I had the unique privilege of serving as a student-debater in the Kellogg Black Management Association (BMA) debate on immigration, as part of Black History Month. The prompt specifically asked what limits (if any) should be placed on legal immigration. I teamed with Dean Z (Elizabeth Ziegler, the associate Dean of MBA Programs and the Dean of Students) and our formidable opponents included Amanda Jones (a 1st year from Arkansas, who is very involved in the BMA) and Professor Ben Jones, who literally has advised the White House on immigration reform. Further, another top professor, Professor David Besanko, moderated the debate. Needless to say, Dean Z and I (the “Z Team”) had our work cut out for us.
Our debate was in front of over 150 people (half of whom watched the debated live-cast in another room). Our debate focused on legal immigration, which can be a very emotional topic. This question has a deep personal meaning for me. My mother’s side has roots tracing back close to the Mayflower, while my father immigrated to the US from Yugoslavia when he was 16. By the graces of the United States education system and the extraordinary teachers who pushed him, my father was able to attend university in the United States and to pursue a career in business. Immigration is not a cut-and-dry topic, and it has become particularly more complex as demand continues to increase and as countries consider the right levels of immigration and their preferred types of immigrants. For example, in the United States, there are an inordinate amount of different types of visas, each with their own process, quotas and expectations. Given that each team was debating for or against views that were not necessarily in line with their personal views, we (the participants) agreed to keep the actual debate content and discussions confidential.
I’m proud to have participated in a Kellogg tradition of student-faculty debates. There was a fantastic one this past fall around the (potential) taxation of sugary-beverages and there was one this week around the impact of privacy as it relates to spying and national security. Any experience speaking publicly is a good one (and we do a lot of speaking/presenting at Kellogg), but to debate is particularly dynamic. We had to develop our thesis, do the proper research, figure out our argument’s weak points and then determine how we would effectively communicate this in order to win over our audience. It was remarkably similar to past jobs in which I would pitch projects or investments to my bosses. You obviously need the facts on your side, but communicating the how and why is just as critical as the what. And, this was a brilliant exercise in that.
Matt Zafirovski is a second-year student in the 2Y full-time MBA program from Chicago. Prior to Kellogg, he worked for Groupon International in South Korea and Japan, for Chicago Public Schools, and for McKinsey & Company. Over the summer, he worked at Apple in the iPhone commercial group.
Edit: In the original post, we named Ashley Thomas as the student on the opposing team. The correct student name is Amanda Jones, updated above. We apologize for the error.