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First-ever Men of Color Summit set for Saturday at UW

Driss Amara, Eliott Nardi and Ibrahim Abubakar.

University of Wisconsin MBA student Ibrahim Abubakar was enjoying his educational experience … but something was missing.

“I was getting what I asked for in terms of that challenging academic experience,” he said in an interview. “But I felt that some of my social emotional needs and community building was a struggle and something that I wanted to develop further. I also figured I’m probably not the only one having this struggle.”

That struggle, he said, came from being one of a relatively small number of men of color in the MBA program.

He spoke with some of the other members of that small cohort, and together they came up with an idea – the first-ever Men of Color Summit, a one-day, student-led event. It’s set for 9 am until 4:30 pm this Saturday, April 6, at the Pyle Center on the University of Wisconsin campus.

Eminent Development Corporation founder Julian Walters will provide the opening keynote. Two breakout sessions will feature six discussion topics ranging from personal branding to men’s mental health.

“It was a very easy process to identify and bring in some influential men of color who have a vast range of lived experiences, who are very much excited about coming in to disclose their experiences and insights they had in regards to empowering future generations of young men of color,” said Driss Amara, a second-year MBA student and member of the planning committee.

The summit is free to attend, though advanced registration is encouraged. Those interested can register at this link.

Though the summit originated in the business school, all are welcome to attend.

“Men of color occupy spaces everywhere, not just corporate America,” said Eliott Nardi, also a second-year MBA student and member of the planning committee. “They are in higher ed, they’re in research, they’re in education, healthcare, et cetera. How do we reach all of those different experiences?”

Nardi said he’s experienced life at UW as an undergraduate student, a staff member and a graduate student, and feels the need to the summit is summed up in two words: representation matters.

“I’m pivoting my career from higher education into the corporate business world, and that representation that other people have gone through similar experiences is really big for me,” he said. “Our program has a very limited (number of) men of color in it. Being able to see yourself, potentially, in the future successfully, I think is one of the most immediate things that I hope comes from this. We can have 200 men of color in one space and say, look, there’s a lot of different experiences here. There’s a lot of different pathways. There’s a lot of different modalities to be successful.”

Driss echoed that sentiment.

“Men of color obviously have wide range of lived experiences. We’re not a monolith,” he said. “I’m hoping that when men of color leave this conference, that they feel confident going into whatever space that they’re in, to be able to be themselves in a very confident way.”

“I hope that people will leave the event feeling affirmed,” Abubakar said. “I hope that people feel seen and feel like they can take what they’ve learned on that day and maybe help the next person. I also hope that this for the community and everyone involved creates more dialogue and vulnerability about our experiences as human beings in general.”

The summit is sponsored by the UW Division of Diversity, Equity and Educational Achievement, the College of Letters and Science, the School of Education, the Business School, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The organizers hope it becomes an annual event – or at least an ongoing movement. They’re all graduating this year, but welcome others to become involved in keeping it moving.

“We welcome anybody to raise their hand and say, ‘I’d like to be a part of what that looks like,’” Abubakar said. “And we can work with them on what the handoff looks like to the next group of students that will be planning in the future.”