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Two Consortium Members Create New Diversity Conference at Texas McCombs

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When Ashley Fox and DeAndrea Staes were MBA students at UT Austin’s McCombs School of Business, they both served in various leadership capacities within The Consortium. As students, they intentionally worked to advance diversity and inclusion across the campus, in line with the mission of The Consortium.  Their efforts culminated in a new annual event, the Elevate: Diversity and Inclusion Conference, which they plan to continue supporting although they graduated in May.

Ashley Fox (left) and DeAndrea Staes (right)

Diversity and Inclusion in Texas MBA Admissions

Fox and Staes both made a career change and joined The Consortium team with the shared goal of ensuring equal access to opportunities for individuals from underrepresented groups. In particular, they found common ground in their desire to effect change at Texas McCombs and “to enhance diversity and inclusion in global business education and leadership.” As part of this, they focused on admissions-related activities at the school.

They hosted formal Discover McCombs events and held informal chats with prospective students. They got on the phone to answer questions and provide insight very candidly, and their efforts paid off. For the Class of 2020, Texas McCombs more than doubled the number of African American Consortium students enrolled, beating the school’s previous record. But that was just the first step.

Diversity and Inclusion Conference

The 2019 inaugural Elevate: Diversity & Inclusion Conference

The two also saw a need to create more opportunities for Texas McCombs students to have conversations about diversity and inclusion in business. So, they decided to create a conference designed to demonstrate the value of diversity in the workforce while also providing tools to enact change. The conference also provided an outlet for Texas McCombs to demonstrate its commitment to diverse backgrounds.

“On top of understanding the business impact of diversity and inclusion, we wanted attendees to actually walk away with how they can make diversity work in their organization—actionable strategies they would be able to apply to their careers as soon as they left the conference,” says Fox.

They built the conference from the ground up, starting with a framework of topics and then delving into the speakers and industries that would best fit their goals. Then, on February 8, 2019, they successfully launched the Elevate: Diversity and Inclusion Conference. The new annual event will “identify how companies and business leaders create effective strategies to transform their current culture into one where both diversity and inclusion become embedded in the organization’s DNA,” according to the website.

More than 200 people made up of both students and Austin-based business leaders attended the event, learning from diversity and inclusion experts. And the feedback was very positive with many attendees saying they felt “empowered.”

What’s Next?

As for where Staes and Fox will go from here, this is just the beginning. “This is really just a start for both of us,” Staes said. “I’m saying to myself, ‘What’s next? What else can we do? What’s the next big thing we can accomplish where we can continue to drive forth The Consortium mission, really supporting underrepresented minorities to and through business school, but also just our personal passions?’”

You can read their full story here.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.