Leading an Ethnic Club at Wharton

1) Why do you think it is important to have ethnic clubs in Wharton?

  • Wharton’s pioneering vision was to produce graduates who would become “pillars of the state, whether in private or in public life.” A pillar is expected to reliably provide essential support for something or someone else. An underlying assumption of Wharton’s founding vision is that graduates would be prepared, in part as a result of their time here, to be solid rocks upon which others depend, in private or public life. Ethnic clubs at Wharton help to provide enclaves where students can celebrate important aspects of their identities and help educate and build relationships with those who may not identify with that ethnicity/demographic fact. With creating these safe havens, homes, students are invited to embrace parts of themselves they may have felt the need to suppress and ignore otherwise. This kind of suppression is a loss to us all as we miss out on experiencing our classmates’ full selves.

2) What is your club’s role/vision to improve the diversity and inclusion in Wharton?

  • AAMBAA is intently focused on providing members of our community with support to deal with realities in a society where their complexion will matter. At the same time, we open our membership and our hearts to those who want to learn more about the experiences of African Americans in life and business and we seek to build bridges of understanding (through programming) and meaningful relationships as a result. This dual focus enables more whole African Americans and allies who can better live into that call for pillars in their community. Without ethnic clubs you risk losing the richness and beauty that embracing diversity fully brings.
  • We recognize that the conversation of race stirs up many uncomfortable feelings and often desires to just wish it away. We believe that by bringing certain topics to our broader Wharton community allows us all to learn from each other and grow together. Our future success as business leaders depends on our ability to work well with others much different from ourselves and we hope that by fostering a close community of peers from all walks of life, we better prepare our members to do just that.

3) What are some of the diversity issues/challenges that your club members face?

  • There are many challenges related to diversity that members of AAMBAA face. Tragically, race remains a nasty scar on our nation’s history that we fight to heal from daily. By in large, gone are the days of overt discrimination. Today, things are far more subconscious and all human beings are susceptible to bias that negatively impacts others (even those who are marginalized). Though all of our members will be Ivy-league graduates, that education will not shield them for a world where they will have to deal with the implications of being a person of color. 
  • It is often difficult to exist in Wharton spaces wanting to just be yourself but feeling an intense pressure to perform. To be someone who is palatable to all and just wants to be accepted for their full self and not a label, as we all do. In a business context, this balancing performance isn’t simply unique to AAMBAA members. It’s something many of our Wharton classmates could identify with. And there are still biases that make this performance more complex for those who are female, a person of color, gay, not able-bodied, mentally ill… different. 
  • AAMBAA understands that there is a limited amount we can do with the resources we have but we are also aware that the challenges in our society do not just disappear at Wharton. We understand that and seek to offer support through these challenges and the challenges inherent in being a business school student who has to make the tough choice between turning up everyday and learning something of value. What a beautiful life!

Author: Adrienne (Ada) Hopkins, Thought Leadership Chair, AAMBAA