Carlson School alumnus David Otero, ’17 MBA, remembers struggling to picture himself in an MBA program.
“There’s not a ton of representation in terms of people of color, LGBT people, or women in the business world,” said Otero, who’s set to start his new position as a strategy and marketing consultant at 3M later this month.
“When you walk into the boardroom and you look around and you don’t see people that look like yourself, you’re like, ‘Then how do I become that person when I don’t see anyone else that looks like me?’”
That’s the entrenched issue behind Camp Emerge, a new business leadership camp for individuals from traditionally underserved populations that debuted last week at the Carlson School. The program brought 32 prospective MBA students—college juniors or seniors and recent graduates, all either people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, or first-generation students—to the school for three days of personal, professional, and cultural development.
Among other activities, Camp Emerge participants worked on a marketplace simulation, learned about the GMAT, and heard from Carlson School alumni like Otero on misconceptions about business and ways to surpass the obstacles facing professionals from different backgrounds.
Among the highlights:
Katrina Mutuc, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Minnesota who’s graduating in December, said she had previously attended leadership programs but found them to be a bit inauthentic. She appreciated some of the honest conversation at Camp Emerge.
“They give you a business perspective that doesn’t shy away from the hard-hitting questions, like your barriers based on your identity, your race, and things like that,” said Mutuc, who’s interested in a career in technical project management, engineering design, or product design.
“They’ve exposed us to different people from different backgrounds and from underrepresented backgrounds who are in business. … They’ve gone through some challenges, but they’re also doing very well and they’ve overcome those challenges, they’ve learned some lessons from those challenges, and those have helped them in their career.”
—IAN MWANGI, CAMP EMERGE PARTICIPANT
In good company
Participants visited food entrepreneurs Jeff Sommers (co-owner, Izzy’s Ice Cream) and Tomme Beevas, ’11 CEMBA (founder and chief strategic officer, Pimento Jamaican Kitchen), visited North Minneapolis nonprofit Juxtaposition Arts, and learned about Land O’Lakes during a session with recruiter Heidi Riese.
“We’re continually trying to expand our diversity,” said Riese. “If we want that top talent, if we want to be top in the line of thinking, then we need those diverse thoughts, whether it be diversity in color or just diversity in background.”
Room for all
It’s only fitting that Camp Emerge’s spirit of inclusivity extended to academic backgrounds. Engineering students like Mutuc came together with aspiring journalists such as Arlette Hawkins from North Carolina A&T State University.
“There’s no two people that are just alike,” said Hawkins. “We’re a really diverse group, and it’s just a lot of fun meeting all of these students from all over the country.”
They listened to the event’s keynote speaker, Raha Been, a new product development leader in 3M’s Auto and Aerospace Solutions Division and current Carlson Executive MBA student, describe her unexpected path from a Ph.D. in comparative and molecular biosciences to the business world.
“It just shows that just because you didn’t start out in business doesn’t mean you can’t pursue it,” said Hawkins.
Otero and seven fellow alumni—representing some of the same demographics as camp participants—shared a variety of perspectives.
“I think it’s really important to make sure people realize early on all the opportunities they have and that it doesn’t end with undergrad and that there are always things that they can do to pivot their careers or to continue to learn more to propel themselves forward and make themselves successful, in the workplace and just in life in general,” said Adriana Scheiner, ’17 MBA and a supply chain materials analyst at Eaton Corporation.
“If I’m out there and doing it, then you can do it too. You don’t have to fit a specific mold, you don’t have to look like a certain person, you don’t have to speak a particular way. You just have to have a certain amount of knowledge and courage and initiative in order to move forward.”
—DAVID OTERO, ’17 MBA