As I’m wrapping up my last quarter here at Chicago Booth, my mind is running through a whirlwind of what seems like far-off memories. The drive from Colorado, first day of classes, investment banking recruiting, trips across the world, and the list goes on. Contemplating what I imagine will eventually seem like a small glimpse in time, I find myself reflecting on one aspect of this experience that I feel is illustrative of the whole.
My first year at Business School was tough. Awash with a number of competing tasks—moving to a new city, navigating the waters of recruiting, maintaining a family, nurturing lifelong friendships—it was critical that I had the right network in place to help alleviate some of the stress, so that I may successfully emerge from this experience. More often than not, I came to find that members of the African American MBA Association (AAMBAA) were more than willing to fill this gap. AAMBAA has served as more than just a professional resource, it has been my family.
My years of service in the U.S. Army drove home the importance of having a community where one can seek fellowship and support during times of significant transitions; and when you’re a parent the small things matter! Take for instance Bowling Alley nights or welcoming events for Chicago Booth Admits. I was able to participate, often times with daughter-in-hand, not once concerned about my ability to fully incorporate my family into my business school experience. The community never hesitated to extend a helping hand.
Perhaps most impressive is how this community’s culture of support extends well beyond its internal network. Advocating and developing channels of opportunity for those that are economically marginalized in the broader society has always stayed top of mind for me. So one can imagine that I jumped at the opportunity to join Booth alum Elizabeth Abunaw in her endeavor to bring affordable fresh produce to underserved areas across Chicago through her startup Forty Acres Fresh Market. An opportunity and relationship that sprang from an AAMBAA alumni social.
From gathering together with classmates for a Black Panther Premier viewing to celebrating the history of Black blues luminaries at the renowned Chicago blues club Buddy Guy’s Legends, AAMBAA contributes to the beautiful mosaic of cultures and experiences that make up the community at Booth. Furthermore, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the DuSable Conference, AAMBAA’s signature annual event that serves as a venue to both honor the successes of former graduates of color as well as offer opportunities for emerging professionals to engage with experienced individuals across different fields.
For me the AAMBAA community has served as a constant reminder that our personal successes are not fully and independently our own; but that they equally belong to the multitude of people who have either forged a path ahead or have decidedly taken a supportive role to help us achieve our personal and professional goals. So as the clock winds down, I simply want to say thanks to all my AAMBAA brothers and sisters who have made these years some of my most formative. Although bitter-sweet, I’m looking forward to the transition and the endless world of opportunities the lie ahead!