October 30, 2020 • By Sydney Charles
This fall, the UCI Paul Merage School of Business welcomes the new Black Management Association (BMA). The organization aims to create a community of rich inclusion at the Merage School and provide members with the opportunity to connect with alumni and foster meaningful relationships.
The organization was kickstarted by Professor Tonya Williams Bradford, who will serve as the faculty advisor, president Ryan McNichols FEMBA ’23, vice president of marketing Djenabou Bangoura FEMBA ’21, and vice president of events Jordyn Weaver MIE ’21.
In 2019, Weaver decided to pursue a master’s in innovation and entrepreneurship after receiving her bachelor’s degree in family and consumer sciences. She had just graduated from North Carolina Central University –– a Historically Black University–– and is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., a Black sorority. “I’ve experienced the benefits of Black students coming together and connecting with like-minded individuals who have similar backgrounds and face common struggles,” Weaver said.
Weaver is also the founder of The Black Market Company—an e-commerce platform that provides HBCU students and other Black entrepreneurs the opportunity to market, sell and expand their brands to consumers across different campuses and cities. By becoming vice president of events for BMA, this entrepreneur hopes to create a supportive space like the ones she benefited from during her undergrad years and also connect with local Black business owners.
Similarly, McNichols—a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.—shares the desire to increase Black representation in his role as president for BMA. Along with increasing representation, a personal goal of his is to help increase positive perceptions of Black professionals.
“It’s truly disheartening to hear CEOs of Fortune 500 companies state they can’t find talented Black people,” he explained. “Statements of this magnitude can deter Black people from wanting to pursue opportunities within corporate America and make it more challenging to want to achieve at the level they are capable of once there. Our goal with BMA is to change this narrative by providing Black students with a voice and resources to succeed at the UCI Paul Merage School of business and throughout corporate America.”
Bangoura, heading marketing for the group, is eager to work with similar student organizations: “I hope we will increase awareness, inclusion and support of Black students through various events, media outreach and forming partnerships with similar-minded student organizations at UCI.”
Another main goal, according to Professor Bradford, is to cultivate an inclusive environment for all students.
She explained, “I want the BMA to provide Black students at the Merage School an opportunity to experience a sense of belonging and a community that supports their educational and professional goals for years to come. When students experience world-class leadership and mentorship, they can do the same for future Anteaters and also within the communities they join as they develop their careers.”
Additionally, the resurgence of the #BLM movement and George Floyd protests provide an opportunity for BMA to focus their efforts.
McNichols said, “In this time of social unrest, I feel our time is now. I don’t think this is just for a period of time, yet a stage we’re going to have for years to come because people have brought light to it and want change.”
Professor Bradford also believes that the awareness due to injustice has created an opportune space for BMA to emerge and thrive.
“The focus on the relevance of Black Lives, the 1619 Project, and UCI’s Black Thriving Initiative have heightened our awareness and highlighted the need to create a culture that is anti-racist,” explained Bradford. “The BMA will be a vehicle for community—not only among Black students and alums, but also with allies.”
For McNichols, the organization is a chance to create an environment of success for generations to come:
“It’s not just about me. It’s about that next generation of undergraduates, even in high school or middle school. It’s about creating a legacy that’s sustainable.”
The BMA’s first event was a fireside chat on October 22 focused on building community within Merage School BMA members. Future events include a quarterly forum with speakers that will engage current students, MBA, SMP, undergraduates and alumni.