Getting minority students involved in business oriented groups on campus has not always come easy. Mark Davis, Undergraduate Programs Academic Adviser, has been working the past two years to change old attitudes by creating the Multicultural Business Student Association (MBSA) at UNL.
“I just felt that our minority students were missing out,” Davis said. “One thing I noticed with our student organizations is that they weren’t really represented very well by students of color. Sometimes they aren’t comfortable joining organizations because they don’t see anyone that looks like them. I felt that by developing an organization targeting minority students it might encourage them to join a club.”
The MBSA is not part of a bigger national organization like many of the other student organizations but Davis has tried to tailor the group from what he saw happening at other colleges.
“We try to find opportunities to attend conferences so this past year we attended the Big XII conference on black student government in Columbia, Mo. The purpose was to give students an opportunity to attend workshops on various issues of color that are happening at other campuses. It provided networking opportunities and focused on leadership issues.”
UNL business student, Camille Ehlers, took home the “Outstanding Senior” conference scholarship award. Sophomore Brittany Henry was another UNL student who attended the event. Henry was inspired by the variety of speakers such as CNN broadcaster Soledad O’Brien and author Terry McMillan.
“It helped me understand myself better,” Henry said, “so that I may have a clearer vision on what I want to do with my life and then have the courage to implement it. The workshops stressed that it is important to know yourself first because once you do that it is easier for you to succeed and perform at the best of your abilities.”
Davis also stressed the service aspect of the MBSA.
“We’ve also done community service participating in the Big Event,” Davis said. “This past year our students painted garage doors for an apartment complex. Those are things they’ve been doing that they might not be aware of if they weren’t part of this organization.”
The MBSA meets every other week and has about 10-15 active members.
“We’ve got a real mix of freshmen to seniors participating and culturally it’s very well represented as we have representation from all the ethnic groups.”
Even though the group is still small and relatively new, Davis has already seen businesses reaching out to the MBSA.
“Businesses see that we have a multicultural club and they’ll ask if they can come and talk to our students. We’ve been invited to the Union Pacific Railroad for a full day where they sponsored us and covered the costs to have us come up and see what kind of opportunities they have to offer. Companies are trying to increase diversity so they look at it as an opportunity to hire and recruit.”
Davis hopes more minority students will join student groups as they make connections between fellow students and corporations in the MBSA.
“I’m also an adviser for Phi Beta Lambda and I see the opportunities that happen with students through that organization. Once students in the Multicultural Business Student Association see the value of being involved maybe they’ll branch off and get involved in other organizations.”
Interested students can contact Davis through the CBA web site.