04 Feb 2022

RISE Fellow: Lanita Patton (MBA 2023)


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.

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.”

As a first-generation college student, Patton joined her university’s Black student union, serving as treasurer to grow her own and fellow students’ financial literacy and to ensure that the organization could support campus-wide programs focused on cultural awareness. She also organized and led workshops and programs within the university’s minority business society, connecting minority students with resources and mentorship to help them navigate industries that typically are not diversely represented.

Early on in her career as a management consultant, she noted a lack of consistent mentorship and support networks–her BIPOC peers were struggling to create those connections through the constant cycle of new projects and teams. In addition to her client facing work, Patton took on a leadership role in the firm’s Black inclusion network and spent her time working on talent acquisition and retention strategies and creating internal mentorship programs to aid in sponsorship and progression and leading external career workshops connecting historically Black college undergrads with corporate professionals. Throughout her career she coached and mentored interns and colleagues formally and informally.

“I wanted to provide the support and advice that is essential for people of color to not only succeed but thrive in the corporate environment,” said Patton. “Advocacy from others is very important in your career, but self-advocacy is even more valuable. If you don’t believe in yourself and aren’t able to speak up when no one else can speak for you, how do you progress?”

Patton has also been a lifelong dancer, and in 2017 founded First Impressions, a dance company to empower women and girls through movement.

“For me, dancing is a universal language,” said Patton. “I started dancing when I was very young and have been able to use my passion to uplift others. Empowering women of all ages, backgrounds, life experiences, and lifestyles is extremely important to me–it’s a common theme throughout all of my personal and professional endeavors.”

At HBS, Patton has taken on a leadership position within her section as the community values representative, a role befitting to her as she often reflects on the tribe that has supported her throughout life. She is also on the African American Student Union’s (AASU) H. Naylor Fitzhugh conference committee–a role that is particularly meaningful as her first introduction to HBS was attending the 2020 AASU conference. The warmth and encouragement that she encountered from students and faculty, she said, made her feel like she belonged. Patton aims to work in brand management and strategy upon graduation.

“Through the products, services, and ways that companies are branded, I can continue to hone my creative skills and uplift underrepresented voices, communities, and stories,” said Patton. “The communities that brands decide to serve, and how they educate and serve those communities, is broad enough for me to explore but still fulfill my objectives and passions.”

Read the profiles of all eight RISE fellows.

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