With the goal of creating educational opportunities and economic growth for the African American community, the National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) is preparing the next generation of minority business leaders.
Founded in 1970 by a group of African American MBA students, faculty, and businesspeople, the NBMBAA now boasts 9,000 members, 45 general chapters, and 27 collegiate chapters across the U.S., with operations in Canada and the U.K. as well. It also partners with more than 300 of the country’s top business organizations to facilitate growth and opportunity for the African American community.
“We cut across the corporate space, as well as the university space,” says Jesse Tyson, president and CEO of the NBMBAA. “Our mission is to sustain and build economic wealth and intellectual capital in the black community.”
One key way the organization does this is by educating and preparing African American youth, and those from other minority groups, for college and life thereafter. Through its Leaders of Tomorrow (LOT) initiative, the NBMBAA mentors high school students, coaching them in the areas of academic success, leadership, public speaking, social engagement, networking, goal setting, and community service, among others.
The purpose of LOT is to help young people who may be at risk of underperforming realize their full potential — with a focus on creating “an evergreen pipeline of black talent” for NBMBAA corporate partners, Tyson says.
One of LOT’s most important components is its Success Boot Camp. It is designed to push participants mentally and physically in order to help them develop into well-rounded, capable, and hardworking individuals who are prepared to succeed in the workplace.
“If you ask me why it’s called a success boot camp, it’s because of the intensity of the program. We get them up at 6 a.m., [and] we put them to bed at midnight,” Tyson says. “We’re trying to show them [that] if you’re going to compete in a global economy, this is what other countries’ students do. So we present them with very difficult challenges.”
Students in the boot camp participate in mock college admission and job interviews, practice public speaking, engage in academic workshops, and more — all while dressed in corporate business attire. However, the main focus of the program is students running a mock company; they are divided into groups and must work together with people whom they have never met.
The boot camp culminates with the National Business Case Competition, during which each group, or company, must solve a difficult business problem — a Harvard business case — and present their solution to a panel of judges made up of corporate executives, deans of business schools, and others in academia or the business sector. “They’re on stage, and they’re given a certain number of minutes to present, then we fire questions at them,” says Tyson.
An additional aspect of the boot camp, aimed at developing students in another key area, is the Global Community Service Project. Students get to select an organization or cause to work for, which the NBMBAA then facilitates. Past projects have included raising money for breast cancer research or to feed the hungry.
“The project itself is designed to teach them the value of giving,” Tyson says. “This is truly about life lessons, not only for themselves in terms of what they benefit from, but how they can help the overall community raise itself up as well.”
Many NBMBAA chapters recruit students to LOT through well-established partnerships with local schools; however, Tyson says that some students also seek out the program based on referrals or positive feedback they’ve heard from past participants and friends.
Since it began in 1991, 8,000 minority high school students have been mentored through LOT, 95 percent of whom have gone on to enroll in college. In addition to preparing these young people for the real world, the NBMBAA helps fund their education with scholarships.
Thus far, LOT and its partners have awarded more than $2 million in scholarships — a number that is poised to increase with the creation of a $1 million LOT endowment by the NBMBAA in June. The organization has already raised $200,000 toward its goal and hopes to raise the remainder by spring 2016.●
Alexandra Vollman is the editor of INSIGHT Into Diversity. For more information on the National Black MBA Association, visit nbmbaa.org.