As Black History Month comes to a close, a group of D'Amore-McKim School of Business students is launching the first-ever graduate student group for Black MBA students. They're called the Black MBA in Business Group, and their first order of business? A February 28 panel called Unspoken Rules of Modern Work featuring Huskies Yamilhee Saint-Val, MBA'23, Javana Samuels, MBA'23, and Juan Thomas Kimble, DMSB'12.

Unspoken Rules of Modern Work will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024, at 6 p.m., in Snell Library, Room 033. Pizza will be served.

One of the group's founders, Adobea Lydia Dampare Addo, MBA'25, says group members “noticed a gap in meeting the needs of students who are specifically Black or even African.”

Dampare Addo grew up in Ghana and chose Northeastern for the co-op experience, where she could apply her newfound skills to help solve real-world problems. Even outside the office, she's doing just that.

“With regards to having an MBA, there was a need for specific resources or an informal group to be able to bounce off ideas for seemingly insignificant issues like, what is appropriate hair to have during work or an internship, for example,” she says. “The kinds of conversations where it's specific to you having to manage being Black in America—that was the gap we noticed.”

While there are several existing clubs and organizations that cater to Black undergraduate students and other demographic groups, “this is the first space in D'Amore-McKim that highlights Black graduates and professionals and provides a forum for Black students to grow, exchange ideas, network, and build camaraderie,” notes Amari Hanberry, MBA'25.

Back in the fall, the students approached College Inclusion Leader and Associate Professor of Management and Organizational Development Marla Baskerville about serving as the group's academic advisor. A Northeastern faculty member since 2008, Baskerville says the fall 2023 semester was remarkable not only for the first inklings of the Black MBA in Business Group, but it was then that she noticed a larger number of Black students in her classes than in years past.

“Years ago, I had a student tell me that on the first day of my course that she walked into class, looked around, didn't see any other Black students, and she literally almost left,” says Baskerville.

While the business field is still overwhelmingly white and male-dominated, representation is crucial, and the Black MBA in Business Group will serve as a beacon for prospective students looking to forge connections, raise visibility and awareness for Black students and allies, and provide vital networking and growth opportunities for students and alumni alike.

Two years ago, Baskerville and a group of about a dozen students began meeting informally to discuss race, gender, and other issues. “We'd just talk about what was on their mind,” she says, “but there's been a need for this group for some time—something more structured, more formal.”

In addition to offering social engagement and fellowship, the club's goals are to provide professional support, says Dampare Addo. “Career support and professional support on your career journey from peers. People who have gone ahead of who have those insights like, ‘What are some things I should know before entering the workforce but there was no one to tell me, kind of thing.'”

Baskerville says it's important to get the word out now about the group and to let people know that it's for everyone. “It's not just for Black students, but it's for anyone who can support Black students because when you're numerically underrepresented, it can be very difficult to be in a classroom where people really don't look like you, where discussions aren't really about you, where articles are written by authors who don't look like you, where research is presented that might not include you,” she says.

“A group like this is going to help us to get started on thinking about ways that we can better support our Black students and prepare them for the business world. I think all students should understand the unique experiences and challenges that Black students go through if they really want to be supportive, if they really want to be allies, and if they really want to be a part of the solution rather than the problem.”

Hanberry, who grew up in Dorchester, Mass., and attended Pennsylvania's Lincoln University, one of the country's historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU), says she chose Northeastern for graduate school because her father is also an alumnus and spoke highly of his experience here.

“Coming from an HBCU, it was important for me to have a Black student space for myself and future cohorts to follow,” she says.

Now she's not only making dad proud; she's making history.