02 Feb 2022

2021 RISE Fellow: Aaron Hancock (MBA 2022)


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.

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. Since then, the PREA/SEO Real Estate Track College Internship Program has coached and trained nearly 300 college students for careers in commercial real estate.

“The worlds of finance and real estate are very structured and organized and hard to break into,” said Hancock. “If you’re not on that path as a sophomore in college it becomes almost impossible.”

Recently Hancock helped to establish a partnership between the PREA/SEO internship program and Wall Street Prep, the company for which he designs and teaches real estate financial modeling—he now returns to the program to teach financial modeling seminars.

“When I started in real estate, I didn’t see many other Black people. It’s important to me to be visible–for my students to see that this can be a path for them,” said Hancock. “Being able to bring the diversity piece into real estate investing creates a lot of purpose and energy for me in my day-to-day work.”

Hancock left HBS for the 2019-2020 academic year due to the pandemic but had been elected as one of three incoming co-presidents of the African American Student Union (AASU) in the spring of 2019, just as the murder of George Floyd prompted worldwide protests and reckoning. For the next three months, he worked with co-presidents Bukie Adebo (MBA 2021) and Alexis Jackson (MBA 2021) on creating letters, events, and conversations, and with classmates, faculty, staff, and administration towards developing the Action Plan for Racial Equity. Returning this fall, Hancock has been encouraged to see the progress over the past year and to see the commitment and work continue.

“At HBS we all talk about making a difference in the world. The spring and summer of 2019 was a huge learning moment–there were real life events taking place, and we were in a position to do something, we just didn’t know exactly what. It’s important to recognize that we all have the ability and power to make a lot of change, we just have to take the onus, the responsibility, to set out and try and make it happen.”

Read the profiles of all eight RISE fellows.

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