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Apr 2018

Anderson Cooper Advocates for Student at ROMBA Conference

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Ahead of announcing our keynote speaker for the 2018 ROMBA Conference, we sat down and interviewed a student who had an interesting experience at the 20th Gala Celebration. During a Q&A with Anderson Cooper, he got up and asked a him a question which led to a heartfelt encounter.

During the 20th Gala Celebration at the 2017 ROMBA Conference, attendees were treated to a keynote speech by Anderson Cooper. Touching on aspects of his personal and professional life, Anderson spoke about people he has interviewed and the impact their lives have made on him. When the time for audience questions came, one student from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College stood up and began speaking, which would later turn into very meaningful conversation.  Andrew is a MD/MBA student with plans to do a residency in dermatology after graduation. He’s interested in fixing problems in the healthcare system, specifically how data is organized and used in clinical roles. Reaching Out spoke with him over the phone to learn more about his experience.

Was this your first time attending ROMBA?
Yes it was, I had never heard about it before. I received an email from the Tuck Pride Club which let us know that the event was happening and that people said they had a great experience at last year’s conference in Dallas. We were lucky that the conference was in Boston which is pretty close, so at least a dozen or so of us went. Considering how small Tuck is, that’s a large group.

Tell us about your experience at the conference.
Being part of the LGBTQ community is such a strong shared experience that it isn’t easy to describe what it’s like being in the environment of ROMBA. I thought that going to ROMBA would be a great opportunity to meet people in different industries and MBAs across the country. I’ve lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, so I’m used to having a large LGBTQ social group. I love Tuck, but there are so few of us. That lifestyle is not comparable in a place like Hanover, New Hampshire. I had to remember that most of the people there identified as LGBTQ, and when I remembered that it struck me as something very remarkable. As much as I want to be myself in all situations, I feel a bigger freedom in talking certain things when people around me have gone through the process of coming out. It’s liberating in a certain sense.

Were there any sessions that stood out to you?
I’m focused in health care, so I went to a lot of the healthcare coffee chats. I also really liked the lunch with Martine Rothblatt since I’m very interested in transgender healthcare and how the role of doctor-patient interactions is changing. The social events were nice too; I was invited to McKinsey’s networking session which ended up being a comfortable environment for meeting other students.

In addition to being part of the LGBTQ community, are there other groups you identify with?
I am a Korean-American man, born in the US. My parents are also very Americanized but are tied to aspects of being a Korean-American that are closed off to the LGBTQ community. They’re still very involved in church where messages there portray LGBTQ people in a negative light. They’ve seen people ostracized from Korean and church communities, including myself.

Could you tell us about your experience of coming out?
I had come out to my parents maybe a year or two before Anderson Cooper publicly came out. It was a difficult conversation to have. We never talked much about it, but when we did it was always tearful. They asked me to reconsider my sexuality and tried to set me up with girls. Much like Anderson’s mother said to him, my parents said that I should not be so definitive, that I should be more open-minded.
When my mom opened up a conversation starting with her surprise that Anderson came out, I told her that I always knew. She said “I guess that gay people can be respected and successful.” Up until that point because of what she saw of Koreans and Korean-Americans, she believed that being gay was a barrier, which does have some historical truth. When she realized that who you are might be okay, and that there are famous and well-respected people who are just like you and turn out fine, that was a big turning point in our conversations.

What did you say when you got the microphone?
I told him that I was a big fan and thanked him for being out and proud because it meant a lot to me personally. I said that my parents hadn’t been accepting of me being gay but were beginning to be okay with it after learning that he came out. When I made those remarks to Anderson, I got very emotional because it reminded me of those talks with my parents.

Anderson said that if you found him afterwards, he would Facetime with your mom. Did he do it?
I was sitting with my friend Lindsey who also goes to Tuck, and I don’t know who found me, but someone from Reaching Out said that Anderson was looking for me which was a great sentence to hear. Because I’m from Los Angeles, I’m used to being around or seeing famous people, so my first reaction was just to interact with him like I would with anyone else. I told him that my mom didn’t want to Facetime because her hair was in rollers, so he recorded a video for her instead. He was very sweet and joked around, announcing that we were going to get married. It was such a genuine experience and made me realize that someone’s notoriety or public status doesn’t matter, it’s the experience of being LGBTQ that humanizes and bonds us.

What did you learn from that experience?
That whole week was a very happy week for me. I don’t know how to put it into words really; it’s the first time that I met somebody who meant that much to me and had such a direct impact on my life. In a way it was empowering, I left feeling very happy and also got a ton of questions from my Tuckies.
Besides being a really cool experience, it gave me a lead-in to conversations about coming out in a comfortable way. School had just started and I hadn’t had that conversation with most of my classmates yet. Everyone was really supportive when I came out.
I think it also in a way opened a door for me personally, in terms of helping me realize what kind of impact I want to have on society. I guess that was my first time speaking publicly about being gay, and it made me realize how powerful it is to share that part of yourself with strangers. It helped me reflect on more of my potential role as a gay American, especially in the medical field which can be very conservative. I guess it was also a good way to illustrate that my natural inclinations are okay and will allow me to have great experiences. It was a good reminder to be brave and fearless.

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Mar 2018

ROMBA Fellow Awarded Sands Family Social Venturing Fellowship

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In November of last year, ROMBA Fellow and 2018 ROMBA Conference Leadership Team member Kevin Deese (University of Minnesota – Carlson School of Management MBA ’19) was awarded the Sands Family Social Venturing Fellowship which supports a select number of Carlson students to develop their ideas for improving local communities. The Fellowship was founded by Bill & Susan Sands, graduates of the university who dedicated their lives to making the Twin Cities a better community. To date, the Sands Fellows have launched more than a dozen businesses to support workforce training for disadvantaged groups, affordable housing, medical devices designed for youth market, and a broad range of social venture.

