hit, and it seemed like it went over pretty well this year. “Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep in this session” he began, as his session took place right after lunch. And after reeling in a quick laugh from the audience, he moved on to substance and gave a crash course on figuring out your passion and integrating that into your story and essays.

“To have the best chances at admission, you need to have a road map” Rice said.  “And to be truly great, your passion has to be part of that road map.”   In layman’s terms, applicants should think about passions, goals and other personal issues that are often left out of MBA applications. What an insight for the new class! This isn’t what many us first hear about MBA applications. I sure didn’t. But John emphasized the idea and then illustrated it in a real-time activity in front of the class, keeping the session interactive as possible. In the end, the session was more refined, fun, and compelling than I even remember from my year.

Sitting in the session this weekend also made me think about my conference two years ago and about meeting my cohort for the first time. My group was lucky enough to connect fairly early, which is something I relayed to the new class this weekend. And although a few people in my cohort transitioned slower than others, somewhere along the way we all really jelled. We brainstormed ideas, shared personal stories, provided feedback on career thoughts, and learned from each other in a way that helped us to really grow, both as applicants and personally.

And in the end, we not only became a cohort that worked well together, but also a group that had a stake in each other’s success.  And still do. And that’s one of my biggest takeaways from being a fellow—that there’s power in having a small team of people where everyone has a the same specific interests, similar common goals, and everyone is on the same page.  And in some sense, I suspect that’s part of why I was excited to head back this weekend, to see that connection again.

And after day one of the session I began thinking.  What if all MLT alumni decided to come back? And what if everyone started going to all the big MLT events? And not for the sake of networking or to enhance career opportunities, but instead to work together on bigger issues that impact broader global communities. And what if they worked just as well together, or even better, than my cohort did?  Sounds impractical? Maybe.  But definitely not a bad idea. Because the best leaders understand that there’s power in teams, that sharing common values harnesses even greater potential, and that having both together can lead to profound impact.

And for the second time in my life, I left the an MLT Kick-Off Seminar with inspiration and a competing need to get back to work. But this time not on applications or in the office. Now, I have to finish up my second semester of law school.

But either way, I still sort of know how the MLT’ers feel, and I encourage the fellows to join forces as you head through the year of MLT together. Good luck!

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Sunday, March 28th, 2010 Admissions, Business School, Diversity 10 Comments

Applicant Question: Should I Attend Kellogg’s BMA Conference?

The MBA admissions process has long been considered by some to be a black box. Some define it that way because of its unpredictability. And others for its perceived inconsistency and secrecy.  But despite its mysterious reputation, one thing is pretty certain, there usually isn’t a “right” answer or “single” answer to most questions anyhow. Instead admissions teams look at applications holistically. They seek out nuances most of us don’t consider. They interesting analyze trends and patterns.  They can spot inconsistencies from a mile away. And they give credibility to the intangible things that many of us might overlook.

The good news is that things have changed a bit over the past few years. Admissions information has become more accessible and the internet has made it far easier to gain access to critical pieces of admissions statistics that we look for. In less than a second, a well-crafted google search can get you just about anything you need, from past interview questions, to average scores at schools, to employment and pay information. But some questions still remain ambiguous, like the one from my reader who asked whether attending Kellogg’s BMA conference this year would influence her chances of admission. Check out our exchange below!


My question is in reference to the Kellogg BMA conference that is coming up. Do you see attendance to this conference as significantly beneficial to prospective students (looking to apply this fall)?


Thanks so much for your question and for reading my blog. As I mentioned in my introduction above, most questions don’t have a single answer, and I personally think that this question fits into that category.  For the benefit of all the readers out there who might be pondering a similar question, I’ll try to break the question down both broadly and specific to your case.

But before I get into the answer, I’d like to point out to all my readers that the BMA Conference is a great event that not only gets a really good turnout every year but also tends to draw some pretty big name speakers and panelists. This year Soledad O’Brien (from CNN) has agreed to head to campus and help kick-off the event by chatting with some students and professors on Wednesday. Click here for the full conference agenda.

