Celebrating a successful fifty years with an eye to the future.
The National Black MBA Association’s (NBMBAA®) annual Conference and Exposition, held this past September in Houston, marked two milestones: the appointment of a new president and chief executive officer and, as the organization prepares to commemorate its 50th anniversary, a new value-driven vision charting the organization’s future.
NBMBAA® has long been focused on creating educational, wealth-building and growth opportunities for Black professionals and promoting economic wealth in the Black community. Promoting employment opportunities has been a key part of that mission. In fact, the organization has committed to placing Black business students in 1,000 internship positions and helping another 10,000 working professionals secure career opportunities. Even as this focus on jobs remains strong, it is evolving.
“NBMBAA® is about careers, not jobs,” said Kay Y. Wallace, who was appointed president and CEO of the Atlanta-based nonprofit in July. “We were born out of a need 50 years ago and that need still exists today. But I want to start us on a course where this organization exists out of a desire to help people learn, help them advance in their careers, start new businesses or take their businesses to a new level.”
What has influenced the organization’s broadened vision is the “gig” economy, which offers MBA professionals alternatives to the traditional corporate career path.
“It’s not only about the job you’re doing now, it’s about always looking forward at how you can better position yourself to advance within a company or even start your own venture,” said Wallace, a seasoned executive with startup, nonprofit and corporate experience, including positions at Dow AgroSciences, The Coca-Cola Company and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. “Entrepreneurs need access to capital. They need resources and maybe they just need to be directed to something that already exists.” Wallace pointed to the association’s Scale-Up Pitch Challenge as one of those resources.
The Scale-Up Pitch Challenge was created in 2017 to bring together early-stage entrepreneurs with investors and venture capitalists ready to invest in innovative “big ideas.” The 2019 event was sponsored by FedEx Corporation and supported by Google, Georgia Tech and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SCORE program. Regional competitions were held in August, with the final competition for the $50,000 grand prize held at NBMBAA’s annual conference. Javier Evelyn, founder and CEO of Alerje, a medical technology-digital health startup, won the top prize for his innovative solutions to food allergies.
Whether it’s embarking on a corporate or entrepreneurial career path, providing students with practical hands-on experience is imperative. But it takes financial assistance and internship opportunities to make that happen. That’s where NBMBAA’s business case study competitions come in.
The Undergraduate Business Case Competition provides students with hands-on, early exposure to MBA-level business strategies and opportunities to compete for scholarship opportunities. The stakes are higher at the graduate level: teams are judged by a panel of Fortune 500 executives and compete for $30,000 in scholarships. Final competitions for each category were held at NBMBAA’s September conference, where teams from Howard University and Ohio State University won undergraduate and graduate top honors, respectively.
The annual conference and exposition clearly will remain a center post for NBMBAA’s signature programs as the organization pursues its new vision. (After 41 years, it has become the largest diversity fair in the country.) In 2019, more than 9,000 MBA students and professionals and 180 public and private universities and companies, including FedEx Corporation, FCA, Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutual Insurance, Marriott International, Microsoft and Nationwide, participated in the event. In addition to more than 15 professional development workshops and sessions, the conference featured several noted speakers, including Andrew Gillum, chairman of Forward Florida; Mathew Knowles, PhD, founder, president and CEO of Music World Entertainment; Walmart CEO Doug McMillon; and Cynthia Marshall, CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. Preparations are already underway for the 2020 conference which will be held September 22-26, 2020 in Washington, D.C. and will celebrate NBMBAA’s 50-year anniversary.
“I’d like to say that NBMBAA® has touched at least one million people during its past 50 years,” said Wallace, who holds an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Alabama and an MBA from Harvard. “We view our 50th anniversary as an opportunity to reconnect with them and to encourage more companies to demonstrate they support not only diversity but Black Americans.”
She added, “Coming from Alabama, I’ve always felt that the sky’s the limit and I’ve had that life professionally. What I want to do is to share that and make it happen for others.”