How did you first hear about the Fellowship? What made you decide to submit a proposal?
There was a presentation during orientation that discussed the Fellowship. I didn’t have any ideas for a project at the time, but the presentation from Bill and Susan Sands and the current Fellows was really eye-opening. It was easily the best day of orientation for me – at the time I was wondering if I had made the right choice in going to business school, wondering if I would find purpose in my career choice, etc. The Sandses’ presentation made me excited about my decision to pursue an MBA because I knew that there was tremendous support at Carlson for people who wanted to figure out how to use their MBA in service to communities who need it most. It was during that session during orientation that I began to think about theissues I care about and could work to address. It didn’t take long for me to decide that the community I most wanted to serve is one that is my own: the community of people living with HIV (PLWH).

The ROMBA Fellowship also really spurred me to take on this project. Being named a ROMBA Fellow meant that I was recognized for having leadership qualities that could be used to promote equality and fair treatment of the LGBT community, and as I think we all know, there is great overlap between the LGBT and HIV+ communities. The support from Carlson and Reaching Out MBA put at the forefront of my mind my ability and responsibility to advocate for myself and others, especially within groups to which I belong. This is about giving back to other members of my community who are not as fortunate or privileged as I have been. Between the ROMBA Fellowship and this opportunity with the Sands Fellowship, I felt called to action to address an issue of concern to the HIV+ community.

What issue does your venture seek to address?
My venture with the Minnesota AIDS Project (MAP) is called “People Working with HIV” and is aimed at increasing access to employment resources and opportunities among PLWH in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. HIV research and medicine has made a lot of progress since the AIDS Crisis: people are aware of what it is now, and treatments can positively impact the lives of those diagnosed – yet the epidemic persists nevertheless. Moreover,there is great disparity in HIV statistics; in addition to disparities in race/ethnicity and sexual orientation of PLWH, analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that HIV disproportionately impacts economically disadvantaged communities in the United States.

My thinking on this point led me to pursuing the idea of leveraging employment as a tool for upward mobility in the HIV+ community. Further research in the topic revealed another potential benefit of this approach, illustrated by the following two concepts that numerous studies have shown:
-People living with HIV are at a higher risk for low levels of physical and mental health, and
-Employment is positively correlated to higher levels of physical and mental health

By boosting employment in the HIV+ community, we hope to drive not just upward mobility, but improved physical and mental health. We’re currently working on what our exact methods will be by interviewing MAP’s case managers and clients to discover their needs, researching the successful approaches that other cities have taken, and connecting both with organizations who specialize in workforce development and job training as well as with potential corporate partners who could benefit from tapping into this underemployed community to address their own workforce shortages and concerns.

How will you utilize your LGBTQ MBA and local community?
I’m doing my best to leverage the connections that Carlson is helping me make. I’ve been connected with some incredible folks who work in both HIV/AIDS service organizations and in workforce development. Minnesota is not only the “Land of 10,000 Lakes;” it’s also referred to in jest as the “Land of 10,000 Nonprofits” – so there’s a plethora of helpful professionals who are only too willing to share with me their experiences and resources. I hope that thisproject will have a large impact on the state, since 81% of Minnesotans living with HIV as of 2016 reside in the Twin Cities metro area. With such a high concentration of the state’s HIV+ community in one place, I’m hoping for this work to make a major impact on what living and working with HIV looks like in Minnesota. Additionally, working directly with MAP’s staff allows me to better understand how the organization’s resources are used by the community – and tailor our program around how the organization already delivers other services successfully. I’m also connecting a great deal with other HIV advocates and pushing for our issues to be prioritized through our political system: I just returned from AIDSWatch, and annual conference and lobbying event in Washington, D.C., where HIV advocates gather to network and to lobby our representatives to more actively take up the fight to end HIV/AIDS.

I’ll also be intentional in connecting with local and national LGBTQ and allied business leaders at the 2018 ROMBA Conference – here in Minneapolis, October 4-6! – to gain their buy-in and partnership. At the end of the day, it’s my hope that this project will help to change the lives and outlooks of people living with HIV here in Minnesota, and perhaps beyond.


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Mar 2018

Month of Service Recap: Out for Business – Ross, University of Michigan

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Post written by Club Leader, Dayna Hine

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business’s LGBTQ+ MBA student group, Out for Business, hosted its annual community-wide charity event, MBgAy, this February for ROMBA’s month of service. MBgAy is a drag show performed by MBA students (and some faculty!) to help raise funds for a local LGBTQ non profit. Highlights from this year include a show-stopping performance from students in the School’s Erb Program (pictured below), as well as surprise cameos from our very own Soojin Kwon and Diana Economy during the school Armed Forces Association performance.  This was a blockbuster year for MBgAy with 80 performers, over 500 attendees and raising $5,000 for this year’s beneficiary: Ozone House.

Ozone House is a community-based, nonprofit agency that helps young people lead safe, healthy, and productive lives through intensive intervention and prevention services. For more information, visit (http://ozonehouse.org/).


Prior to MBgAy Out for Business hosted an educational event for all of MBAy performers on the history of drag. Performers learned the history of drag’s influence in the LGBTQ movement dating back to the Stonewall Riots in the late 1960’s. The group also used the time to have an important conversation about gender identity and expression.


Thank you, Out for Business!

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