Now to respond to your question — On the surface, I’d say a attending conferences here at Kellogg, or at any school for that matter, will not be seen as a significant factor in your application.  I can’t speak personally about what goes on in the minds of AdCom members when they’re making final decisions on candidates, but as I’ve alluded to in a number of posts before, admissions decisions are rarely made on the basis of one data point. I suspect this is especially true about data points that don’t give the committees more information about you.  So I’d speculate that it’s pretty unlikely that an admissions decision would hinge on your attendance at the conference.  You can also think about it numerically — consider the number of admits that get into Kellogg every single year but never come to a conference, and never even considered coming. I suspect that number must be huge.  That said, I don’t think you should  make up your mind so quickly.  My perspective is that the decision is not quite that simple.

I think the real answer to this question is it depends. Because depending on how you’d frame the question of “what is beneficial” to you could easily change your answer.  Is it most important for you to visit and learn about Kellogg? Do you want to get a better feel for the culture? Do you want to learn about the curriculum? Or are you looking to show the admissions committee you’re really interested? As I like to emphasize in nearly all of my posts, it’s my opinion that people far too often expect answers to be binary and they hope for solutions that will add tangible value to their profiles.  But it often turns out that it’s more important to consider a broader range of possible benefits, some that often pay off in the longer term.  I think that this also holds true for your question.

For example, in my opinion these conferences are a great way to meet smart and high-potential people — students and alumni — who were once in your shoes. Consider the possibilities that come with that.  It’s quite possible you’ll make a really great connection, maybe a mentor, maybe someone who has good advice about the essays or general process, or maybe just a good friend. Or perhaps you’ll stumble across that one hidden jewel of information you didn’t know you were looking for.  The gem that helps your bring your application story together and leads you to the promise land of better articulating your career passion.

A conference might also be the gateway to finally catch a live snapshot of the school’s culture. In fact, I just wrote a post earlier today where I raved for pages about Kellogg’s culture.  And while I’d definitely be grateful if you continue to read my posts, there’s definitely no substitute for watching things happen real-time. Another thing I also said in my that post is that the MBA world can start to feel pretty small sometimes. So if you’re definitely set on applying to programs this year, then there’s the chance you may see some of the others again, even if you didn’t end up deciding to come to Kellogg.

To give you a little background about me, I personally made a trip or two to Kellogg while I was applying.  And fortunately, I was able to meet a lot of really great people on my trips.  On my first trip, I met a second year student — she ironically happened to be my class host — who I connected with right away during class, and it just so happened we kept in touch as I applied.  And although she was a couple of years ahead of me, and is currently living the good life out in New York City, we still chat regularly and sometimes meet up when she’s here in the windy city.

That said, I’ll stress that I didn’t visit Kellogg with the singular goal of finding a resource. Instead, I came to experience campus, gather information, and meet lots of people. And that I definitely did.  That said, I suspect that most people who visit probably have very different experiences, but I do believe that anyone who visits campus and is intent on gathering information about the school will usually be able to find what they’re looking for.

Sound like a lot to consider? I think so too. But in the end, the “tangible” benefit will be more correlated to what you make of the experience than it is of your actual attendance. And so you’ll have to balance all these potential benefits with the costs that you’d incur by coming and then decide if it’s worth it for you.  And for some people it won’t be.  And so my only “actual” piece of advice is just to consider everything on both sides (costs and benefits) and do what makes the most sense for you.

And, like I said before, the good news is that your attendance shouldn’t make or break your application. So try not to stress too much about it. But if you do decide to register, then the sooner the better, so you can take advantage of the early bird discount. Good luck with your decision!

Click here to register for the BMA Conference

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Thursday, February 18th, 2010 Admissions, Business School, Diversity 3 Comments

Leadership Lessons From Martin Luther King

Yesterday was the first day I was able to track visitors for my new blog site.  Anyone who maintains a serious website knows that this is a critical feature.  What’s interesting after taking a quick look at the numbers is that nearly 25% my hits came from outside the US.  While I usually get a pretty good percentage of my hits from all across the world, this was a bit higher than usual, highlighting how global the world continues to become.

