Two Alums Create Conference Focused on Value of Diversity in Business • The Consortium

As members of The Consortium at McCombs Faculty of Business at The College of Texas at Austin, Ashley Fox and DeAndrea Staes took their roles critically. Along with serving in numerous leadership capacities inside The Consortium — Fox served as vice chairman of events whereas Staes was a co-liaison — they worked exhausting to advance the group’s mission.

“A big part of what we did as Consortium leadership was find ways to take the mission of The Consortium and blend it everywhere else,” says Staes. “We carried our responsibility as Consortium members into leadership roles across the entire campus.”

Fox served as president of the Graduate Advertising Network and vice chairman of the Sports, Entertainment and Media Association (SEMA), and Staes contributed as president of the Black Graduate Business Affiliation and as a member of SEMA and Graduate Ladies in Business. Via these roles and others, they worked intentionally to advance variety, inclusion and belonging across campus and beyond.

Several years ago, when both ladies have been trying to make a profession change, The Consortium appeared a natural fit. With a passion for variety and making certain equal access to alternative for individuals from underrepresented teams, Staes and Fox noticed a chance with a corporation whose mission aligned with their own values and aspirations. So when Staes and Fox met at McCombs, the 2 shortly joined forces.

“Within the first month or two in an MBA program, you kind of find your tribe,” Staes says. “Ashley just very quickly became a part of my tribe, and we really leaned on each other a lot in the first semester.”

More than a help system, although, they discovered widespread floor in their want to impact change at McCombs, a faculty they have been both captivated with and where that they had a chance to deal with variety in actual, significant ways. “We wanted to take The Consortium mission and apply it outside of the [organization] to the greater student body,” says Fox.

With this mission — “to enhance diversity and inclusion in global business education and leadership” — in thoughts, they worked to attract extra Consortium members and different underrepresented students to McCombs. One strategy that was necessary to both ladies for executing on this imaginative and prescient was getting concerned with admissions-related actions — whether that was via formal Discover McCombs events or informal chats with potential students.

The 2019 inaugural Elevate: Diversity & Inclusion Conference

“We made personal phone calls. We would talk to them and answer any of their questions, and we would be very candid,” says Fox. “I think they appreciated how open and honest we were, how willing to help we were. I think that really drove our numbers for the current first-year class.”

Because of their and their friends’ efforts, McCombs was capable of greater than double the number of African American Consortium students in its class of 2020, beating the varsity’s document for complete number of Consortium members. But for both Staes and Fox, this was just step one in what they envisioned can be a serious transformation for McCombs’ MBA program and how individuals perceived it as supporting variety, inclusion and belonging.

Additionally they needed to point out students that they might — and will — work to have even higher influence outdoors of The Consortium.

“Another thing we really [stressed] … is that we hold Consortium students to a higher standard,” says Staes. “We expect that the students who come to our campus are prepared to uphold The Consortium’s mission but also really leave a mark. I think it is our duty to make sure we’re upholding that mission and also taking it to the next level by asking the question ‘how are you applying this, not only by supporting incoming students who are underrepresented minorities, but also in your personal life?’ The only way you can do that is by digging deep and going into organizations to effect change.”

Additionally they noticed the need for creating extra alternatives for all McCombs students and group members to have conversations concerning the influence of variety and the worth of inclusive practices in business. So with Director of Full-time MBA Scholar Providers Kellie Sauls’ recommendation to “think big” in the again of their minds, Fox and Staes decided to create a convention designed to show to students and professionals alike the significance of variety in the workforce as well as provide instruments to enact change.

“On top of understanding the business impact of diversity and inclusion, we wanted attendees to actually walk away with how they can make diversity work in their organization — actionable strategies they would be able to apply to their careers as soon as they left the conference,” says Fox.

Additionally, a convention would offer an outlet for demonstrating McCombs’ “superior” commitment to variety in addition to attracting extra potential students from numerous backgrounds, says Staes.

With a committee — and quite a bit of endurance and grit — Fox and Staes got down to create a framework for the occasion, wanting at the social and political climate as a starting point, then identifying what other Consortium faculties have finished that has worked properly. This was followed by analysis and brainstorming what would make the occasion an unforgettable and significant expertise for all individuals.

Michele Thornton Ghee provides the keynote handle on the 2019 inaugural Elevate: Diversity & Inclusion Conference.

