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How can a supportive community help exceptional young people realize their full potential and empower them to make their mark on business and society? Earlier this fall, Chicago Booth explored this topic with dozens of these future leaders as part of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow Pre-Application Seminar.

Launched in 2002, Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) is a nonprofit that provides college and MBA preparation as well as career advancement resources to its community of Rising Leaders: 8,000 high-achieving women and men from underrepresented communities. All of these resources are part of MLT’s mission to expand the talent pipelines at leading companies and organizations.

Booth hosted this year’s seminar virtually, welcoming Black, Latinx, and Native American students interested in business school for two days of learning and networking. The conference featured a welcome from dean Madhav Rajan, a session on Choosing Leadership by professor Linda Ginzel, and interactive panels with current students and alumni.

Booth will host this MLT conference again in 2022, and will remain engaged and connected to MLT Fellows until then, inviting them to a week of diversity events and other admissions events, as well as connecting with new fellows in the organization as they navigate their journeys to business school.

At this year’s event, a highlight was a fireside chat between entertainer and activist Amanda Seales and current Full-Time MBA student Morgan Franklin on the topic, “She Be Knowin’: The Intersection of Comedy and Activism.”

Franklin chatted with us about her talk with Seales, the power of storytelling, and the importance of broadening our horizons.

Morgan Franklin
Full-Time MBA student Morgan Franklin

Booth: Seales has been praised in the entertainment world not just for her standup and her work on HBO’s Insecure but also for using her comedy to explore serious topics, like racism and sexism. What did you talk about during your chat?

Franklin: Just before we began, we found out that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, so right away the tone went from a lighthearted and fun chat to more of a serious conversation. She ended up talking about how to really hone your creative skill and pick the path that you’re supposed to be on—after all, Amanda entered comedy later in life after having careers as a radio host and rapper.

So, we talked about how she figured out how to use her talents and power through a comedic lens, and what that looks like. We also talked about the current state of America and how to include people in your circles that inspire you. It ended up being a pretty serious, historically-based conversation.

“I stand by the fact that storytelling is the most powerful thing that we have. It’s so important to tell our stories, and I want people to really celebrate what creativity and an intelligent use of talents can look like.”

— Morgan Franklin

Franklin: I stand by the fact that storytelling is the most powerful thing that we have. It’s so important to tell our stories, and I want people to really celebrate what creativity and an intelligent use of talents can look like. I think that for all of us, we want to believe that we’re on some prescribed path, right? Or that we’re supposed to know what we’re supposed to be doing in the future. But, that takes a lot of time and introspection. I define it as being “focused but flexible.” You’ve gotta be focused on what you’re here to do, but be flexible in what that looks like. Amanda was an excellent example of being incredibly focused on what your purpose is and flexible on how your purpose manifests itself.

Booth: How do you think talking with people beyond our usual fields of business—like entertainers and comedians—can help future business leaders think more broadly?

Franklin: I think it is imperative to learn from others who are not in the spaces that we’re in. When I look at someone like Amanda, she may be in the art space, but her world is still business. She’s still trying to figure out how to bring all these disparate pieces together and make them whole and learn from other leaders about how to run her business.

One of the key things she said is that hiring is the most difficult thing that she does. It was interesting that even for her, a comedian, that’s one of the hardest things she’s had to learn about trying to take her artistry and turn it into a business. We’re all interconnected. There is a bigger world that revolves around learning from people that think differently than us, but we’re all rooted in business at the end of the day.

Booth: It sounds like the MLT conference as a whole was a success. What do you hope the MLT Fellows learned about what it’s like to be a Booth student?

Franklin: A constant goal of mine is to dispel the myths about what a Booth student looks like. I really hope the attendees saw that we do have people, like myself, who have a breadth of knowledge across different topics, and are open to sharing and learning together. We’re not cookie cutter here. So, I wanted them to see that we can flex and have a lot to share, even though I know we are described as “quants.” We need them, and there are people in our community who don’t fit into any pre-described mold.