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Choosing diversity

Mabel Acosta (MBA ’20) has always valued inclusive communities. Now, she’s putting her passion to use, promoting diversity at a top business school.

She enrolled at the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2018. But her relationship with the School stretches back almost a decade.

Her brother is a member of the U.S. military, and was stationed about an hour from UNC for a time. He’d visited campus, and raved about the friendly, collaborative culture he saw.

When Acosta made up her mind to go to business school, she couldn’t ignore her brother’s input. She earned her MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler, all the while promoting diversity in the community.

Well-rounded experience

After graduating from her bachelor’s in operations and supply chain management, Acosta worked for a few years with auto-parts giant, Gentex, in Michigan. “My role culminated in being a team trainer for newcomers to the material planning area,” she explains.

Getting to grips with the onboarding process made her realize just how important personal development was for advancing your career. After speaking with her managers and directors, she discovered what they all had in common: well-rounded experience.

Going to business school was a great way to round out her own experience quickly.

Choosing diversity

While choosing her MBA, Acosta was conscious that she’d have to step away from her job for two years—the program had to be a sound investment.

Being a Hispanic-American woman, finding an MBA with a community that celebrated diversity was equally crucial to Mabel. For this reason, she chose a Consortium school.

The Consortium is a group of U.S. business schools committed to helping students from minority and underrepresented groups into management positions.

Businesses from Google to Accenture also share the Consortium’s mission, and donate to their scholarship fund. As one of Consortium’s 21 member schools, UNC Kenan-Flagler fit the bill.

“At UNC Kenan-Flagler we talk about diversity so much, and it’s something that students are very much involved in,” Acosta reflects.

This cohort also made her realize how unique her own experience was.

“From being a Hispanic woman, all the way to being someone working in supply chain in Michigan, there are so many things that I didn’t realize were unique to me,” she explains.

Planning diversity week

When Acosta arrived on campus, she found an outlet for her passion for celebrating diversity.

As vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for the MBA Student Association (MBASA), she worked with the MBASA executive council, the eight diversity clubs under the council, new clubs being organized, and the larger UNC Kenan-Flagler community.

“Those clubs range from religious affiliation, to minority affiliation, to international students,” she explains.

This student body diversity is also represented by the international flags that hang on campus. Flags that represent the School’s diversity – including LGBTQ+ Pride flag, the Pan-African flag and Native American flags – hang in front of Koury Auditorium, a central gathering place for the community.

As soon as Acosta took up the mantle of VP, she set out to celebrate this varied community by planning UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Diversity Week.

“We collectively put on events that show what it means to be diverse here on campus and out in the workforce, and how we can be treated equitably as a student body,” she says.

Events ranged from stress and anxiety workshops to panels on women in business.

Bringing the week together was great practice for the time management challenges she’s likely to face when she graduates.

Standing at checkin table Mabel Acosta smiles at CWIB teamWorking with eight clubs, and liaising with the MBASA – all the while earning her MBA – was an enormous undertaking, but Acosta felt supported by her peers.

The trick, she says, is to start planning as early as possible, and stay in communication.

“I wanted to bring all the clubs together, and started planning immediately. Presidents of the eight diversity clubs took that on right away and ran with it,” she recalls.

New horizons

Hoping to learn about a new business function, Acosta undertook a summer internship in marketing with diagnostic equipment manufacturer Danahar.

This involved taking a device to a new market segment, conducting research with an emphasis on user experience.

After graduating, she joined Thermo Fisher Scientific as a general management graduate leadership development participant.

Wherever she finds herself, Acosta plans to use the diverse network she’s building to stay abreast of opportunities.

“The UNC MBA pushed me to network even more, and develop relationships that I can continue after business school,” she says.

In addition to serving as vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion for the MBASA, Acosta earned a Sustainable Enterprise concentration and studied abroad, including a Doing Business In course Australia and a Global Election Immersion on entrepreneurship is South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.

This article was originally published by BusinessBecause.