But bigger than the “international” reach of my blog is that our entire society today has become completely global, and that today’s leaders, unlike those of yesteryear, face new issues and challenges as a result. Rather than focusing on operational tasks such as locating employees in other countries or using technology to build things more efficiently, today’s leaders are now faced with more complex challenges. They must learn how to communicate effectively across continents. They have to keep tabs on people, teams, units, and regions, many of which they may not see for months. And they are challenged to bring everyone on the same page to work together to achieve results.

What a challenge ! How can you unite employees and teams to come together from all the way across the globe when you’re not even there?  And how can executives ensure that their people share a common purpose rather than feel isolated and void of impact?  As a start, I think we can learn a few lessons about unity by looking at Martin Luther King, which is especially relevant now given the presence of MLK day.

MLK was one of the best uniters in history. Not only was he focused on his mission to bring equality to our society, but he also worked across all lines of diversity and brought thousands of people together to do so.  But, unlike many leaders today, he did it without the help of technology, in an age where globalization was yet to be accepted, and in one of the most violent eras in history.  I’ll offer a few reasons, from my own perspective, that may have made him successful.

1. MLK led because he had a powerful vision. The great proverb says “Where there is no vision the people perish.” MLK took one of the great issues of the time, and was able to relate deeply to the issue, articulate his vision about the issue to others, and rally everyone around him to feel the same way.  MLK tapped into hearts and spirits of a people and opened their minds to share his vision too.

2.  MLK was also an effective leader during tough times.  In the 1960s, social integration probably seemed nothing more than a fairy tale. It was an environment of heightened intolerance and injustice, and one where people of color often felt like they were left powerless and had no options. Yet King still displayed courage on his mission.  And what’s most impressive is that he did this not only in the face of uncertainty, but also in the face of death from his enemies as well as in the face of disloyalty from those on his own side. And he was still effective.

3. MLK also stressed long-term solutions and kept his eye on the larger prize.  Even when his actions did not bring immediate results or did not give him  instant satisfaction, MLK kept in mind that change meant a better life for his children and his grandchildren. And while some people may have characterized MLK’s ideas as crazy, not immediate enough, and not possible, that’s not anyone’s view today.  MLK’s long-term dreams have clearly initiated change in the minds and hearts of most everyone today.

4.  And finally, King showed us that the best leaders are those who build consensus and want to make things better for everyone.  As a leader, King did not dedicate his life for his personal cause, but instead he worked to improve entire communities … communities that were disparate, that were already engaged in their own fights for civil freedom, and that had different backgrounds, cultures, and geographies. He fought to give everyone a seat at the table, and today, it’s not just the African Americans who benefit from his leadership. But people from all around America and the world see the benefits.

And so leaders today can look at MLK, as they hope and strive to bring about unity and diversity. Though they should be careful not to use the word “diversity” too loosely.  Dr. King fought for diversity because he believed that having equality and justice as well as multiple perspectives were critical to our society, not because it was a fad.  And forty years later, it’s clear that he was right.

So for a moment, let’s all take time to commemorate the impact that King and so many others have had on the American community.  Furthermore, we should also understand that to improve our society going forward, it’s imperative that we also continue to increase the diversity in our schools, workplaces, communities, and our ways of thinking. Only then will be ready to take up after King and continue our march into the society he once envisioned. And only then can we get everyone around the globe to work together to achieve new results. And only then, can we really start our recovery from 2009’s economic crisis.  And only then, will society be able to reach it’s full potential for change.

Please click on the links below to read two good posts about MLK. One is from music star John Legend (on education) and the other from HBS professor Rosabeth Kanter (on leadership)

John Legend (Celebrity) writes about MLK and Education
Rosabeth Kanter (HBS Professor) writes about MLK and Leadership

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Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 Diversity, Leadership 2 Comments

MBA Essay Advice From John Rice, Founder of Management Leadership for Tomorrow

Lately I’ve been getting lots of calls from old friends and classmates applying to business school and looking for a bit of advice. Some applied during round one and are getting anxious to hear back. They ask me about their chances of admission, and want to know what i think in light of 2009’s economic challenges (check out my new post on that topic). Others are frantically wrapping up round two applications and call with more specific questions. I was in the exact same process last year, and I remember how stressful things feel in the last few days. This is especially true if you’re submitting applications to some of the heavy hitters, whose deadlines are fast approaching (List of MBA Deadlines).

As a result, January is usually one of the hardest times of the year for applicants. Not only are applicants scrambling around to pull their application materials together while also cramming to fine-tune their essays before the deadline but they’re also sitting on pins and needles worrying whether they’ll get in to the schools they applied to in the first round. But the best thing to do now is sit back and relax a little. This is completely normal. I still remember these feelings of anxiety and uncertainly like I had them yesterday, But I still ended up doing really well, so in the end, these feelings were never really all that relevant except for motivating me to work harder. In my opinion however, what was most relevant were the essays. In fact, I consider the essays to be the most significant part of the application by far, and in my experience, the best business school applicants spend a significant amount of time writing so they can develop their stories. Similarly, you should also make sure you’re happy with your essays and hold off on submitting everything until you’re absolutely finished.

That said, the point of this post is to pass along a few final tips on how to ensure you’ve submitted the best possible business school essays possible. The advice actually comes John Rice, an HBS grad, business school admissions guru, and founder of Management Leadership For Tomorrow (MLT, www.ML4T.org). MLT is a national non-profit organization dedicated to developing diverse leaders and professionals, and it is an organization I’m proud to be part of. (As usual, I can never really say enough about how valuable MLT is) I’ll note that John originally posted his information on a website named GottaMentor (gottamentor.com) which which was co-founded by his wife Andrea Rice and is a social networking site created for high potential professionals to share information. All the B-school applicants, students, and graduates out there should definitely check it out. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn, and other networking sites, Gotta Mentor is geared specifically toward business professionals and “allows you to engage people who will add true value to YOUR career.” Have a look at John’s article below and ionce you finish up the essays, come back and check out Gotta Mentor as well.

Good luck!

Source: Gotta Mentor
Author: John Rice
Title: Business School Essays That Get You In
Link: http://www.gottamentor.com/ViewGeneralAdvice.aspx?g=14

Here is an excerpt from John’s Article

“One of the most important aspects of applying to business school is understanding how to tell your story in a way that translates your strengths and accomplishments into high potential for positive impact at your target MBA campus and later as a leader over the course of your post-MBA career. Focus the body of your story on articulating and illustrating the following things:

1. What you are passionate about and why, and what that implies for your long-term career goals. Your story should focus on what you want to accomplish in life/why and secondarily how business school fits into that plan. Failing to be introspective and genuine about what you really care about and what you really want to do with your life virtually eliminates the chance that you will tell a unique, memorable, and compelling story. Many applicants make the mistake of …. ” (Click here to see the rest of John’s essays advice)

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Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 Admissions, Business School No Comments

NBMBAA Conference Recap

I just got back from New Orleans this past weekend from the NBMBAA conference. I had an incredible time. Thousands of people came from all over the US, enthusiastic to network with other business school students, optimistic to make that one special connection with a recruiter, and eager to get a competitive advantage and get one step closer to a full-time, six-figure dream job after graduation.

I arrived on Thursday early morning and after checking into my hotel, went straight to the career fair. Upon walking into the convention center, I saw hundreds of people scrambling to the registration room, all dressed in their best suits and in their shiny black shoes. Some were quickly running through their resumes before heading to talk to employers, others scrolling through emails on their blackberries, and others looking at the maps trying to find their target companies.

The crowd was incredibly diverse. It not only consisted of Black MBAs but also many of the world’s diverse cultures–Asian, Indian, Hispanic, White, and more. It was good to see that there were also quite a few women at the conference. Professionally, the people were mostly business school students.

