Though Wharton’s African American MBA Association (AAMBAA) and Black Wharton Undergraduate Association (BW) are separate organizations, in the days and weeks following the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, we all found ourselves kicking off meetings and check-ins in similar fashion — by asking, “How are you doing?” For both AAMBAA and BW students, grieving and processing the deaths of Black people in America is a repetitive, exhausting process. Many AAMBAA students remember the impact Trayvon Martin’s murder had on their undergraduate experiences eight years ago and grapple with how much has — and hasn’t — changed since then. A sobering question lingers: Will AAMBAA and BW members of 2028 and beyond still be pushing for institutional anti-racist change?
In order to ensure that AAMBAA and BW don’t continue to shoulder the burden of initiating awareness and action to combat racial injustice, BW communicated a list of demands to the Wharton administration. The primary goal is to amend four key parts of the Wharton undergraduate structure: Student Support, Administration, Curriculum, and Faculty. These amendments include increasing funding for Black organizations, hiring an associate dean of diversity, and integrating mandatory antiracism training for all first-year students. After holding a forum in June to amplify Black student voices and in response to BW’s proposals, the Undergraduate Division has taken action by creating and hiring a director of diversity and inclusion, establishing unconscious bias training for first-year and transfer students, and hosting forums/counseling throughout the semester, among other efforts. We have been assured that these are but first steps — progress must and will continue from here.
AAMBAA has been doing similar work in partnership with the broader Wharton MBA community, including offering resources for learning and action. AAMBAA fully supports BW, and both organizations are committed to making Wharton a more inclusive community.
BW and AAMBAA believe that these stated goals align directly with their missions to create well-rounded members through academic and professional support, mentorship, networking, and service. With the help of Dean Erika James, Undergraduate Vice Dean Diana Robertson, MBA Vice Dean Howard Kaufold, and other faculty and staff, our organizations will maintain a heightened focus on ensuring that Wharton continues to evolve. We will work to ensure that the road AAMBAA students walked eight years ago and the road we all travel on now will be smoother for Black students at Wharton in eight, 80, and 800 years to come.
Published as “United for Change” in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of Wharton Magazine.