Xavier Balerdi, Sandra Rayo Orozco, Mikaela Medeiros, Vladimir Charles, Alyssa Forbess and Nicole Howe pose for a photo in their UF MBA blue polos.
From left: UF MBA Diversity Weekend Committee Members Xavier Balerdi, Sandra Rayo Orozco, Mikaela Medeiros, Vladimir Charles, Alyssa Forbess and Nicole Howe.

UF MBA students host inaugural Diversity Weekend

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When I ran for the President of our MBA Association, one of my main goals was to increase and celebrate the diversity within the UF MBA program. To honor that commitment, I set out to create a committee of individuals that shared my passion to help create a new, diversity focused immersive experience for individuals interested in our UF MBA. In the fall we came together as a team to plan and organize our inaugural Diversity Weekend for prospective students. During the three-day event, people from underrepresented groups attended and had the opportunity to learn more about the Full-Time UF MBA program. We wanted to create an experience that showcased our program and encouraged people to see themselves as UF MBAs!

A man in a suit speaks to students in a classroom.

The Diversity Weekend Committee was made up of six students and a staff lead from the MBA Admissions Team, Jeff Danso, Assistant Director of Admissions for the Full-Time MBA. Each member was essential to the success of the event – sharing in the planning and helping lead a distinct aspect of the agenda. To get a full picture of the event, you need to hear from each member of the committee – so we each shared the details of Diversity Weekend and what it meant to us!

What was Diversity Weekend?

Diversity can mean many things, it includes, but is not limited to, students who identify with underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, women, LGBTQ+ individuals and active duty military members or veterans. During the three-day event, we wanted to specifically invite diverse prospective students to learn about our top-notch career services team, our career-driven curriculum and our student body. Our goal was to demonstrate the Warrington College of Business’s dedication to diversity and inclusion and show that everyone can find a home here at the University of Florida. – Alyssa Forbess (MBA ’20)

We also organized student led socials. We had a social and a game night, which were opportunities for the attendees to network with program students. We had very successful turnouts and attendees were able to ask current students questions about their experiences, thoughts on classes and career paths. – Xavier Balerdi (MBA ’21)

Why was Diversity Weekend important for UF MBA to host?

As a Full-Time UF MBA student, I’m fortunate to experience the incredible diversity of this program. I learn from classmates with diverse prior experiences, cultural backgrounds and ways of thinking every day. I got involved with Diversity Weekend, because I want prospective students from all backgrounds to know there isn’t one type of MBA student and they are welcome here. Diversity enhances this program and events like this help ensure that continues. – Mikaela Medeiros (MBA ’21)

What takeaways do you have from Diversity Weekend?

It was so great to see everyone come together – students and staff to make this event a reality. All the students seemed so excited to participate and it was fun to meet them all and get to know them. It can often be difficult for people to see themselves in any MBA program. I know that I struggled when I first joined the program, both as a career switcher and as a woman in the program. This event is an important statement that showcases our continued commitment to attracting and supporting diverse students. – Nicole Howe (MBA ’20)

A panel of UF MBA alumni listen at Diversity Weekend, one of the panelists is standing and speaking. Was Diversity Weekend successful in your eyes?

Was Diversity Weekend a success? The answer is a clear yes for me. This event was meant to educate prospective students from diverse backgrounds and ways of thinking, on what the UF MBA full-time program is all about. We wanted expose attendees to the level of support and individualized attention that they could expect from the MBA programs office, career services, and student body here at the UF MBA. By the end of our 3-day event, if any attendees entered the weekend questioning whether they would fit into the Gator MBA Nation, I am confident they left with an answer to that question. – Sandra Rayo Orozco (MBA ’20)

For those that may have missed the first Diversity Weekend, will UF MBA host another in the future?

It was extremely rewarding to be a part of the inaugural UF MBA Diversity Weekend. I really hope this event continues for two reasons. The first being that it gives diverse candidates a safe space to explore what UF MBA can offer them. Secondly, it allows students in the program experience organizing such an event so that they may take the experience and ideas forward to their future jobs. – Xavier Balerdi (MBA ’21)

As I still reflect on Diversity Weekend, I am reminded of how loaded the phrase “diversity and inclusion” has become today. Our program is not perfect and this program does not check a box off for us. Instead, Diversity Weekend is a part of UF MBA’s journey in making a commitment to walk the walk in creating a real experience for future business leaders. UF MBA has been a special place to me, and I hope that this event continues to serve as a platform to demonstrate a little bit of what makes our program so special to potential future Gator MBAs.

I want to send a special thank you to my classmates who were part of the committee – none of this would have been possible without you. Also, a very special thank you to Jeff Danso for listening, being supportive and continuing to support this major initiative since day one.

Spring 2020 Diversity Weekend Committee:

Jeff Danso, Assistant Director of Admissions, Full-Time MBA

Vladimir Charles, MBA ’20

Nicole Howe, MBA ’20

Sandra Rayo Orozco, MBA ’20

Alyssa Forbes, MBA ’20

Mikaela Medeiros, MBA ’21

Xavier Balerd, MBA ’21