Latino Student Organization Hosts Alumni Dinner in New York

The Latino Student Organization (LASO) at Harvard Business School hosted its third annual alumni dinner at the Harvard Club of New York City on Friday, April 15th. More than 80 HBS alumni, current students, and guests filled the Harvard Club. Also present were members of the New American Alliance, a preeminent Latino business association, who were key in helping to secure the keynote speaker. The National Society of Hispanic MBA (NSHMBA) organization, who has been a partner in promoting the LASO program, had members present. Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) and Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) also had representatives at the dinner. Both organizations focus on providing career opportunities to minority students, and have many alumni on the HBS campus.

Founded in 1999, LASO is a growing organization for Latino American students and alumni. Since its inception, the organization has grown from six to over forty student members. The organization’s leaders are hopeful it will continue to grow, with more than 30 U.S. Latino admits in the Class of 2007 in the first and second rounds.

The highlight of the evening was keynote speaker Ms. Deborah E. Gallegos, New York City’s Chief Investment Officer. Ms. Gallegos oversees the approximately $85 billion in five pension funds for New York City’s police, firefighters, teachers, and civil servants. Prior to her work for New York City, Ms. Gallego was the Deputy State Investment Officer for the New Mexico State Investment Council, where she oversaw a $1 billion private equity program and worked with the governor on investing almost $12 billion in assets.

Ms. Gallegos’ speech was entitled “Opening Doors: Taking the Initiative in Providing Opportunities in Finance, Housing, Education and the Workforce.” The speech revolved around the opportunities that exist to invest in assets that will simultaneously generate a competitive return and support the local women/minority community. Some of the city funds are dedicated to these types of socially targeted investments. Another focus of Ms. Gallegos’ speech was advice on how Latinos can best position themselves to attain coveted financial positions in the fields of private equity and venture capital. “When people like Ms. Gallegos can act as a bridge between the investment and Latino communities, it gives Latino and other minority-owned firms a chance to be competitive, given that there is an inclination to only invest with more well-known fund managers,” said Wendy Vividor (NI).

The event was sponsored by Lehman Brothers. Julian Iragorri (MBA ’94), of Lehman Brothers, spoke about Lehman’s commitment to diversity.

The event offered students and alumni a great opportunity to meet each other and Latino community leaders. Participation at the dinner was higher than last year and included alumni from a variety of industries and job functions. Alumni traveled from as far as Arizona to attend the event in New York City. There was a strong showing from private equity firms that are focused on the Latino market, as well as representatives from various industries. “It was a great opportunity for current students to speak with alumni and learn from their experiences as well as to find out about new opportunities that are out there. As the new LASO Co-President, it was exciting to see the commitment of the alumni to the success of the LASO organization and their willingness to help with recruiting and job placement,” said Alma Mathias (NG).

Prior to the beginning of the dinner, a core group of students and alumni met to solidify plans for a new HBS Latino Alumni Association. Several prominent alumni leaders have already indicated their strong interest in playing an active role in the organization and are working diligently to establish it. On Friday, May 6 a group of students and alumni will discuss the next steps necessary to establish the organization. “A strong Latino alumni association is the critical element to sustain the connection between alumni, the students, and the school. This link will enable alumni to stay abreast of current issues at the school, students to have access to a valuable career and mentoring resource, and the school to leverage the alumni as evangelists of HBS and promote diversity. Because of this, LASO will have helping to build a new Latino Alumni organization as one of its top initiatives in the coming year,” said Anthony Alvarado (NI), the new LASO VP of Alumni Relations.