An accomplished lineup of speakers, including NBA Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum, highlighted the 31st Howard E. Mitchell Memorial (HEMM) Conference, held annually by the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association in honor of Mitchell, Penn’s second black tenured professor. “His teaching career and most of his life was dedicated to corporate responsibility and diversity in the workplace,” said Dawit Gebresellassie, the Vice President of Corporate Development for BWUA and a Wharton junior.
The conference allows students, especially minority students in Wharton, to meet other successful people of color in the business world. Tatum delivered the keynote address and stayed over an hour after the conference to take pictures and network with students. During the keynote, Tatum encouraged students to “pursue [their] passion vigorously”, as he talked about how he made it to where he is today. “It is not only about what you’re passionate about and what you are good at but knowing what you are not good at,” he said.
New additions to the HEMM conference this year included a social media contest, where students who shared the most on social media with #HEMM2016 won a Wharton or Penn padfolio. Gebresellassie said that the goal of using social media was to make the conference more interactive for attendees.
The conference started on Wednesday evening with a two-hour bootcamp, where students learned networking tips and exchanged ideas about what types of questions to ask the professionals that will be at the conference.
This year’s conference theme was “Passing the Torch: Cultivating Black Excellence” and included panelists Denise Bailey-Castro, a director at Viacom, Brittney Calloway, CEO of Top Notch Property Solutions and Jason Wiley, vice president of the Philadelphia 76ers. Wiley was not originally expected to speak, but another panelist dropped out last minute. “Despite last minute changes the conference went smoothly,” Gebresellassie said.
“We wanted to branch out from just banking and consulting,” Gebresellassie said. The career fair portion of the conference, which took place before the luncheon, featured tech, retail and media companies along with banks and consulting firms.
Following the career fair, Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett present the two HEMM Scholarship awards. The first was awarded to College freshman Mary Osunlana, while the second was awarded to Wharton sophomore Victoria Brown.
In order to keep events running smoothly, Wharton junior, Kayvon Asemani and College and Wharton junior Billy Kacyem, were appointed Co-HEMM Conference Chairs. BWUA also sourced a corporate committee to handle all the necessary “grunt work, ”making calls and sending emails. This committee allowed underclassmen to get involved when they typically would not have the opportunity. “I wanted to help put the HEMM Conference together, to help younger students the way upperclassmen in BWUA helped me,” Kacyem said.
Previous BWUA board members attended as recruiters for their current employers. Simon Tesfalul, former BWUA president and a 2016 Wharton graduate said, “This was the best conference I have seen in years.” The conference usually takes place in December. However, with on-campus recruiting moved to the fall, the board members of BWUA decided it would be most beneficial to host the conference early in fall semester.
This shift in schedule required board and corporate committee members, and HEMM Conference Co-Chairs to work on putting the conference together during the summer, in order to secure space in the eighth floor of Huntsman Hall. They also had to coordinate with the large firms and companies who attend the companies looking to recruit students.