By Shani Taylor and Shannon Turner
In 2013, during our first ever visit to campus, we attended Kellogg’s Diversity Preview Weekend. During this weekend, diverse candidates interested in Kellogg had the unique opportunity to connect with current and prospective students and alumni, and also gain a deep understanding of what the Kellogg community offers.
One example of student-led leadership we experienced first-hand that weekend was the 27th Annual Black Management Association (BMA) Conference.
The BMA Conference left an indelible mark on each of us. From its theme, “Cultural Capital: Cross-Cultural Influence in the Global Marketplace,” to thought-provoking speakers like Steve Stoute, Deanie Elsner, and Nneka Rimmer (KSM ‘01), it was clear to us that Kellogg was the type of community that celebrated student leadership, fostered engaging conversation and valued the importance of bringing students together to hear the experiences of influential leaders within the Black community.
Attending the conference solidified our interest in Kellogg and confirmed that the community was one where we felt we would not only be welcome, but could also thrive. Moreover, it triggered our desire to ultimately serve as co-chairs of the conference during our second year.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Courageous Leadership: Disrupting the Status Quo.” As co-chairs, our vision was to perpetuate the long-standing tradition and strength of the longest-running conference at Kellogg. It was our distinct goal to create a worthwhile conference that was forward thinking, would attract a diverse audience and would leave them inspired to be better leaders.
Understanding the importance of peer leadership, we set out to select a committed, highly motivated team that would help us fulfill this vision. From the planning phase to the day of the conference, we learned a tremendous amount through co-chairing such a significant event.
Realizing that a conference hosted by an affinity group could appear exclusionary, one of our key priorities was to ensure that the greater Kellogg community felt welcome and saw the value in attending the conference. We sought out “allies” — our peers from various affinity groups, clubs and social circles — to help us promote the event via video clips; in these clips they emphasized their personal interest in the conference and theme.
Through regular meetings with the allies, we learned that it was important to clearly communicate the “what’s in it for me” aspect — the fact that the conference promoted a collection of speakers not only diverse in their racial backgrounds, but also through the industries, perspectives, companies and experiences they represented.
We also learned that we needed to dispel the notion that the conference was solely for Black people. We took this feedback and used it as the foundation of an email to the entire Kellogg community where we personally invited everyone to attend and, most importantly, discussed what the conference was not.
What would a student event at Kellogg be without stellar marketing? Being at Kellogg, we learn a lot about audience segmentation and communicating a specific value to those segments.
For prospective students, our main message was that the conference provided a unique opportunity to explore Kellogg and see the student-led culture in action.
For current students, it was an opportunity to learn more about how to succeed in various industries and gain exposure to innovation.
Finally, for alumni, it was an opportunity to see how the BMA Conference legacy has advanced and to continue to connect with the Kellogg community.
Our team wanted to go beyond the typical flyer promotional tactics and instead sought to really hone in on the power of social media and FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). We knew this would be a different approach, but we felt a responsibility to try something new. As such, we set up a table in the Atrium at Jacobs and a custom, branded picture frame to excite our peers and demonstrate the diverse members of the Kellogg community who supported the conference. The posting of videos and pictures allowed the BMA Conference to remain top-of-mind to the community.
Leading vs. Experiencing
We knew that co-chairing the conference meant we would experience the day in a very different way. It was so important to us that everything went smoothly, prospectives had a great time and that all the attendees left feeling motivated.
We focused on the experience of the audience throughout the process of planning and promoting. On the day of, this focus on continued. For example, we piloted the use of the SpeakUp app to invite the audience to feel comfortable asking questions following each talk.
All in all, it was apparent that our audience had a great experience, from the networking opportunities to the takeaways following the stimulating talks.
In case you missed the conference, one of our panelists, Zipporah Gatiti, was kind enough to share some key takeaways with us (learn more about Zipporah and how she’s revolutionizing the Kenyan coffee industry):
- “To know others is intelligence, to know who you are is wisdom.”
- “You are all going to be successful, that’s a given. However, what is important is to be significant.”
- “Do you! Be yourself, be unique and remember, your career is not what you do, it is just one expression of who you are.”
- “What’s meant for you will never miss you; what’s not meant for you will miss you.”
- “Be discerning about how you spend your time and who you spend your time with.”
- “We all have work to do, great leaders don’t shrug from challenge, they rise to the occasion … are you ready?”
We hope to see you all next year at the 2016 BMA Conference!
Shani Taylor is currently a second-year student in Kellogg’s MMM program. In addition to serving as a leader within the Black Management Association, Shani is a leader in the PEVC community at Kellogg and mentors Chicago area youth through the Inner City Mentoring Program. She spent her summer working as an investment associate at Intel Capital and will soon focus her efforts on planning the Spring 2016 Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference.
Shannon Turner is currently a second-year student in Kellogg’s Two-Year MBA program. Shannon also serves as a leader within Kellogg’s Retail + Luxury Goods Club and was a member of the Day at Kellogg (DAK) executive team. Prior to Kellogg, she worked as a senior Management Consultant with KPMG LLP and spent her summer working as a Brand Manager at Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc.