Celebrate Black History Month: Students and Alumni Making a Positive Impact on Business and Society

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Join us in celebration of the great achievements and successes that made black history, including the valued students and alumni at the Ross School of Business who continue to make history every day. 

Black History Month is an annual celebration of the “historical greatness, success, and achievements of ‘all’ black people who matter throughout history, and who have revolutionized today’s America,” as described by the University of Michigan Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs. MESA explains that this year is particularly special, as we observe 400 years of black history since 1619. 

This month, Michigan Ross observes those within our community pushing the envelope to make a positive impact. From business professionals leading global diversity efforts, to students connecting differences, and consulting professors on inclusive curriculums and practices, these students and alumni are extraordinary.

Tamika Curry Smith, BBA ‘95

Vice President of Global Diversity and Inclusion, Nike, Inc.

Tamika Curry Smith is a first-generation college student and a leader with a passion for young people and education. Outside of her time at Nike, she acts as a mentor sharing life lessons and professional advice whenever she can. 

“I recognize that people are looking up to me and I am paving the way for others to follow in my footsteps,” said Smith. “My life’s purpose is to have an impact and make a difference.”

For Smith, Black History Month represents excellence. It represents the amazing, brave, accomplished people in the black community who came before her – both the household names and unsung sheroes and heroes. 

Last year, Smith was honored to participate in a program focused on belonging and unconscious bias awareness. She was a part of the team who delivered the content created from these efforts to Nike stores, distribution centers, and corporate offices around the world. 

“It was a phenomenal experience that illustrated first hand we have more in common as human beings than we sometimes realize, but our differences are also important and should be acknowledged, valued, and leveraged,” said Smith. “It’s not either/or . . . it’s yes/and.”

When asked about her legacy, Smith said she hopes those who encounter her personally and professionally say she touched their lives and helped them in some way.

William Tunde Osilaja, MBA ‘20

Student, Michigan Ross 

William Tunde Osilaja is an MBA student at Michigan Ross. At Ross, he is sub-committee chair of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, student mentor for Peer Support Network, and co-director of programming for the Black Business Student Association.

When asked what Black History Month meant to him, Osilaja reflected on his bi-racial background. “Being bi-racial is so esoteric of an experience, I’m not sure I can illustrate what Black History Month means to me in a couple of sentences,” he said.

“In America, I think it’s important for society to devote an entire month toward celebrating black history. If we’re not intentful exposing blackness (and other underrepresented minorities), our history tends to get swallowed up by the mainstream narrative,” said Osilaja.

Last year, Osilaja participated in a trek to Ghana, Africa, with his classmates which led them to commemorate 2019 as “The Year of the Return,” what he described as a call to the global African diaspora to go back home and celebrate their heritage.

For Osilaja, it was a reminder that despite cultural differences between black/brown persons, globally, both are still of African lineage and have unique similarities that can be discovered if they simply reach out to each other. He believes that society could use this momentum as a way to build social capital.

Osilaja makes a positive impact on the black community by using his bi-racial background as a tool to navigate different communities and connect people who do not look like one another. 

“I try to remind them [that] in the end, we’re all the same,” said Osilaja. “Specifically for the black community, the path to living in a post-racial society is understanding we cannot isolate ourselves. I hope to be one of the people that can help solidify that connection to other groups.”

Kori Scott, BBA ‘20

Student, Michigan Ross

Kori Scott, who is in her senior year at Michigan Ross, is one of the founders of the Ross BBA DEI Committee at Michigan Ross, and president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. - Beta Eta chapter which is part of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, a collaborative organization of nine historically African American fraternities and sororities. She actively advocates for her community and gives back through community service, mentorship, and philanthropy.

Scott views Black History Month as a great opportunity to celebrate African Americans and the significant contributions they have made to our country and the world. She also believes that black history should be a larger part of our curriculum and general discourse along with the histories of Asian, Latinx, Native American, and other minority communities.

One of Scott’s top accomplishments to date is having the courage to go into finance despite the lack of representation of black women. Her work on the BBA DEI Committee works to change that by advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in clubs, classes, and recruiting at Michigan Ross. 

In addition, Scott was part of “Umich in 100 Balloons”, a successful visual installation about race and equity at U-M. She also consults professors on inclusive curriculums and practices.

“I hope my legacy will be that I left this university a better place than I found it, and that the organizations I created and led continue to flourish and accomplish more than I ever dreamed,” said Scott.

Craig A. Vaughan, MBA ‘00

Chief Executive Officer, Vaughan Capital Advisors

Craig Vaughan is the CEO of Vaughan Capital Advisors, a self-sustaining mergers and acquisitions advisory and private equity platform, and founder of SPACE, a scholarship program for college-bound, inner-city children.

When asked what Black History Month means to him, Vaughan said, “[it is] an opportunity to reflect on how black people have contributed and can contribute to the promise of ‘America’.” 

“As a student of both media and economics, the discussion of black people at all times, including during Black History Month, offers a window into the opportunities and consequences created by language, pictures, and narrative choices,” he continued.

Vaughan shared that he is grateful for the educational and commercial opportunities afforded to him to share constructive information, freedom of choice, and capital resources to people of all colors as a part of his progression, and as a part of his commitment to his community.

“I make a positive impact by being present and committed to service,” said Vaughan. “My goals are simple: 1) solve problems for others using the same curiosity, creativity, and courage that the poor black kid from Bed-Stuy used to solve the problem of being hungry; and 2) do not create any more problems.”

Some of Vaughan’s notable accomplishments to date include his company VCA serving as the exclusive M&A advisor to Time Inc. on its sale of Essence Communications, the groundbreaking magazine created exclusively for African-American women; co-founding QueensBridge Venture Partners and investing into major transforming technology companies such as Lyft with famous hip-hop artist Nas; and creating a loving and functional black family.

Vaughan said that his legacy will be one of curiosity, creativity, and courage. “I needed to believe in the promises of America, and I had to deal with the consequences of being black and poor in America. This paradox has been a wonderful gift.”

“My hopes and aspirations are to be a part of creating powerful, sustainable institutions that constructively impact all of humanity,” said Vaughan.