by Rianne Webb, 2Y 2020
Black History Month provides an opportunity to reflect on the contributions of Black Americans today and throughout history, and celebrating it at Kellogg has given this month a new meaning for me. The Black Management Association chose Celebrity Resilience as a theme to honor those who have overcome unimaginable obstacles to establish a legacy of strength and integrity. This theme is a helpful lens to reflect on the people that have inspired me to achieve my goals to date, but also to look around at the community at Kellogg that provides the impetus for future growth.
During the first week at Kellogg, at CIM, Dr. Nicholas Pearce led the Class of 2020 through an exercise acknowledging the collective diversity of students on every dimension that left a lasting impression on us all. After reading a statement about a lived experience, students were encouraged to silently stand among the audience of near strangers if the statement applied to them. These statements ranged from disclosures of sexual orientation, to experiences with racial profiling, managing invisible disabilities, and surviving sexual assault. The power of this exercise was not only acknowledging the diverse experiences across the class of students, but also the courage of students to stand up and share personal insight with classmates. Now, when faced with the choice to share my perspective as a black woman or bite my tongue, I reflect on this experience as motivation to be true to myself and follow the example set early in our time at Kellogg. Student-led initiatives like the Engage small group dinner series to address diversity and inclusion provide ample opportunities to develop meaningful relationships and learn more about my classmates. As we are bombarded with news headlines that reveal there is more work to be done to remedy social injustices, I am glad to be a part of a community of students with an appetite to address these issues head on and where I can bring my authentic self to these discussions.
I came to Kellogg with a growth mindset and a plan to seek out opportunities to challenge myself. Still, each time I learned of a leadership position that was open or considered developing a new event idea that would be valuable for students I’d feel a pit of nervousness in my stomach. It can be daunting to raise your hand to lead among other leaders, but the examples of resilience from the second-year students I admire helped me make the leap. I am grateful for the Black Management Association for providing a safe place to discuss tough issues but also for encouraging members to take action to make an impact on the greater Kellogg community. In particular, black female second-year students on the executive team of the Kellogg Student Association, Day at Kellogg, CIM week, and KWEST instilled faith that I could not only take on similar big roles, but that my unique perspective would add value to the organizations. Instead of shying away from opportunities to step up and lead in newly created roles like Director of Intersectionality for the Women Business Association and the Ally Council, I am drawing on the resilience of those around me to continue the tradition of shaping #MyKellogg.
As a first-generation college student, I proudly stand on the shoulders of my parents and grandparents that were resilient in the face of challenges to provide the opportunities that I am able to take advantage of today. I commit to seeking out new challenges to conquer, and the obstacles that come with them no doubt, that will make me more resilient than before I started this journey.