Dec 04, 2015

Tuck: Where Voices Are Heard #TuckDivCo

By Shruti Nambiar T'17

Shruti grew up and worked in various regions in India. She studied civil engineering and worked as a field engineer at Schlumberger in Russia and India. Her long-term career goal after Tuck is to connect her background in technology with social impact. 

Tuck hosted its 23rd annual Diversity Conference November 5–8 and I had the amazing opportunity to witness and be a part of it this year.

The Diversity Conference, or DivCo, is a chance for prospective students to experience life at Tuck for a weekend, and hear from alumni about how Tuck shaped their careers and life. For us current students, it was another opportunity to celebrate the myriad diversities that exist in our small community.

Having missed out on the opportunity to attend DivCo last year, I decided to try and witness it through the lens of a prospective student this year. And so, on the first morning, I walked into Corporate Communications Professor Argenti’s class which focused on the Starbucks Fair Trade coffee case. As I re-lived my memorable AGM experience during Fall A, this time with the happy immunity against a cold-call, I was equally inspired by the insights from our visitors as they strived to match the challenges Professor Argenti offered them.

At the lunch session that followed, our visitors were treated to some interesting life stories from alumni Selemon Asfaw T’14 (Goldman Sachs), Chenae White T’13 (NEPC, LLC), and Edgar Pastrana T’11 (Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide). Assistant Dean Sally Jaeger opened with a few endearing anecdotes about them, like Chenae’s misadventure at Mount Moosilauke and her recent successful hike of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT); Edgar’s cute marriage proposal to Sally; and Selemon’s ever trustworthy character. When it was their turn, they spoke about the journey that led them to Tuck and how Tuck shaped their lives and continues to shape others’ lives. The speeches made me feel reassured about my choice to come here, and I hope our prospective students were reassured as much as I was. We also had a surprise guest speaker at the session: Chris Williams T’84, chair of Tuck’s Board of Overseers. His message to the gathering of future business leaders was simple: “Do not forget that business is run by people. And while you may be the most talented banker, consultant, CEO, people will only chose to work with you if you remember to treat them as people first, and clients later.”

After these moving stories, and not to mention a well-catered lunch, I wouldn’t have been surprised if our visitors expected a quiet afternoon. Much to their delight, and ours, the next session by Ramsey Jay Jr. T’05, president of Ramsey Jay Jr. & Associates, was power-packed to engage the quietest of audience. The ideal choice for a talk on “Finding Your Voice,” Ramsey left his audience with a strong message: Never be afraid of dreaming big, and his mantra of the “3-Ps,” Possible-Probable-Predictable, resonated with listeners.

The last formal session before social events began was led by the charismatic Raquel Melo, vice president of innovation and new business at Land O’Lakes. Speaking on “Leading with Diverse Perspectives,” Raquel laid out how success is about five key things: Who you are; what you know; how you show up; who you know; and who knows you. And among people who know you, why it is that you need both a “mentor” and a “sponsor” to achieve your career ambition.

To cap off this full day, there were a few last events which introduced visitors to social life at Tuck. Starting with small group gatherings that our second years opened their homes for, and ending with the large scale International Celebration with entire Tuck community, it was personally very interesting to experience these different scales of interaction on the same day.

And for me, this picture alone encapsulates the entire message of the day: When students from India and Pakistan jointly hosted a table full of amazing cuisine from my subcontinent.

The second day at DivCo was more focused on Tuck’s MBA program and career exploration at Tuck. Deidre O’Donnell, associate director in the Career Development Office, kicked off the breakfast session at Byrne, where applicants were given the opportunity to chat with more of alumni from various industries and learn more about their experiences in small group sessions. These discussions continued later over lunch at various restaurants and diners around the Upper Valley. Some of my fellow T’17s joined these and volunteered to offer rides.

The highlight of the day was the official closing dinner at Pine Restaurant at the Hanover Inn. Throughout the course of the evening, we heard from Dean Matthew Slaughter about why and how diversity is at the core of his vision for Tuck. We also heard from Professor Ella Bell Smith about why Tuck stands out in embracing everyone equally. Professor Ella Bell was also awarded with the Herbert Kemp Award for 2015 for her consistent efforts towards furthering Kemp’s cause at Tuck. The evening concluded with a keynote speech from Laurel Richie D’81, Dartmouth trustee and president of the WNBA. A brilliant speaker and an engaging personality, she shared with us her various life experiences, three of which I’ll always remember her by:

“My biggest supporter in my first job was someone as different from me as could be, and yet stood behind me for his sheer belief in my ability.”

“When I went to work for WNBA, I knew nothing of basketball, despite what people might assume.”  

“My nine-year old niece came downstairs dressed in a basketball jersey and high heels, for in her world, it never meant that wearing one meant having to leave the other.”

The day ended on a high note with the traditional Black Light Party at Cohen Hall which saw a  huge turnout from the Tuck community.

To complete my perspective as a possible applicant, I spoke to some of our actual prospective students about their experiences during the weekend. And for me, the following quote from a prospective applicant alone is representative of the success of the event: “I have been to many diversity conferences, but Tuck’s is the only one where the entire community has come out to host us, and not just the minorities for the minorities.”  

“Where voices are heard” wasn’t just the theme for the weekend—it’s a part of everyday life at Tuck, and our co-chairs clearly did a great job in getting this message across to our visitors.