Having been in MLT and having gone to lots receptions and admitted student weekends over the past year, I’d had the chance to meet a fair number of these people before, so it was nice to have a chance to see them all again. MLT was there in full force. Not only did dozens of MLT’ers from my class come out, but people from other classes came too. MLT also had a booth right near the front door. It felt like a mini-reunion.

Kellogg kids were also abound at the conference. Being in downtown Chicago at the law school, I don’t get to go down to Evanston as much as I’d like to, so it was nice to get together with everyone. Like MLT, Kellogg had a booth at the conference, and I spent a good deal of time there hanging out with the admissions team as well a with all the 1st and 2nd year students. About 15 or so other Schools were also in attendance, including the University of Chicago Booth, which is pretty close to Kellogg here in Chicago.

But despite all of the mingling, make no mistake about it, the highlight of the conference was Career Fair. Over the three days, more than 400 employers came out to actively recruit MBAs for summer internships and full-time positions. And this year, in these “odd” economic times, people didn’t take it for granted. My Kellogg counterparts were definitely on point. I chatted with them a lot about their job searches, and most of them had 1st and 2nd round interviews at the fair.

This fact highlights the biggest difference in recruiting at business schools and law schools. My MBA counterparts were hustling around for almost the entire conference, because for them, recruiting began before school even started. However at law school, we don’t start recruiting until December, which supposedly gives us a chance to focus more on our school work. As such, there isn’t much pressure for us to scramble around to find a job. As a JD-MBA I felt like I was part of both worlds. I was really interested to watch the recruiting process from the front line, so I definitely chatted lots of firms. But as a current law student, I didn’t feel any of the stress the MBAs felt, and I didn’t target any interviews during the conference.

Instead, my approach was to get a bird’s eye view of the recruiting environment and to see how all the companies fit into the puzzle. I spent my time talking to companies about the economy, asking questions about their financial well-being, and getting their perspectives on diversity. Most employers were quite willing to talk, especially since I probably came off as quite sincere given I didn’t have a hidden agenda of getting hired. On a couple of different occasions I was able to engage recruiters for 45-60 minutes at a time, whereas most people had closer to 10-15 minutes to make a pitch.

I was also able to learn a lot about a couple of not-for-profits who were at the conference. I spent a good deal of time with Education Pioneers and The Gates Foundation and went to their reception on Thursday evening for a couple of hours. The people at both organizations were fantastic, and I look forward to spending a lot more time checking out both organizations in the near future.

After a long two days of watching people run around looking for jobs, the career fair finally ended Friday at 5pm. At that point a lot of people went home to rest for a few hours before a night out on the town. I decided to head over to a private BCG reception at the local W hotel to mingle with some of the firm consultants. I’d met the Director of Diversity Recruiting a few times before, but it was good to see him again. After that, I went to the awards ceremony at another hotel to pick up my NBMBAA scholarship award with the other ten or so winners. As you might guess considering we were in New Orleans, the ceremony was more of a big celebration than anything, and it was a great lead-in to an unforgettable night on Bourbon Street.

I had a flight back to Chicago Saturday morning. I was on a flight with an MLT buddy who I wrote essays with in Boston, and I arrived home just in time to finish writing my Legal Writing paper for Sunday afternoon. It was quite a long weekend, but it was definitely worth the time. If you’re thinking about going to the NBMBAA conference in the future, you should definitely consider attending. The caliber of people are high, the opportunity to learn about companies is paramount, you’ll probably be in a pretty lively city, and the employers will likely be aggressively recruiting, which is especially nice in these “odd” economic times.

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Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 Business School, Careers, Diversity 3 Comments

MBA Conference in New Orleans

Tomorrow at 5:45am, I’ll be hopping on a plane to head to the National Black MBA (NBMBAA) Conference. The NBMBAA conference is about recognizing the achievements of blacks in business schools around the country. What an incredible opportunity to meet many of the future minority business leaders from all across the top business schools in the US.

As part of the conference there is a 2-day career fair. Over 400 companies will be there (click here for a partial list), including Accenture, American Express, Google, Booz Allen, Pepsi, Deustche Bank, and Bank of America, just to name a few. Many of these companies will be interviewing MBAs for summer internships and for full-time positions. I won’t be doing too much interviewing at the conference because of the nature of my JD-MBA program, but I do have a short list of companies that I plan to chat with a bit and to keep in touch with over the year. I always find it a lot of fun to learn about companies from recruiters, who usually know more about their companies than anyone since they are the gatekeepers. I’m also quite interested in the strategies that companies employ to attract and retain talent and their approaches to increasing diversity, given my high interest in labor issues.

I don’t know how many of you have been to these types of leadership conferences, but they’re usually worth the trip. Not only is it the perfect venue to meet lots of ambitious and talented people and a way to position yourself closer to a great summer job, but it’s also a good venue to enjoy your experience in a new and interesting city. Personally, I’ve never been to New Orleans before, and I’m excited to explore the city.  The good news is that I’ll see a large number of my MLT friends and Kellogg friends at the conference. It’ll be nice to reconnect with everyone.

I’ll be in New Orleans on Thursday and Friday, and I’ll fly back to Chicago Saturday morning, just in time to get back to my reading for law school and finish up a legal paper by Sunday.

Stay tuned for an update on the conference!

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Thursday, September 24th, 2009 Business School, Networking No Comments

MBA Diversity & Hispanic Heritage Month

This weekend, I’ve been doing a lot of research trying to finalize my plans for the NBMBAA (National Black MBA) and NSHMBA (National Hispanic MBA) annual conferences. Having recently won both scholarships as incoming business school student, I am lucky to be able to attend both conferences at no cost. Considering how fortunate I am to be in this position, I’ve been thinking a lot about diversity, and decided I would take a moment to talk a little about it here, especially in light of Hispanic Heritage Month.

I believe that in America today, we are in a “race” to bring diversity to our professional communities. Even in my short career, I’ve already learned that diverse teams are essential to success in the market place. Just as cross-functional teams are used to create value in the market, so too do cross-cultural teams offer the richest possibility to improve our businesses, laws, and policies in today’s diverse economy. Hispanic Americans represent a large part of this diversity. They make up more than 15% of the US population and add immeasurable value to America’s economy and its communities.

Coming from Arizona, I experienced this firsthand, where Hispanics represent nearly a third of the population and where they contribute to every single part of the economy, white collar and blue collar. Hispanic Heritage Month is the period to recognize all of this value that the Hispanic Americans have had in the United States and a time to celebrate their culture. The observation of the month started in 1968, and more than 40 years later the event is still largely celebrated. The month begins on September 15th, because that day represents the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua (Mexico and Chile also celebrate their anniversaries in September)

Here at Northwestern Law, a good friend of mine happens to be the Hispanic Heritage month Co-Chair for the Latino Law Students Association. She’s currently a 2L, and she’s putting together a wide range of events to recognize the efforts of the Hispanic here in the US. Knowing her dedication to the club and to Northwestern, I am certain the events are going to be terrific.

I don’t know exactly what she has in mind, but I suspect it will be something to engage the entire community. An obvious first point of reference being in law school is Sonia Sotomayor, our new US Supreme Court justice. Sotomayor is now the first Hispanic American ever to serve the court, as well as only the third woman. Not only is it a monumental moment in history, but it’s also at a time when our economy needs her most.

As the economic crisis still looms over the business and legal worlds, progressive schools have realized that recruiting exceptional Hispanic and other underrepresented minority students is one of the keys to re-establishing America’s long-term success. At the top 20 MBA programs, there are still only 7% to 10% blacks and Hispanics, and in the world of Fortune 500 companies and blue chip law firms, the percentage of CEO’s and Senior Partners is about half that.

Although our integration process is still far from complete, we do continue to see progress take place at top graduate schools, especially business schools. Kudos to organizations such as the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA), Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT), and the Consortium Scholarship Program, which give access to Hispanic (and other minority) scholarships and professional training.   I suggest that anyone who qualifies for these programs consider them as you are applying. And as usual, I’ll give a special endorsement for MLT, where the best and the brightest come while applying the business school.

But for a moment, what’s more important than winning scholarships and fine tuning your career is that on September 15th we all take a moment to reflect and appreciate the impact that Hispanics and all minorities have had on all of our lives. Furthermore, we should also understand that to further improve our society, it’s imperative that we continue to increase the diversity in our schools as well as at all levels of our labor force and ultimately work in teams together. Only then will we be able to put everyone in our nation to their best use and collectively unlock our greatest potential for change.

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Monday, September 14th, 2009 Business School, Diversity 12 Comments

Korean Popstar In My Section And Diversity At Northwestern

My section has a lot of the really interesting people this year. It turns out that in addition to the 19-year old I recently posted about, I also sit next to a Korean pop star. Literally.  My section mate, who for now wishes to remain anonymous, graduated from a Korean University with a degree in English literature. And although she made her living as a performer overseas after graduation, she recently gave it all up for the chance to come to Northwestern Law and eventually change the world.

Since graduation, my section mate has been making a living by performing in Asia. Sounds like the good life, right? After all, don’t we all want to grow up to be pop stars! Well, despite loving her former career, she ultimately chose to come to Northwestern Law to become an international human rights lawyer, though I’ll note that she does also plan to continue performing after school. My classmate is a really great addition to the section, and we’ve already become library buddies during the first two weeks.

While having a pop star in my section is certainly unique, I think the general notion of having varied professional and ethnic backgrounds is old news to Northwestern Law, statistically the most diverse law school in the world. It’s also water under the bridge for top MBA programs, which constantly aim for as diverse a class as possible. In today’s professional community, diversity is the standard, so schools are trying to reflect that in their learning environments. Schools not only welcome, but they also embrace a student body enriched by various nationalities, cultures, interests, and points of view.

Practically speaking, the core of our learning model in law school, the Socratic method, continually reinforces this notion. In the Socratic Method, students must continually demonstrate the ability to work across boundaries. They must absorb multiple perspectives while still articulating their own views. They must also demonstrate the ability to work with and through other people. A capacity to confront a wide variety of issues, both legal and non legal. And the facility to build consensus amidst a variety of competing opinions and perspectives.

As law students, we by no means do any of this perfectly. However, the diversity here makes it a great place to learn many of these critical professional skills.

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Friday, September 11th, 2009 Diversity, Law School 2 Comments

NBMBAA Scholar Award

Hey all! I just found out today that I won one of the NBMBAA (National Black MBA Association) Scholarship Award. Basically, the NBMBAA scholarship program was established to assist M.B.A. students to succeed in business school and beyond by giving them a bit of tuition assistance as well as providing them with ongoing mentorship, networking opportunities, and career opportunities. To be considered, I had to submit an application this past spring, of which the essay carried the most weight. The application also included the typical items such as a resume, data form, and short answers. I chose to write my essay about the MBA admissions process and what schools can do to better recruit and retain black and minority candidates. I actually spent quite a bit of time on the essay, partially because I really wanted to win but also because the topic is of real interest to me.

It’s definitely an honor to be selected to this competitive program, especially this year where money is limited and where NBMBAA told me during my final interview that only two applicants would be chosen. It’s also great because means that I’ve now won both the NBMBAA and the NSHMBA (National Hispanic) award, which is a huge honor. Click here for my post on NSHMBA. Finally, it’s a relief, because I really thought I had a mediocre interview a few weeks ago. The lesson learned here is that you should always fight through interviews, maintain composure, and never get discouraged, because you never know what the other person is thinking.

In addition to the scholarship money, the scholarship package includes a one year membership to the organization, round trip airfare, hotel accommodations for two nights, and conference registration. The conference should be a lot of fun and great for networking. For all those who qualify, you should definitely consider applying for the NBMBAA scholars program in the future.

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Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 Business School, Diversity 9 Comments

Bain & Co Diversity Weekend

I just got back from a trip to NYC a couple of hours ago. I went to attend Bain & Company’s Pre-MBA Summer Diversity Program for first-year MBA students, which took place on Tuesday, June 30 from 8am until about 7pm. While some people might consider 11 hours of non-stop sessions to be a long day, after being in MLT for a year, this event felt like a breeze.

