04 Feb 2022

2021 RISE Fellows Profiles


by Shona Simkin

This fall, as part of the Harvard Business School (HBS) Action Plan for Advancing Racial Equity, 20 MBA students were selected as the inaugural recipients of the Recognizing Individuals Seeking Equity (RISE) Fellowship. The fellows were chosen for their demonstrated commitment to serving Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, and other marginalized communities of color within the US prior to enrolling at HBS.

The 2021 RISE fellows are MBA Class of 2023’s Adan Acevedo, Jerome Fulton Jr, Amari Griffin, Tarebi John, Zoe Matthew, Alejandro Molina, Ted Obi, Chidalu Onyenso, Lanita Patton, Nashae Roundtree, David Velasquez, Mireille Verdonk; and MBA Class of 2022’s Siham Adous, Aaron Hancock, Brian Hollins, Diego Salas, Devon Sandford, Lucas Santos, Xonana Scrubb, and Tracey Thompson.

“This first round of fellows, which includes current students, are continuing their remarkable work within the HBS community,” said Katie Kelsall, assistant director of MBA Financial Aid. “We were so impressed by the breadth of contributions these students have made to marginalized communities and think that their stories are a true testament of the value of a fellowship like this one.”

Below we’re highlighting eight of the 20 RISE recipients to learn more about their work, motivations, and plans for the future.

Adan Acevedo (MBA 2023)

For Adan Acevedo (MBA 2023), success is defined by integrating equity and diversity work into his day-to-day life as an MBA student and aspiring entertainment executive.

“I figured out early on that when I wasn’t investing in the community or supporting people, my overall work would be affected,” said Acevedo. “I was less productive, less focused, and felt like what I was doing wasn’t enough. Oddly enough, adding another hour or two of volunteer or mentoring work, especially in these past two years of the pandemic, made me feel like I had more time. The more I connected to people and communities, the more excited and fulfilled I felt.”

Read Adan's profile.

Siham Adous (MBA 2022)

Siham Adous (MBA 2022), sees her education and career paths as being inextricably linked to social impact.

As a first generation American and daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, Adous arrived at college in Atlanta and was struck by how little her undergraduate campus reflected the diversity of its city. After learning about the inequities in the US education system that largely drove that representation gap, she took a consulting job with Boston Consulting Group’s education team to explore and help develop solutions for those challenges. As part of their social impact committee, she led a strategy hackathon with local nonprofit leaders to ideate ways to expand effective STEM programming for Atlanta K-12 students.

Read Siham's profile.

Jerome Fulton Jr. (MBA 2023)

By the time Jerome Fulton Jr. (MBA 2023) was five years old, he had lost both of his parents to gun violence. After putting himself through school, he vowed to help others with similar life stories.

In his first consulting role, Fulton joined an in-house program to advance Black executives, where he spearheaded recruiting efforts, increased outreach to HBCUs, raised a record $24,000 for a scholarship fund, and signed on to mentor and train underrepresented minority students for full-time job opportunities. Impressed by diversity efforts at an accounting workshop–less than one percent of accountants are Black–he became an inclusion champion for the American Institution of CPAs and traveled around the country to share his CPA journey. Two years ago, Fulton founded the Angel B. Wilson Foundation to help Miami youth affected by gun violence.

Read Jerome's profile.

Aaron Hancock (MBA 2022)

Aaron Hancock (MBA 2022) has threaded racial equity work into his career in real estate investing and his time at HBS, focusing on creating lasting change and being a visible Black person in industries that are notoriously lacking diversity.

In 2017, soon after Hancock joined a private equity firm in Washington, DC, the CEO sent out a call for ideas–as the new chair of the Pension Real Estate Association (PREA Foundation), she sought new ways of achieving the foundation’s mission of increasing diversity in the industry. The firm already hosted a well-established summer internship for young college students, primarily people of color and women, which Hancock had co-led the prior year. What if PREA started a similar training program? As an alumnus of Seizing Every Opportunity (SEO), which trains college students for jobs on Wall Street, Hancock thought there was an opportunity for partnership. He pitched the idea to the CEO and helped to structure and grow the program.

Read Aaron's profile.

Lanita Patton (MBA 2023)

Lanita Patton (MBA 2023) sees uplifting underrepresented minorities as a non-negotiable element of her life and career. Her own success has been bolstered by support and mentorship—playing that role for others is foundational to her definition of fulfillment.

“I applied to business school because I wanted to elevate my executive presence and business acumen in a way that allowed me to break barriers in my future career and build new tables for others to join—to amplify those voices that seem more silent,” said Patton. “I know that I can do this in any role–it’s aligned with my passion and purpose. I’m excited to have that as a guide towards my North Star. It’s already led me to the Harvard Business School, and to this RISE fellowship.”

Read Lanita's profile.

Nashae Roundtree (MBA 2023)

Throughout her undergraduate education, professional career, and now her first year at HBS, Nashae Roundtree (MBA 2023) has pursued her passion for the underserved, seeking connection with communities from her past and present.

As an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, Roundtree was an ambassador for Illinois Promise, a scholarship awarded to first-generation college students with household incomes below the federal poverty line, approximately 60 percent of whom were underrepresented minorities. She served on their advisory board and planned community-building events to help the scholars adjust to college and professional life.

Read Nashae's profile.

Diego Salas (MBA 2022)

Since leaving Venezuela at age 18, Diego Salas’s (MBA 2022) career and educational paths have been shaped by his passion for the Latin American community and his quest for a sense of belonging and normalcy.

In 2013, after a brief stint in Europe with the World Education Program, Salas started his first year of college at Northeastern University. He set about navigating the city and his new environment, but nothing felt normal. Day to day realities were an improvement from the instabilities in Venezuela—his bank account was unaffected by currency fluctuations and there was an abundance of choice at the supermarket—but it was also unsettling in its newness. He saw a clear goal: easing that transition for others and helping Latin American communities in need. He received an investment banking job offer after his second internship, accelerated his degree path, and graduated from Northeastern in four years.

Read Diego's profile.

Xonana Scrubb (MBA 2022)

Xonana Scrubb’s (MBA 2022) modus operandi, creating a legacy of serving the Black community, has guided her through a career in human resources, community development, to HBS, and will prompt wherever she goes next.

After graduating college, Scrubb worked on the diversity and inclusion team in a major investment bank’s human resources department, curious to learn how such an institution could create change in the communities most affected by the Great Recession. She also managed a scholarship for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and diversity recruiting programs at four universities. Through advocacy, mentoring, and many cold emails, Scrubb helped to increase the firm’s diversity hires.

Read Xonana's profile.

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