Spotlight on Student Clubs at Chicago Booth: AAMBAA

Spotlight on Student Clubs at Chicago Booth: AAMBAA

Chicago Booth has a myriad of opportunities for its students to connect and contribute, and some of the coolest experiences come from the student-led groups at Booth. This week I sat down with Chloe Saddler, co-chair of AAMBAA (African American MBA Association), to hear all about the group this year.

To start, could you tell us what AAMBAA is?

AAMBAA is a forum for students of African American heritage or African descent to engage with the University and connect with the community and city of Chicago. We focus on ways to grow and showcase the African diaspora on campus and connect with our members through programming, mentorship, and bespoke events. 

We focus our programming on four main areas: professional (recruiting), social, cultural, and community service. For our professional programming, we work with our sponsors to curate unique events (info sessions, lunch & learns, and networking nights), to support our members going through the recruiting process. One of our earliest events is the annual retreat with HABSA, where we discuss what to expect for the year and how to make the most of your time at Booth. During that retreat, we launched our new initiative–an intra-school mentorship program (2Y and 1Y pairings), to further connect with our members. 

In terms of social activities, we host events like the annual Pajama Party, go to The Second City during Black History Month and partner with other Booth groups to showcase Black-owned businesses in Chicago and Back excellence. In terms of cultural programming, we plan to see an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance, and visit the DuSable Museum to continue exploring all that the city has to offer while celebrating our rich history. In the Spring, we host the annual DuSable conference which serves as the nexus for activity in Chicago’s Black business economy.

In terms of community service, we try to get more involved each year and actively give back. Specifically, we have engaged with high schools in the area, like the UChicago Charter Schools, and spend time answering questions and mentoring students who are thinking about college and their future careers. For young people in high school, if you don’t see somebody who looks like you or shares your interests, trying to pave a novel, professional path can be hard. Ultimately, we want them to know that there are people who can help them network and pursue their dreams.

Why did you want to be a co-chair?

The co-chairs last year were really involved in shaping my experience at Booth. Before I was admitted, I had a mock interview with an AAMBAA member, which helped as I was refining my story. That was my first touch point with them. To me, I felt extremely proud to see a Black professional network that encouraged me to succeed, even before I got there. They were an extremely friendly bunch and helped us establish a community during the pandemic. I wanted to be part of that for the incoming 1Ys, so it was really the ‘pay-it-forward’ culture at Booth that drove me to be a co-chair.

What has been your favorite AAMBAA event so far?

First would be the Pajama Party we had in November. It’s an annual tradition that was paused during the height of the pandemic, so it felt like a homecoming of sorts; a way to see everyone smile and just have fun! We opened the event to everyone (partners, members, non-members), so it was a nice opportunity to share more of the music we like to listen to and see everyone’s creativity with the pajamas. 

My second favorite event was actually led by Booth Africa, and that was the Ghana trek. It was an incredibly transformative trip and a lot of AAMBAA members went. It was my first time in West Africa and the trip was truly a celebration of the diaspora. We got to experience Ghanain culture, eat tons of jollof rice, try Batik making, and attend Afrochella – the music festival. We participated in a great mix of social, cultural, historical, and service activities throughout the trip and I highly recommend traveling with your classmates for some incredible and unique adventures.

Do you have any AAMBAA events you are most looking forward to?

Yes, we’ve partnered with the Wine Club for a tasting event at Turner Haus Brewery. It’s a black-owned business and I’m excited to learn more about their unique blends as well as their collaborations. I’ve wanted to learn more about the history of Black Americans involved in beer and wine making and they’ve shared stories with us, including the story of Nearest Green and his relationship with Jack Daniel. Many people have not heard it, so learning about his story and these products—it’s like a reeducation and it’s a cool reminder of far back in American history we were actually innovating, curating and creating things on our own.

What is one thing you have learned or gained from being a part of AAMBAA?

AAMBAA is a really supportive community that I will have for the rest of my life. We all have different interests and professional goals, but whenever I reach out to someone with a question or want to identify a connection, I get a response—sometimes within 30 seconds. It’s just an incredible community that’s built to support each other. Knowing that this is a kick-off point for the rest of our careers, I am excited to see how our relationships will continue to evolve once we graduate. I’ve been exposed to so many new things (exploring more of Chicago, playing poker for the first time, listening to Afrobeats music) and I continue to get excited about learning new things from people who are passionate about them.

What should incoming students know about AAMBAA?

One thing we want to do is to foster allyship and intersectionality, so we’d also like to have more ally members. They are critical and we want to make sure we’re engaging with the larger university and sharing our experiences. Our ally membership was created as a way for more students to connect and hear from us, especially after the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We want to share what our life and professional experiences have been like, and connect with other affinity and minority groups on campus. We want to show up as allies ourselves, since that is a core part of our mission and fabric. 

Another thing we were excited about this year is that the 1Y class is nearly double the size of the 2Y class, and that’s a trend we want to continue. Year-over-year we want to make sure we attract black talent to Chicago Booth as a way to enrich the community at large. That growth is something we’re super proud of and want to continue. 

To support that effort, we work with admissions and help organize mock interviews for people who have received an invitation to interview at Booth. We also help coordinate activities for First Day (Booth’s admitted student weekend) and generally we have people on call/available to answer questions about the school and our experience. When someone gets the call that they’ve been admitted to Booth, we want to be a support network for them and connect with them during First Day, Diversity Week and beyond. Over the summer, we host BBQs (within COVID regulations) as a way to get to know the new incoming students before the craziness of classes and recruiting starts. 

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