The African-American Student Union (AASU) hosted the 34th Annual H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference February 24 through 26 at the Westin Copley Place Hotel. The weekend-long event is one of the largest business school conferences hosted by a student club, both in the registered number of participants and financial budget.
Leveraging the diversely rich AASU alumni community and extended network, industry leaders served as panelists and shared business expertise on traditional topics such as entrepreneurship and real estate as well as unconventional issues such as the role of religion in business. Conference Co-Chairs Andrea Mitchell and Sarah Curtis-Bey, envisioned the theme of “Legacy” for the conference, defined by Merriam Webster as, “Something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.”
According to Mitchell: “Panels, roundtables and workshops offer opportunities for rich, one-on-one interaction. All conference participants had the opportunity to walk away with deeper knowledge, new resources, lasting relationships and a fresh perspective on what it means to establish a powerful legacy.”
The conference kicked off Friday night with a political roundtable on “The State of Black America.” Panelists included Democratic gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick and Lani Guinier, professor of law at Harvard Law School, who became the school’s first black woman tenured professor in 1998. Friday night entertainment was incredible with a spectacular performance by neo-soul artist Jaguar Wright, followed by “Swerve,” an opening-night party.
The Saturday luncheon nicely concluded the morning’s panels and workshops with the decoration of the AASU Future Leaders Enrichment Award given to six high school students. The award provides a deserving high school junior from the Boston metropolitan area with college-preparatory tools. Funds for the award were raised by RC sections to sponsor one student. An anonymous donation from a conference attendee provided funding for the five additional finalists who had completed interviews that morning and were at the luncheon with family members to hear the winners announced.
“It was an incredibly generous gesture that will make a difference in the lives of each of these kids,” said AASU Co-President Francis Idehen.
Tres Watson honored Bert King awardee, John Rice, with an inspiring introduction, following a moving speech by luncheon guest speaker Candace S. Matthews, president of SoftSheen-Carson, Consumer Products Division of L’OREAL USA, conference participants headed to the 7th Annual Entrepreneurial Ventures Competition. The winning team, which must include at least one (1) member of an underrepresented minority group (African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Native American or women), received a cash prize for its business plan and presentation. Following the competition, participants attended a career fair and networking event before changing into formal wear for the evening Gala.
The keynote speaker for the Gala was Ernest Green, managing director for Public Finance at Lehman Brothers, more famously known as one of the members of the “Little Rock Nine.” Green and eight other black students were the first to integrate Central High following the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education declaring segregation illegal. A Sunday morning gospel brunch ended the 34th Annual H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference on an uplifting note.
With over 500 attendees, the AASU conference is the flagship event for the organization. The 100-plus club members collectively managed conference events with active and full participation from each member. RCs were recruited as early as the first week of school to help manage conference panels, external and corporate relations, entertainment, budgets and attendance.
“The success of the conference is reflective of the hard work and dedication of the AASU community and alumni,” said AASU Co-President Natalie Eckford.
Conference Co-Chair Sarah Curtis-Bey said, “We define ‘Legacy’ as the endeavor to convert one’s dreams into reality and ultimately history.”
Next year, AASU will celebrate the 35th Annual H. Naylor Fitzhugh Conference and with it, 35 years of providing a forum for provocative discussion and creative action among conference participants from all walks of life.