Black Affinity Conference – Owning it: 360°
This blog post was written by Peer Career Ambassador, Alexis Cohen ’19
Two weekends ago, in celebration of its 20th anniversary, current students, faculty and alum from around the country gathered for the Black Affinity Conference on Babson’s Wellesley and Boston campuses. With the theme of “Owning It: 360°”, the conference was filled with many commissions to own our voice, vote and blessings among many other things. Some remarked that the conference couldn’t have landed on a more perfect weekend only a week after the premiere of the striking and brilliant film, Black Panther. For those who haven’t heard about or seen the Marvel film, Black Panther, without giving away any spoiler alerts, the movie in my opinion captures the importance of “Owning” but also the responsibility that comes with that. I’ll leave that there.
The weekend convened Friday night, February 23rd on the Boston campus for a Diversity Connect. This opening event involved some mingling between students, faculty and alum, good food (of course) and a great career fair. Babson Alum, ’10 and M ’11, Pichon Duplan, led the discussion on owning your career. Pichon is currently an Advisory Manager at PwC and is the founder of both Fast Forward and The iStand Above Organization. Pichon engaged the crowd by sharing his personal experience of how he balances a full time job while also operating two non-profits. One key insight that senior student, Caitlyn Pobee, took way was, “Pichon made it clear that it’s possible to work on your own thing, while working at someone else’s establishment- you just have to be disciplined, focused on the goal, and intentional. Also, even now as a student, I should be thinking about how my courses and involvements on campus align with my goals.” After the discussion, students networked with representatives from established companies like EY, Wells Fargo, Iron Mountain, TJX Companies Inc., Cambridge Innovation Center, Wellington Management and Dassault Systems to name a few. Some even secured internships for the summer and full time job offers. The night ended on a high note as many gathered to discuss the film, Black Panther. Filled with delight, critique, reflection, and hope, the conversation lasted a whopping 3 hours and was in the end praised for its ability to spark great conversations.
On Saturday, February 24th, Day 2 of the conference, there was an array of sessions pointing back to the overarching theme of “Owning It: 360°.” The day commenced with college updates from our very own, President Kerry Healey where she highlighted that Babson is making strides regarding Diversity and Inclusion. As a result of those strides, there are 5 new part-time minority faculty members and that moving forward the Black Affinity Conference would be receiving an endowment to continue the legacy. On top of this good news, there were a few sessions that stuck with me most to include the Keynote Lunch, the “Owning Your Voice” session and “Owing Your Vote” session. At the Keynote Lunch, Kadia Tubman ‘13 moderated a conversation about black enterprise and minorities in executive leadership with Richelieu Dennis ‘91, Founder and CEO of Sundial Brands which produces Shea Moisture products and Cheryl Grace, SVP U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen. Enriched with personal anecdotes and sage advice, the conversation left me motivated to identify my ‘why’ statement, reflect on where I desire to lay a path and the impact I intend to make. Both Dennis and Grace left an imprint on the crowd that was the proper equivalent to a mic drop. Dennis remarked “You cannot be afraid to change the environment you have to live in” and Grace shared the sentiment that she’d rather not climb the latter to be a CEO if it meant simply being a “Yes” girl. With the political and social unrest that is troubling our country right now, the “Own Your Voice” and “Own Your Vote” sessions were very timely. Led by inspiring Babson alum and faculty, these sessions resonated with me because they stressed the importance of these two whv’s. To sum it up, one’s voice and vote, which is shaped by experiences, is necessary as we continue to push the envelope.
The great weekend concluded on Sunday, February 25th with a “Own Your Blessings” service. Gathered in Glavin Chapel, we sang songs of praise and worship to God and were encouraged by a message given by Babson’s Office of Faith and Service Assistant Director of Faith, Reflection & Chaplaincy, Denicia Ratley. She challenged us to see ourselves the way God sees us, not allow society to shape and define who we are, and recognize that Eagles don’t belong around chickens. (I’ll let her tell you the story!)
All and all, I am grateful to be apart of the Black Affinity Network and the Babson community at large. Attending this conference for the third year in row has allowed for me to build strong bonds with alumni, helped me to realize the power I possess within, and compelled me to often think about legacy. I am very grateful. If you’ve come to the end of this blog, you’re the real MVP. In case you want to join or learn more about the BAN community, the founder of the Black Affinity Network and Black Affinity Conference, Leticia Stallworth, said it best, “You don’t have to be black or even an alum to be apart, you just have to support the mission.” And the mission of the Black Affinity Network is to advance diversity and inclusion to permeate the fabric of the Babson community and have a meaningful impact on the experience of current and future students, while fostering strong connections among Babson’s black alumni. Click here to learn more.