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Fogel dinner participants listening to the panel

Make friends with everyone. Establish deep and lasting relationships. Speak up about the inequities you see in the world.

Those were just a few of the takeaways from this year’s Fogel Dinner, which brought together more than 125 members of the Booth community at Gleacher Center for a networking reception and an intergenerational panel discussion about diversity and inclusion. Now in its 40th year, the annual dinner fosters a sense of community and belonging among Booth faculty and students and alumni of color.

The event began in 1982 as a small dinner in the home of the late Enid Fogel, who had been an associate dean of students at Booth, and the late Robert W. Fogel, a Nobel laureate and the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions at Booth before his death. An interracial couple who faced discrimination, the Fogels started the annual tradition to welcome Booth students from underrepresented communities and help them feel more at home.

“When I first came to Booth, we didn’t have much diversity,” says Charles Lay, ’86, who attended one of the first Fogel Dinners and returns most years. “I think it’s wonderful that the dinner has become an annual event, and I love coming back for it.”

For Vanessa Buie, ’20, clinical associate of surgery at UChicago Medicine, the event was a welcome opportunity to network, reconnect, and meet current students. “Seeing people who look like you gives you an immediate sense of community,” she says. “Having that shared bond and feeling like there were people who were here to support me was invaluable.”

This year’s event, hosted by the office of Global Diversity and Inclusion, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first Fogel Dinner with a panel discussion featuring Full-Time MBA student Lesley Ihionkhan as moderator and three alumnae of color who spoke about the power of relationships, the importance of being heard, and more.

“Seeing people who look like you gives you an immediate sense of community. Having that shared bond and feeling like there were people who were here to support me was invaluable.”

— Vanessa Buie

Build Deep Relationships

Looking back on their time at Booth, the panelists agreed that strong connections were central to their experience. “I decided at an early stage to make a friend of everybody I came across while I was here,” said Barbara Landers Bowles, ’71, CEO of the Landers Bowles Family Foundation. “I participated in the community, and I stayed connected to students.”

For panelist Carla Norfleet Taylor, AB ’92, MBA ’93, who started her MBA as a dual-enrolled undergraduate at UChicago, that sense of community was particularly important. “I was among students who had years of experience, and I had no professional experience,” she said. “I was an ambitious, young, networking fool.”

As a student, Taylor connected with Bowles, who became a mentor. The two maintained their relationship, and ultimately Bowles hired Taylor for a role in her company. “Leveraging that network has a lot of power, and we shouldn’t underestimate it,” said Taylor, who’s now senior director and head of research-enhanced analytics for US and Canada corporates at Fitch Ratings.

Gaby Arismendi, ’21, policy analyst for the Board of Trustees at Chicago Public Schools, said her Booth experience changed the way she thought about networking. “For me, coming from a nonprofit background, networking was almost a dirty word—it was about trying to get something from someone while they’re trying to get something from you,” she said, noting that at Booth she discovered that networking can be a powerful way to build community. “So take every opportunity to form meaningful relationships with your classmates and alumni,” she said. “And show up as your authentic self.”

Be an Ally

When asked how Booth community members can support underrepresented minorities in their careers, the panelists reiterated the importance of mentoring and building relationships.

Arismendi advised attendees to pay attention to students or colleagues who aren’t the first to raise their hand or pursue an opportunity. “Some of us are the first ones in our families to experience this education system,” she noted. “We don’t have that cultural capital to know how to pursue internships or connections. So reach out. Ask, ‘What are you interested in? How can I help you?’”

Bowles, who said she was one of just a few students of color at Booth during her time there, spoke to the power of providing career opportunities for current students and graduates. “In addition to hiring Booth alumni, I hired two summer interns every year for about 10 years,” she said. “All of us can be helpful to each other if we do more of that. Let’s come together as a group, because we all have a lot to give to each other.”

For Taylor, it all goes back to keeping an open mind, maintaining strong connections, and learning from each other’s varied personal and professional experiences. “Whether it was attending someone’s wedding or their father’s funeral, the relationships I built as a student are deep,” she said. “And when you’re building those relationships in study groups and classes, don’t underestimate how much you can learn from your classmates who are people of color.”

“Take every opportunity to form meaningful relationships with your classmates and alumni. And show up as your authentic self.”

— Gaby Arismendi

Remember Who You Are

As individuals move toward their ultimate goals, how can they be sure to remember where they came from and maintain their sense of self?

For Arismendi, it’s about finding the right balance between individualism and collectivism—and remembering the power of collaboration. “It’s easy to feel like you’re competing with other students for internships or jobs,” she told students. “But you can turn that on its head and say, ‘We’re going to share information and resources.’ That’s how you get that sense of community developing.”

For Taylor, it’s also about raising your voice and working toward a more equitable world. “We have to hold organizations’ feet to the fire when they flash ‘DE&I’ on their websites. Are they following through on that from a hiring standpoint?” she said. “And don’t be afraid to speak up in your organization as you grow your career. The opportunity that we have as people of color is great right now, and now is the time to leverage that.”


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