I applied to the Bain Program, because I intend to apply for jobs in the consulting industry, and specifically at the big three consulting firms (Bain & Company, Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company). The program was framed as a one-day event intended to give us an introduction to the industry and also to Bain so that we can apply once school begins. I suspect it was also a good way for Bain to profile prospective candidates.

Like a lot of recent b-school events, I knew quite a few of the attendees from MLT and from other diversity events I’ve been to. I can’t say enough about the power of the MLT network, as students and alumni tend to be everywhere I go. I also have to give a big shout out to my Kellogg cohort. Kellogg admits were definitely the most-represented school at the event. And finally, who could forget the “Bainies.” As it turns out, I liked the Bainies a lot. The consultants were nice, smart, had impressive backgrounds, and were really open to teaching us about the firm.

In all, there were quite a few consultants there – post-MBA consultants, managers, and consultants of all others levels all the way up to Senior Director. Here are a couple of the highlights from the event.

Tiffany Showell (Bain’s Sr. Manager of Diversity Recruiting) and Bill (whose late name I didn’t catch, but he was the head of the NYC office) kicked off the event with some opening remarks. They introduced the first speaker, Russ Hagley, who is Bain’s Chief Talent Officer. Bain emphasized the fact that they had a Chief Talent Officer and that they were serious about getting good people at the firm and about having us there. This was the point where Bain did a good job at differentiating themselves from the other firms. Aside from the CTO position, Russ talked about how Bain was a not only a strategy company but also worked through the implementation of that strategy. He gave a few other similar examples (entrepreneurship, data-driven, etc)

Another high point of the day was the Interview Skills Workshop given by Keith Bevans. Keith has spent his entire career at Bain and was a energizing public speaker. He gave a lot of advice about doing cases and then walked us through an actual case.

We had a working lunch, where we did a group case interview workshop. We broke up into teams of about six and spent 90 minutes or so going over a case question that comes up in real Bain interviews. I felt really comfortable in the scenario, but I still feel like I have tons of practicing ahead to compete for a spot at Bain. Right after our case, Alok Desphande (Bain Manager) facilitated a session summing up thoughts on the workshop. He was a really sharp guy, and gave good insight to our comments. I made a point to talk with him later in the day.

Later, the CFO of Bad Boy Entertainment, Derek Ferguson (a former Bain Manager), gave the keynote address. It was late in the day, so to keep our attention he gave us trivia and rewarded correct answers with Bad Boy CDs. He was definitely a hit, though I did find one girl who had no idea who Bad Boy was. Toward the end of the day was the consultant panel, where which 6 current Bain consultants shared their experiences getting into Bain and working there. It was pretty amazing how sharp they were. Of the group, 2 were HBS grads, 1 Booth grad and 1 Wharton grad.

Mark Howorth, a senior Director gave the closing remarks. He had a great point at the end of his speech, when he said as a next step, we need to go to school and do well!! He emphasized the importance of getting a good academic experience and learning the fundamentals rather than trying to force fit or schmooze our way into jobs.

After his closing remarks, Tiffany Showell quickly wrapped up the session, and there was a cocktail hour for us to interact with the Bainies. We were able to talk to lots of consultants and get pretty pointed advice. There was also a free wine bar, which was pretty clutch. At the reception, I met up with a good friend Robin Lamb who’s a consultant in the NYC office. He graduated from Stanford a few years before I did. I definitely intend to chat with Robin once I’m getting ready to go through recruiting for my second summer in the JD-MBA program. I’m sure he’ll be a great help, just as he was for me in the b-school process.

I definitely recommend the Bain event for admits who might consider attending the event in future years, and for those who want to enter the consulting industry. Not only will you have a good chance to network with Bainies, MLT fellows, and people from various MBA programs, but you’ll also have a lot of fun.

Best of luck in your decision.

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Thursday, July 2nd, 2009 Business School, Careers, Diversity 3 Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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