FOSTERing MBA Access: Bringing Your Authentic Self to the Workplace

Panelists (from L-R): Caitlin Hardy, Becky See, Erick Cruz, Akash Raman & Yonas Seifu.

On April 26th, the Foster MBA Admissions Team held their biannual “FOSTERing MBA Access” event at the Bank of America Executive Center. The event was started in 2015 by two MBA students, Michelle Huynh and Rosalinda Mendoza. The goal was to increase awareness and access to MBA-level education in underrepresented communities. Now, three years later the event has grown by more than double with a wide range of attendees including current and prospective students, alumni, community leaders and members of local professional organizations.

Diversity Initiatives Coordinator, Elisa Yuen (Full-Time MBA ‘17), led the planning of the event. “For this year’s event, we sharpened our goal internally and focused on empowering all attendees to embrace their authentic selves and recognize it as their unique gift and strength. We worked to achieve this by sharing several authentic, yet different stories through both the panel session and keynote speaker. I’m proud to say that this really came through during the event.”

Event panelist and current Evening MBA student, Caitlin Hardy, shared her experiences being a female veteran who has helped many others transition from a career in the military. She touched upon how public perception tends to believe that it’s a relief for veterans to be out of the military, but in actuality vets often struggle to leave an environment where they know exactly what is expected of them. Entering the civilian world of unknown job and societal expectations is a major adjustment that is often overlooked and rarely talked about. Other panelists included Erick Cruz (Evening MBA ’16), Akash Raman (Full-Time MBA ’17), Becky See (Full-Time MBA ’16) and Yonas Seifu (Full-Time MBA ’15).

Keynote Speaker: Michael Villanueva, The Boeing Company

The keynote speaker for the evening was Michael Villanueva, Global Diversity and Inclusion Specialist at The Boeing Company. Michael shared the story of his personal journey as a first-generation college student and the first person at Boeing to come out publicly as a gay man. 14 years ago Michael joined the Boeing Association of Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Transgender Employees & Friends, known as the BEAGLES. “Having an organization that is recognized by the company helped me to see that regardless of my identity – whether I’m Asian American or LGBT, whatever that identity is – there is a value to the company and they see that.” Throughout his speech, Villanueva reinforced the importance of bringing your authentic self to work and leveraging those strengths that make you unique as there is tremendous business value in leveraging multiple, diverse perspectives.

Thanks to the MBA Diversity Clubs (Foster Veterans Association, Women in Business, Out in Business, Diversity in Business) and the many community organizations who helped us spread the word about the event!