McIntire’s Black Commerce Student Network (BCSN) has blossomed into something more than a CIO. According to Co-President Tresure Gary (McIntire ’23), it’s a community and a family.
Having created such a welcoming entity is thanks in no small part to Gary and Co-President Tracy Agyemang (McIntire ’23): They’ve made the most of their tenure, leading BCSN efforts to make a positive impact on the experience of Black McIntire students. Those strides have been the result of a commitment to impart crucial information, share advice, and host events that provide opportunities to increase a sense of belonging among members and interested first- and second-year pre-Commerce students alike.
The latest initiative of BCSN is Black Commerce Connect, a Washington, DC-based event that provides an avenue for current Black McIntire students to build meaningful relationships with alumni. On Feb. 24, Comm students will visit the nation’s capital for informal networking sessions, where they’ll have the chance to initiate connections with professionals with the knowledge, experience, and understanding that come from having been Comm students themselves. The day will feature a brief seminar on post-college financial literacy and wealth management led by Lazetta Braxton (McIntire ’95), Founder and CEO of Lazetta & Associates. In addition to serving as a platform for students and alumni to forge meaningful mentorship channels, the event features alumni-led small-group discussions aiming to demystify the experience of working in finance, consulting, marketing, and IT roles.
Black Commerce Connect represents a realized goal of the Co-Presidents to improve engagement with the McIntire Black Alumni Network (MBAN). “Over the course of five months, we were able to garner support for what started out as a simple aspiration and bring our event to life,” Gary says.
Agyemang recalls how the idea for the event quickly took shape with the help of Commerce School leadership and staff.
“When we casually mentioned this idea to Dean [Nicole Thorne] Jenkins, she was instantly thrilled. She connected us with [Director of Strategic Engagement] Gregory Driscoll and [Assistant Director of Advancement] Megan Hoffman,” she explains. The Co-Presidents were then introduced to MBAN, and subsequently to McIntire Advisory Board member Ryan Stevens (McIntire ’12). “He then offered to host our event, as well as provide support as needed to promote the success of Black Commerce Connect. Tony Parchment [McIntire ’90], Miles Jackson [McIntire ’16], and Patricia Brooks-Nobles [McIntire ’82] have also played a vital role in the success of the event through monthly meetings and mentorship,” says Agyemang.
Stevens, who will host the event at Clutch, where he is Head of Operations, serves on a small planning committee with MBAN. “We are constantly looking for ways to build stronger relationships amongst our alumni community and future community—current Black students. We focus on building awareness of the roles and positions held by McIntire Black alums, and this helps make networking more natural and reciprocal,” Stevens says, pointing out that MBAN endeavors to stay in contact with BCSN and its leadership, whom he credits with advancing Black Commerce Connect.
“Tracy and Tresure have been the drivers!” he says. “It’s been great to get in a virtual room with them, help guide their vision for the event, and build a game plan on how to execute. They’ve outlined the day’s activities and agenda, keeping the student perspective at the forefront of our planning. The students have helped us home in on the types of topics and forums that would be most engaging to their peers.”
In Stevens’ experience, MBAN has best supported those “future community” members by developing the ways in which it can support them by taking on both formal and informal mentorship roles, guiding students through interview preparation, and providing opportunities for career exploration.
And there’s still more to come.
“We are formalizing a space to connect for Black alumni of McIntire that didn’t exist before,” he says. “The pandemic helped to normalize networking in a virtual environment. Now that the post-pandemic era is upon us, we’re looking forward to building off of the virtual-only events that we were able to create over the last couple of years and pair them with physical spaces for Black alumni to connect.”
Beyond the abundant plans for increased engagement that will continue after they graduate, Agyemang and Tracy remain pleased that an important goal they set early in their presidency has come to fruition.
Ultimately, the Co-Presidents are thankful that their leadership roles have allowed them to not only establish goals and inform direction for the group, but also to reach out and cultivate other connections across the School.
The experience with BCSN has elevated their Commerce education in many ways, says Agyemang. “Primarily, it has given us an opportunity to appreciate the efforts McIntire makes towards diversity and inclusion. As leaders, we have had the great firsthand experience that leaders face in the Harvard Business School case studies we read in our ICE courses,” she says, calling those moments “once-in-a-lifetime,” while continuing to be grateful for being able to serve her peers.
For Gary, Black Commerce Connect is another example of an initiative that has brought her closer to “a variety of people, from students and faculty to alumni,” she says. “The conversations held with student leaders of affinity groups such as the Asian Student Network and Latinx Student Network, as well as meetings with [Associate Director of Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion] Katherine Lawrence, allowed us to foster ties within the diversity and inclusion space. I truly realized the value of building strong relationships to support long-term success.”