UCI BMA Supports Black Students
By Dianne Anderson
For first year UCI super-starter student Ryan McNichols, campus life is a bit of a time management balancing act, but it’s nothing that he can’t handle.
As he carries a full load toward his MBA while working full time at night, much of his spare time is dedicated to the success of the new Black Management Association (BMA).
Helping students find other students on a campus of tens of thousands may seem like an easy quest, but for Black students, isolation is the problem.
McNichols said that knowing that a support system exists is a good step in the right direction. By forming campus connections, he said their new BMA can strengthen the community, which in turn, strengthens the economic base.
“It’s providing an opportunity for people to get together faster than what they’ve been able to before. I believe it’s using what you have to your benefit and maximizing every opportunity that’s coming your way,” said McNichols, president of the new Black Management Association at UCI Paul Merage School of Business.
Businesses these days are transitioning to online models to stay afloat, and he sees the tremendous growth of technology in e-commerce platforms as a big opportunity. BMA can guide students on resources and tools, innovation, and how businesses are being sustainable in these times.
He said BMA is open to all students, not just Black students, including those working on their masters or undergraduate studies.
“We’re here on campus and we’re going to use our platform to bring awareness to business issues, and the issues that affect the Black community. It’s just to know that we’re an ally. We want to make sure that we build those alliances,” he said.
Tonya Bradford, associate professor of marketing and BMA faculty advisor, said the idea for BMA came after shortly after the murder of George Floyd.
Students needed someone to talk with on campus, but they couldn’t find each other in a time of pain.
“We thought it would be a good opportunity to create community so they wouldn’t feel so alone. In six short months, we’ve identified 50 odd alum and working toward identifying more, she said.
They are looking at to facilitate building community, and partnering with the broader business community. With about 2% Black students on campus, connecting is always a challenge.
“[It’s] also trying to figure out what they need to diversify, and what’s best for Orange County. You can’t do that without Black people at the table. We all have to be at the table,” she said.
The program envisions hosting fireside chats, bringing senior staff and faculty members together with students to discuss topics close to heart. In the past, they have hosted Dr. Deena Brown with campus career services, who talked about creating and managing personal branding.
The Black Cultural Center is also working with BMA, which she hopes will open the door wider to draw in Black students who may not be involved because the student programs don’t usually intersect.
“That is one of the things we’re trying to overcome. If we have 8-10 programs, each program may have one or two black students, who feel very alone, but there may be 20 students across programs,” she said.
In the past, they’ve hosted dynamic speakers, including UCI Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Douglas Haynes, who covered the Black Thriving Initiative. That program is focused on addressing systemic anti-Blackness.
For both businesses and students, this quarter has come to a hard stop. Through the ordeal, BMA has been regularly checking in with students to ask how they’re doing, and to let them know they are not alone in the battle.
She said that there are big goals, and still a lot of work to be done.
“The most important thing is that we exist, and that we are looking for more people to join us, more Black people to come to UCI for their degree and be a part of BMA,” she said.
The good news is despite the trauma of the past year comes opportunity. Many corporations are starting to recognize they don’t employ Black people. They’re reaching out to colleges and universities to help identify candidates to fill positions.
She is also looking to galvanize career connections to help direct companies to the BMA to access prospective students and alumni. She wants to partner with Black businesses in Orange County, and create networks to help students access higher-tiered professional contacts.
“If your parents didn’t work in a Fortune 500 or Fortune 50 company, or [served] on a board, they may not have these contacts for you. Our community has always used our community to support one another in advancing in those ways. This is no different,” she said.
To learn more about BMA, see https://merage.uci.edu/diversity-equity-inclusion/black-management-association.html