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Alumni Share How The Consortium Brought Them Together

The Consortium’s annual Orientation Program & Career Forum (OP) is the first touchpoint for incoming Consortium MBA candidates as they prepare to embark on the next leg of their professional journey. For many, it serves as the starting point for not just their MBA journey, but also new careers, friendships and even romantic relationships. 

With the 55th annual OP around the corner, we wanted to share with you some of those stories of Consortium members who have gained even more than they expected from being part of the organization and how they have remained involved.

Launa Wood and John Bilal
Launa Wood and John Bilal

Launa Wood & John Bilal

Alma mater: The University of Texas, McCombs School of Business, class of 2017

What they are doing now:
Launa, manager, PwC Advisory
John, senior manager, U.S. Strategic Sourcing and Procurement, RSR Corporation

Their story: They met during OP in Phoenix and began dating several months after their first year of business school began. They were married in September 2017 and welcomed their first child in October 2020.

In Launa’s own words:John’s first impression of me during OP was, ‘She’s a handful.’ However, after continuing to learn about each other in business school, we were able to find many similarities with regard to both our professional and personal goals. Being able to have a partner who is just as ambitious and understands the challenges and pressures of being in business school, as well as the subsequent careers that we [pursued], is important. There was never a need to explain our frustrations, fears or exhaustion during business school — or now with our work — because we share very similar experiences. In the same vein, we know how important it is to celebrate when either of us had milestones in business school (or now in our careers) because we understand the challenges firsthand. 

“The primary objectives of going to business school should be to elevate and learn about yourself and explore areas that you otherwise would not have had the opportunity to in your previous career. If you happen to meet someone who you feel you could also grow with and grow to love, that is a plus! Do what you set out to do — grow and challenge yourself — and the rest will fall into place.”

Sylvia Flowers, Aole Ansari and their daughter Zahra
Sylvia Flowers, Aole Ansari and daughter Zahra

Sylvia Flowers & Aole Ansari

Alma mater: The University of Virginia, Darden School of Business, class of 2002

What they are doing now:
Sylvia, self-employed, working as an independent consultant in education and talent management
Aole, COO of Great Gulf Group, leading the U.S. Single-Family Build-to-Rent Platform

Their story: They first met at Admitted Students Weekend at Darden in April 2000 and again at OP in Chicago, in June 2000. They were good friends throughout their time at Darden and began dating after graduation. After dating long-distance through several jobs and cities (Houston, New York, Wilmington, Washington D.C. and Chicago), in 2008, they welcomed their daughter, Zahra Ansari, (now 12 years old) and call Nashville home.

In Sylvia’s own words: “While at Darden, we both were very active in the Black Business Students Forum, welcoming prospective candidates and first-year Consortium students into the fold. Aole served as president during our second year, and I served as co-planner of our annual conference. Over the years, interviewing prospective Consortium students has been a source of pride and provided the opportunity to give back to this wonderful organization.

“When I joined the Broad Residency in Urban Education in 2004, The Consortium’s OP was a great opportunity to recruit students. As an alum, I was able to attend the OP to recruit graduating students and post-grads looking to make a switch. OP has always been a wonderful place for reconnecting with old friends, professors and admissions staff. We are looking forward to our 20-year reunion in 2022 when, hopefully, we can see old friends and colleagues in person again.”

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