On February 17, 2023, in honor of Black History Month, over 100 University of Michigan students gathered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business for Closing the Gap Initiative. The day kicked off with opening remarks from Dean Sharon Matusik and continued with discussions around access and equity in business and tech. MBA student George Okpamen coined the day as filled with “intimate, real, and raw conversations.” In this vein, student leaders kept all questions a secret in an effort to provide genuine, unscripted responses for all guests.
Fintech in Action had the privilege of being an event sponsor, and Korene E. J. Smith, director of Fintech in Action, sat on a panel alongside Yelitsa Jean-Charles, CEO of Healthy Roots Dolls, and Isaiah Andrew, head of design at Nike Virtual Studios, to discuss how they are breaking down barriers in their respective industry. The remainder of the day offered panels around perspectives on entrepreneurship and venture capital (VC), designing for equity in big tech, and a student pitch competition garnering real-time feedback from those in the VC space. Additional speakers included:
- Rachel Brooks, head of product equity at Instagram
- Monica Wheat, managing director of Techstars Detroit Accelerator
- Mandy Bynum McLaughlin, founding limited partner, Zane Venture Fund
- Chris Trinetti, founder & CEO, decentralized international venture agency (diva)
- Marques Zak, director of cultural platforms at American Express
“It was truly wonderful witnessing students take charge and lead discussions on venture capital, entrepreneurship, and technology — especially since the event was run by Fintech in Action alum,” said Korene E. J. Smith. In industries that historically lack diversity, it’s extremely important for practitioners and students to come together for these authentic conversations. Not only does it breed innovation, but it also reaffirms that you are allowed to show up in these spaces genuinely.
More about U-Mich Business + Tech: Business+Tech strives to connect students across campus who are interested in the intersection of business and technology. They believe this intersection is the key to moving our world forward and seek to help students develop their tech literacy through hands-on workshops, events, speakers, and real-world exposure. Ensuring inclusivity and student access to grow tech literacy is more important than ever, and Business+Tech is a resource for students interested in this space.