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Meet the ROMBA Conference Student Leaders: Kevin Deese

Each year Reaching Out's staff selects a team made up of 8-10 current LGBTQ MBA (and related degree) students to help craft the theme and content at the annual LGBTQ MBA & Graduate Conference (ROMBA Conference), the world's largest business conference for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer MBA students and alumni. These students, who are selected via a competitive application process in mid-October, spend 9 months setting the agenda for our community.

As we approach the 2018 ROMBA Conference in Minneapolis (Oct 4-6), we'd like to introduce you to this year's Student Leadership team. Each of them has worked hard to make this the best possible conference for our 1,600 student and alumni attendees. Each team member will tell you a bit about them, share what they are doing for their summer, and also offer advice to incoming LGBTQ graduate students at business schools around the world.

Kevin Deese (University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Business, MBA & Humphrey School of Public Affairs, MPP)

Born and raised near Orlando, Florida, Kevin Deese graduated from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2014.  Prior to business school, Kevin worked as an Area Manager at Amazon and Strategy and Planning Manager at SIB Fixed Cost Reduction in Charleston, SC.  In August 2017, Kevin began pursuing an MBA at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management in Minneapolis.  Kevin is passionate about making a positive impact in the world and in his community.  He was recently awarded Carlson's Sands Fellowship for his proposal to work with JustUs Health (formerly known as the Minnesota AIDS Project) to combat unemployment and underemployment in the HIV+ community in the Twin Cities.  In his spare time, Kevin continues to pursue opportunities to perform onstage whenever he gets the chance, having grown up performing in school and community theatre.  His other pastimes include cheering on the Buffalo Bills and Navy sports teams, reading up on the latest national political news, and exercising in the gym.

What is Your School (Program/ Concentrations)?

I'm at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management for my MBA and Humphrey School of Public Affairs for my Master of Public Policy.

What are you doing for your Summer?

I'm working as an employment Consultant at JustUs Health in St. Paul, MN - Designing and implementing employment programming for our clients living with HIV and recommending long-term structure of employment services at Minnesota's premier HIV/AIDS service organization.

How did your first year in business school prepare you for your summer internship?

Carlson's experiential learning program - where we are placed in one of four "Enterprises" and work on consulting projects for companies and organizations mostly in the Twin Cities - was probably the most beneficial part of my first year of business school in terms of preparing me for this summer. In Carlson Ventures Enterprise, I worked on a team that advised a startup nonprofit on scaling up and identifying new areas of revenue generation. This experience was extremely relevant to the work I am doing with JustUs Health, and set me up to go into this summer with confidence.

What experience(s) do you hope to take away from your Internship this summer?

I'm excited to take away the experience of designing and implementing a program that will not only make a difference in people's lives, but also give me these skills that can be translated to a more traditional business context. I'm also excited about the consulting aspect of this work - I'm really diving deep into the problem in a unique way that will give me the insight needed to provide recommendations that are rooted in real-world application.

What's the most valuable piece of advice going into summer internships you can offer the incoming Class of 2020?

Don't be afraid to venture off the the well-worn path if none of the "traditional" opportunities are speaking to you! Finding an opportunity that resonates with you sometimes means creating your own, which can be scary but more rewarding than you might have thought!

What are you most excited about for ROMBA 2018?

I'm most excited to welcome everyone to my town! People are going to be blown away by what Minneapolis has to offer. I just can't wait for 1,500+ LGBTQ+ professionals to descend on Minnesota and experience the Bold North.

Any advice you have for people going into the ROMBA Conference for the first time?Be curious! Interact with any company that reaches out to you or that you want to learn more about. And perhaps most importantly, be sure to take every opportunity you get to build relationships with other LGBTQ+ MBA students at the conference - these are folks who might very well become your best friends and lifelong network.