UVA Darden Students Help Push Fundraiser for Racial Justice Toward $100k Goal

By Jay Hodgkins

The MBA Students Care fundraiser for the racial justice organization Color of Change launched 3 June with a goal of raising $20,000 in the month of June. Just seven days later, the effort had surpassed $50,000 through more than 1,000 donations, and the group of MBA students ⁠from 22 Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management member schools — including University of Virginia Darden School of Business student members of the Consortium — quickly reoriented their goal to $100,000 by 30 June.

With the momentum the group has built, organizers also plan to share educational resources to help in the cause for racial justice and equity, and are developing plans to ensure the efforts endure.

Sophie Eckrich and Kathleen Llontop, Darden’s Consortium liaisons in the Class of 2021, said the campaign coalesced quickly following the killing of George Floyd and a weekend of nationwide protests. On 1 June, the Consortium liaisons in the Class of 2021 and incoming Consortium students in the Class of 2022 began to discuss what they could do as a community to unite and make an impact. The Consortium’s mission is to bring diverse perspectives into the workplace by reducing the underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in American MBA programs and, in turn, in the ranks of American business.

“The Consortium was originally created in 1966 to combat the pervasive corporate culture of unequal access for African Americans, and now focuses more broadly on reducing the underrepresentation of minorities, namely Black, Latinx, and Native American people, in business education and leadership,” Eckrich and Llontop wrote by email. “We look forward to continuing to work with our peers, faculty, administration and future employers to lead together on these essential issues with everyone committing to leadership. We welcome anyone in the community to engage with us in dialogue on any of these topics.”

One of the Consortium’s partner schools, Darden awards around 20 full-tuition scholarships plus additional partial scholarships to Consortium members each year through the Darden School Foundation and Darden Annual Fund, and Consortium members are also eligible for scholarships offered through the Darden School. While Darden’s Class of 2022 will not enroll until August, the School expects a record number of Consortium students to join the full-time MBA program.

Eckrich and Llontop credited Consortium students from Michigan Ross and Cornell Johnson, among many others, for quickly mobilizing a meeting among the 20-plus member schools in order to create an action plan, designate a recipient of the donations and set the initial goal. The group chose Color of Change due to its role as an organization that “puts public pressure on governments and corporations by calling out and mobilizing people via petitions, along with advocacy for legislation that affects the lives of Black Americans.”

After shattering expectations with more than $30,000 donated in 24 hours, the campaign began to draw media attention from publications such as Poets & Quants.

“We were certainly shocked and amazed that we were able to raise over $30,000 in just 24 hours, when initially our goal of $20,000 in one month seemed like a huge goal,” Eckrich and Llontop wrote. “We have seen our posts shared by hundreds of people and have truly seen the Consortium, MBA, and wider communities come together to support these causes. We want everyone to know that there are many ways to participate in the case for equity, and that we hope sharing this campaign and even donating is just one step in a lifelong commitment to working towards a world where each and every life is valued, included, and elevated to its fullest potential.”

As with the broader national movement for racial justice and equity that has risen in the wake of Floyd’s death, Eckrich, Llontop and their fellow Consortium members at Darden are focused on immediate action for long-term change. They cite statistics demonstrating underrepresentation of black men and women in top U.S. business schools — including Darden — and American businesses as cause for their call to action.

“We believe it is essential for MBA programs and businesses to strengthen their representation and to make tangible commitments to doing so,” Eckrich and Llontop wrote. “We encourage Darden and UVA as a whole to commit to specific, measurable actions to become leaders in the advancement of Black and minority people through education and advocacy. We believe there are specific areas in the educational experience and Darden’s place in the Charlottesville community where a greater impact can be made, building upon previous efforts, and we look forward to working with our peers and the School to move these initiatives forward.”

Dean Scott Beardsley and Darden’s leadership team in early June vowed to take “concrete actions” to advance issues of diversity and inclusion, and, among other steps, formed a new racial equity and inclusion working group with a mandate to offer recommendations for the short, medium and long-term.

In the immediate term, Darden’s Consortium members plan to continue driving their initiative forward with additional social media efforts to educate their personal and professional networks on the issues of systemic racism in the U.S. They ask supporters to spread their efforts by using the hashtag #MBAStudentsCare or by learning more and donating on their fundraising campaign page.

And like so much at Darden where student self-governance and student-led initiatives are a key element of the education experience ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for nine years in a row by The Economist, Eckrich and Llontop have focused on the power of their fellow students to join them as allies in creating change.

“As the U.S. and global business leaders of tomorrow, MBA students in particular have a responsibility to be key activists in the conversation and do their part in reshaping the business landscape,” they wrote. “We ask our classmates to please walk beside us in this mission. We hope that each and every one of our classmates at Darden will take this time to commit to being a leader in issues related to racial justice, equity and inclusion.”

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Director of Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia