A Celebration of Black Excellence:

the 2022 ALE Conference, Endowment of the BBSA Fellowship at Michigan Ross, Naming the Second BBSA Fellow

February 24, 2022

By Bridget Vis

Smiling woman in wheelchair in sunflowers

There was much to celebrate at the 46th Alfred L. Edwards Conference — from recognizing the accomplishments of Black business leaders during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent social unrest to the announcement of the second Black Business Student Association Fellow and reaching a fundraising goal to endow the fellowship for future BBSA members at the Ross School of Business.

Organized by Michigan Ross MBA students in BBSA, the ALE Conference is the longest-running conference at the University of Michigan and takes place during Black History Month in February each year. The conference also coincides with Diversity Week at Michigan Ross, which features many events put on by the MBA Council and Ross student affinity clubs, such as the Asian American Business Association’s East Meets West, Out For Business’ MBgAy, and Michigan Business Women’s WomenX. 

Putting Black excellence on ‘Center Stage’

This year, the ALE Conference’s theme was “Center Stage: In the Spotlight of Transformation,” and events discussed the evolution of Black America in business and society in recent years. 

“In choosing this year’s theme, we wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of Black business leaders in the face of the rapid social and economic transformations that have taken place following the racial reckonings of 2020 and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” said the conference’s co-chairs, Patrice Drummond, MBA ’22; Kyra Grant, MBA ’22; Ana Taylor, MBA ’22; Kathleen McDonnell, MBA ’22; and Candance Samuel, MBA ’22.

“To us, taking ‘Center Stage’ is about simultaneously inhabiting the role of leader and storyteller, especially as it comes to addressing the social, economic, and political inequalities our community members face. Only by placing a spotlight on these issues, can we begin to create opportunities for ourselves and others to improve our access to better education, health, economic mobility, and success in achieving the ‘American Dream.”

The 46th ALE Conference co-chairs

Naming the second BBSA Fellow: Brittani Banks

Brittani Banks, MBA ’22, and husband TJ Banks, MBA ’21

After her husband TJ Banks was awarded the inaugural fellowship, Brittani Banks, MBA ’22, was announced as the second recipient of the BBSA Fellowship this year. With career goals centered around increasing diversity in healthcare delivery, Banks has been a leader and advocate for creating a more diverse and inclusive community at Michigan Ross and beyond.

“You were selected for your demonstrated impact in advancing the representation and leadership of underrepresented minority students at Michigan Ross and across the MBA community worldwide,” said Soojin Kwon, managing director of Full-Time MBA Admissions and Program, on behalf of the selection committee. “We commend you for your deep engagement in the community across many dimensions of the Ross MBA experience.”

At Michigan Ross, Banks has worked with faculty to help foster DEI content within the Full-Time MBA curriculum; increased the visibility of members from underrepresented backgrounds as the first African American female president of the Healthcare and Life Sciences Club; helped attract diverse students to Ross as a student and Forté Foundation ambassador; and launched an extremely successful health equity case competition that attracted participants from dozens of universities around the world.

“I believe I was selected because navigating my Michigan experience with diversity in mind is not an afterthought for me. For instance, within the healthcare concentration, I’m known to offer up the Black experience to help my professors and peers understand the community’s historical hesitancy and why a focused engagement strategy needs to be applied,” explained Banks. “Even as a student ambassador, being a visibly active contributing member in our community attracts other diverse candidates who want to impact the world as a Michigan Wolverine.”

“It’s always exciting to reach back and pull up others as I achieve. As a woman of color, I embrace the chance to lead with the purpose of creating opportunities for diverse prospective students.”

Brittani Banks, MBA ’22

Banks said the BBSA Fellowship serves as a reminder that her work at Michigan Ross does not end at graduation.

“As my time at Michigan quickly closes out, it’s a reminder to remain committed to the purpose beyond Tappan Street. Now, my focus is shifting from a student perspective to building on the commitments of other BBSA leaders and alumni,” she said. “The legacy is strong, but donating (once my post-MBA check clears), maintaining an open door policy for prospective and current students, or joining alumni association leadership is the least I can do to make it stronger.”

Click here to read this article on the Michigan Ross website.