Black Influence: Our Power, Our Legacy – The 37th annual DuSable Conference

Black Influence: Our Power, Our Legacy – The 37th annual DuSable Conference

While golden hour turned into dusk, a ballroom full of Booth students, alumni, and business professionals met for the first time in two years for the flagship DuSable Conference hosted by the African American MBA Association (AAMBAA) chapter at Chicago Booth. Over a three-course meal, attendees were advised by a panel of Black Booth alums chartering their paths in various industries, educated on tactical business practices which foster sustainable diversity, and inspired by two Black co-founders in finance whose innovative investment practices drive both business returns and community impact.

The Booth DuSable Conference – an annual nexus of Black Excellence in academia, business, Chicago, and beyond

The namesake for this annual conference is Jean Baptiste Pointe du Sable, a man of African descent regarded as the first settler of Chicago. Inspired by his pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit, the DuSable conference has sparked dialogue and fostered collaboration across Black professionals within the Booth, University of Chicago, Chicago and national community for over 30 years. The conference encourages the dissemination of ideas and presents an invaluable networking opportunity to meet like-minded professionals and further business ambitions for students and community members alike.

Alumni candor for the soon-to-be grads of Chicago Booth

With graduation looming just two short weeks ahead, AAMBAA wanted to impart some words of wisdom to the rising class through an alumni panel moderated by Akinade Aderele’s podcast worthy voice (seriously, check out his podcast, Pod Save Africa). In the spirit of the Booth “Pay it Forward” culture, the following three alumni returned to the stage to encourage the soon-to-be grads to chart their own course.

Elizabeth spoke to resiliency in growing her grocery business in the face of several professional setbacks while Adrienne helped rising grads visualize what a functional specialty may look like across companies. Lastly, Kwaku represented a path lesser-chosen at Booth: brand management for the iconic Gatorade line. All three had powerful insights on what it means to be Black in their roles and left this outgoing class with evergreen advice.

Diversifying customers and talent is a long run competitive advantage

Angela Pace-Moody, Chicago Booth’s first Director of Global Diversity and Inclusion sat down with Steve Chouki ‘98, TransUnion’s US President of US Markets and Consumer Interactive, to discuss his company’s journey to inclusive business practices internally and externally. TransUnion is one of the largest credit bureaus, thus playing a critical role in the financial health of millions of people around the world. Steve informed the audience about the inequity found in credit scores-many minorities either didn’t have a score or were unaware of theirs, preventing them from accessing the financial tools that allow mobility and long term wealth management. The firm set a goal to increase the number of scores specifically for target demographics as 1) an inclusive practice but 2) smart business sense. By including more people into their pipeline, the firm in the long run would be able to see greater upselling and incorporation into more product offerings. Additionally, Steve highlighted transparency, enrichment, and empowerment as tactics TransUnion employs to keep hires moving through the institution successfully, especially when they may be from an underrepresented background.

When expertise, untapped potential and diverse teams converge, business and society reap the benefits

The final session of the evening was a keynote address given by 5th Century Partners’ Co-founders Marques Torbert and Bruce Hampton. In a fireside chat style setting, current AAMBAA co-chair, Johnathan Davis ‘23, moderated a discussion around finding the right chemistry between two business partners, overcoming the challenges of bringing a unique investment proposition to traditional financial institutions, and the win-win scenario of intertwining investment strategy with community impact. Knowing their audience was a room full of influential students and professionals, Torbert and Hampton stressed the importance of looking beyond surface level indicators when making investment decisions. Not only will the right access to capital serve a startup in the short run, but when choosing underrepresented communities there is the impact to drive generational change and rewrite history.

DuSable in 2022 challenged professionals to think beyond personal power and legacy; to deliver these notions at scale to more communities than ever

As the theme of this conference was Power and Legacy, it’s fitting that each speaker addressed these concepts with strategies and tactics they employ and the attendees can take with them. From piloting individual success in their fields, creating a service for an untapped market, expanding the definition of a target customer to synthesizing inclusion practices with investment principles, at all levels and industries there are methods to elevate our purpose and bring greater meaning to the work we do. Without DuSable centuries ago, Chicago’s rich tapestry of culture and enterprise would not exist today. What is our legacy but to empower those who come after to leave theirs?

Make sure to attend DuSable 2023, but until then follow Chicago Booth AAMBAA on Instagram and see their website here!

In their own words:

“As a second year student, Dusable was an excellent capstone to my Booth career. It was great to see how alumni have been able to excel in their career paths using the foundation they built at Booth.”

-Ceara Jemison ‘22

“The DuSable Conference was a fantastic opportunity to see past and present Black excellence. We learned how to strategically navigate early careers, build advocacy for inclusion diversity within our institutions and how to chart paths for outsized economic events as investors and operators.”

-Akinade Aderele ‘22

“The first in-person DuSable experience since 2019 was truly an epic comeback. It was inspiring to witness the magic generated by the convergence of current University of Chicago students, alumni, faculty, sponsors and Chicago business leaders.”

-Avery Theard ’23

For more information on admissions or corporate partnerships, contact the co-chairs here.

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