“Ashley and I started with a framework. We started with topics that we wanted to propose and then began to think about the speakers who would fit into those topics,” says Staes. “Then we focused on breaking that down to cover various industries, like entrepreneurship, venture capital, consulting and tech — even entertainment. We really wanted to have a broad sweep when it came to industry so that people would have a full perspective.”

Building the conference from the ground up, a lot of their work concerned pitching the concept to realize buy-in — not simply from McCombs but from sponsors and guest audio system as nicely. This course of, Fox says, gave them a chance to actually residence in on the event’s goals.

“By running our idea consistently through different parties, we were able to get amazing feedback,” she says. “That feedback then helped us tailor [what] we wanted our attendees to gain from the conference as well as what some of the key topics and key learnings [would be] that they would walk away with.”

On Feb. eight, 2019, their onerous work paid off with the successful launch of the inaugural Elevate: Diversity & Inclusion Conference, held on McCombs’ campus. The aim of the event, which can occur annually, is to “identify how companies and business leaders create effective strategies to transform their current culture into one where both diversity and inclusion become embedded in the organization’s DNA,” in response to the conference web site.

Speakers have been business as well as variety and inclusion specialists in international corporations spanning a variety of industries; they included Michele Thornton Ghee, who at the time was senior vice chairman of BET and is now government vice chairman of enterprise improvement at Endeavor International Advertising; Ada-Renee Johnson, senior director at Google; Brian Reaves, chief variety and inclusion officer at Dell; Carolina Huaranca, principal at Kapor Capital; and Roger Montgomery, NBA sports activities agent at Roc Nation Sports activities; among others.

“Our keynote speaker Michele Thornton Ghee was amazing, and I think every person in that audience walked away feeling inspired,” Fox says. “My takeaway was the importance of simply having a seat at the table and what you can do when you’re given that opportunity and actually have a voice.”

“Michele talked so much about her experience and her challenges,” Staes adds, “making sure that you not only fight for that seat at the table but you also show up and prove that you deserve to be there.”

The occasion attracted more than 200 attendees, including each students and Austin-based leaders, and in line with Fox, suggestions was very constructive. “[Attendees] gained invaluable lessons, and they were able to really walk away with knowledge that they didn’t have before,” she says. “[Many said they] felt empowered after the conference.”

Fox believes the occasion provides students in specific important smooth expertise they will’t get from the classroom alone.

The 2019 inaugural Elevate: Diversity & Inclusion Conference

“In business school, you may have one or two classes that kind of touch on what it’s like to be diverse in the workforce or leading diverse workforces, but what I think is really impactful is when you’re able to hear [it directly] from leaders who are actually working in the industries that you want to go into,” Fox says. “Being able to hear from those leaders is something that is impactful way beyond the classroom or way beyond any classroom learnings.”

But the conference’s influence is greater than what attendees take with them once they depart: All proceeds from annually’s occasion will go towards a variety scholarship, which might be awarded to a Consortium scholar the next yr.

“Consortium students who are not given the full fellowship will be able to apply through McCombs and be awarded this scholarship next year and for years to come,” says Fox. “We wanted to help alleviate one of the reasons why people may be hesitant to come to business school.”

Although Fox and Staes graduated in Might, it’s necessary to them that Elevate is carried on. They may proceed to serve in an government capacity on the conferences’ steering committee, however current Consortium MBAs will take over the reins annually.

“It’s very important for us to maintain the conference via Consortium leaders,” Staes says. “Ashley and I are focused on making sure that, together, we find the next leadership who we know will be as passionate about it and ensure its success.”

Staes shall be shifting to Atlanta to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers as a senior associate in the Individuals and Group Follow targeted on the economic services business, whereas Fox will transfer to New York to hitch PepsiCo as assistant advertising supervisor. And although the two will not be working in shut proximity to at least one one other, the lessons they discovered via both the convention and the expertise of planning it collectively will inform their skilled lives for years to return.

“I’m so proud of the fact that we were able to accomplish something of this magnitude, and happy that I was able to accomplish it with DeAndrea because I can’t imagine [doing] it with anyone else,” Fox says. “I think that we complemented each other so well. To be able to put together a conference and run it so smoothly, we became closer because of it.”

In accordance with Staes, nevertheless, that is just the start.

“This is really just a start for both of us,” she says. “I’m saying to myself, ‘What’s next? What else can we do? What’s the next big thing we can accomplish where we can continue to drive forth The Consortium mission, really supporting underrepresented minorities to and through business school, but also just our personal passions?”