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The Importance of an MBA for Black and Latinx Business Leaders

Matt Hazenbush

Matt Hazenbush - mba.com

Matt Hazenbush is the former editor of mba.com and Director, Research Analysis and Communications for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).

You deserve a seat at the table. But you may be wondering, is an MBA really designed for you? Especially if you come from a non-business field or environment, you may have doubts that the business school recruitment process and experience are inclusive of people from your racial or socioeconomic background.

Is an MBA worth it? Are business schools looking for underserved candidates like you? What MBA scholarships for URMs or other funding sources are available? These are all questions that you may have, and rightfully so.

Rest assured that you are not the only one with these questions, and that talented URM candidates from backgrounds like yours have had these questions answered in the past and successfully made the next steps toward their graduate business degree.

Earlier this year, The MBA Tour hosted an informative panel with The Consortium—an alliance of the world’s leading business schools and business organizations that awards merit-based, full-tuition fellowships to top MBA candidates who have a proven record of promoting inclusion in schools, in their jobs or in their personal lives. The panel included current URM MBA students and admissions professionals who spoke knowledgably from experience on some of the key questions you may have about the value of the MBA experience for underrepresented students from the Black and Latinx communities.

Continue below to watch highlights from the discussion and gain the perspectives of students who have successfully walked the path you’re interested in.

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Why is it important for URMs to get an MBA, and why did you?

“An MBA better prepares [students from] underrepresented populations for an ever-changing business environment,” said Danni Young, Director of Recruitment for The Consortium and the panel moderator. “Especially when you think of how a lot of the industries in the marketplace have drastically changed due to COVID.”

“Whether you decide to go into business by way of finance or something different, every business in the world has a business aspect,” explained Brandon Adamson, alum of the Fordham University Gabelli School of Business and current Management Associate at Citigroup.

“So I think having relatable skills—be it Excel or as far as hard skills, or just being able to communicate effectively with your peers—I think an MBA really positions you to one: be respected in your space, and two: be someone people can rely on to be a value add for your team.”

“I think some of the most powerful innovations in civilization have come from the minds of Black and Brown talent…” said Jamar Harrison, alum of the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University and current Senior MBA Associate, International Revenue & Market Analysis at Delta Airlines. “…Being able to sit at those spaces, being able to be a part of those decisions that drive business, industries, communities—it’s really important for our talent to be represented in those spaces as well.”

Breaking down barriers to an MBA for underrepresented candidates

“As a recruiter, I often speak with a lot of Black and Latinx individuals that often never even consider applying to a top-tier MBA program,” said panel moderator Danni Young, before asking the panel: “Why do you think an underrepresented minority may self-select out and not go for applying to business school for a top-tier MBA program?”

“…the lack of visibility in seeing how much support there is once you go through the MBA,” said Indiana Kelley’s Jamar Harrison.  “I think a lot of folks think you’re going to go through it by yourself, that you may be one of few at an institution, and even if that is the case, there is power in being able to be visible, and to continue to build that space for others.”

He continued: “…know who you are, know that you are powerful, know that you are talented, and know that there is an institution out there—an MBA program—that is the perfect fit for you to blend and be perfect soil for you to continue to grow and turn into that professional or world changer that you know yourself to be.”

Resources available to Black and Latinx applicants

“When you were going to business school and pursuing your MBA, what resources did you know about? How did you find out about the resources out there, whether it be scholarships or whatnot?” prompted panel moderator Danni Young.

“Part of how I think about the different gaps that exist, and therefore that need resources…[are] the resources gap, information gap, and to some degree some kind of dream gap—and by dream gap I mean ‘Do I see myself there? Do I see someone else who either looks like me or has had my path?’” said Om Chitale, Director of Diversity Admissions & Alumni at Berkeley Haas.

“We want you in the process, we want your authentic story, we want to see your big dreams… From any schools’ perspective, go to the school’s website, go to their webinars, ask about scholarships, ask about need-based grants and Consortium Fellowships and other kinds of scholarships because they’re there and we need to continue to do a better job of communicating them.”

Advice for prospective applicants with imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is “…doubting yourself no matter how good you are, how well you do, no matter how qualified you are—it’s self-doubt” explained moderator Danni Young. “Particularly a lot of URMs experience this because they don’t see representation, they don’t see people that look like them or people that share their background in their field.”

“From your perspectives, how can one overcome imposter syndrome, and have you yourself experienced that?”

“I think about how when I graduated [from undergrad] and started working in an investment bank, and I was one of a few Black employees on the trading floor, and not having that immediate person or mentor to provide me with that initial confidence in terms of my abilities…” said Jordan Are, current MBA student at the Jones School of Business at Rice University.

“I think we naturally tend to hold ourselves to a high level of achievement or standard, and I think oftentimes we don’t take the time to actually look at all the things we’ve accomplished, whether it be being a first generation college student or getting this great job at this great company right out of undergrad. So really taking the time to look back at yourself as your own kind of proxy of your achievement versus those around you.”

He continued: “I think business school is a great way to rid yourself of that imposter syndrome because you’ll find that so many people come from different backgrounds and bring diverse perspectives and work experiences. Once you step into the class everyone’s all on the same level playing field.”

Advice for older applicants with family and kids

“Please remember that all the programs you’re looking at have a huge range of people and the big question is not necessarily how many years of experience you’re bringing in—whether that’s 10 plus or two or three—it’s the depth of that experience, it’s the impact that you’re had, it’s the self-awareness and introspection to know how you’re trying to leverage that experience plus an MBA to go on that path” said Berkeley Haas’ Om Chitale. 

“That’s the story you’re trying to tell in an application, that’s the story you may be reflecting on right now, and maybe with 10 years you’ve had a couple of different stops along the way. That’s incredible. That’s an asset. Talk to us about that. Think about how those two things, those three things, have come together to help you form your perspective on the world and the great change that you want to see.”

Tell your story: Personal Branding for MBA Applications

Our free guide, Tell Your Story: Personal Branding for MBA Applications, provides you with step-by-step, expert guidance on how to position your personal brand in your applications to ensure you tell an authentic and compelling narrative that differentiates you from other qualified applicants and sticks in the minds of the admissions committees.

Get insider advice on how to:

  • Reflect on your personal journey and express who you are
  • Clearly articulate your goals in a way that will check the boxes admissions staff are trained to look for
  • Have a rock-solid answer to the key questions of “why an MBA?” and “why now?”
  • Tie your MBA story together in a way that elevates your personal brand


Matt Hazenbush

Matt Hazenbush - mba.com

Matt Hazenbush is the former editor of mba.com and Director, Research Analysis and Communications for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC).