For the many Eagle Club members who attended The Consortium’s 53rd Annual Orientation Program & Career Forum (OP), the event provided an opportunity to not only reminisce with old friends but to also give back to the organization that has done so much for them.
Converging in Houston from all over the U.S. June 8-12, this elite group of donors to The Consortium — the majority of whom are alumni of the organization — provided current Consortium fellows with mentorship during the Technology Luncheon and beyond. Eagle Club members are those who have committed $15,000 or more ($5,000 over three years) to The Consortium.
For Eagle Club member Kim Harris Jones, who sits on the board of directors for TrueBlue and United Rentals, the annual conference is an opportunity to demonstrate the power of The Consortium, its network and where it can take you as well as to inspire students to one day return the favor.
“Interacting with students at the OP is important because hopefully it demonstrates how The Consortium can contribute to their career success and sets the right example for how they can also give back in the future,” said Harris Jones, who was initiated into the Eagle Club at this year’s OP.
The conference caused some alumni to reminisce on their own experiences as a student at OP.
Kelly-Ann Henry, who is the enterprise fraud manager for Toyota Financial Services, was inspired by her experience. “I left OP feeling better prepared for the upcoming school year, grounded in my career aspirations and feeling like I could achieve anything,” she said.
Rashid Farrell recalled how the event was both amazing and nerve-wracking. “I was in sheer awe that I was at an event with so many amazingly talented and accomplished people, and the caliber of companies that were present was just mind blowing,” he said. “My exploration and networking at the 2008 OP set a foundation for what would become my Consortium network.”
Farrell, who is senior HR manager at Microsoft, is the latest Consortium alum to join the Eagle Club. He played several critical roles at the 2019 OP, including as facilitator of an alumni workshop representing Microsoft.
Alumni Eagle Club members from earlier years noted how much the conference has changed since they first attended OP as students. Clarence Bourne, who attended in 1983, said that back then, students stayed in on-campus dorms instead of nearby hotels.
Beyond the accommodations, both the conference and The Consortium have changed much in size and scope over the last 35-plus years. “The conference has progressed tremendously since I attended,” said Bourne, who is an investment banker at Loop Capital Markets. “I think there were only eight or nine schools in The Consortium and around 200 fellows [at that time], as opposed to 20 schools and 500 fellows today.”
According to Eagle Club member and Senior Vice President of Enterprise Talent at U.S. Bank Kenneth Charles — who, although he is not an alum, has supported The Consortium for more than 20 years — some things about OP have also remained the same.
“What hasn’t changed is the genius of the fellows; you can feel their energy when you enter the room,” he said. “What has changed is the level of corporate support. At U.S. Bank, we have a desire that employees ‘see, feel and believe’ our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. That commitment was definitely in evidence among all the corporations and business schools sponsoring [OP] and higher than I’ve ever seen before.”
No matter how the conference changes, though, Henry said “it is always an opportunity to see some familiar faces, meet new people and learn something new — no matter why you’re there.” She believes it’s essential for current fellows to engage with and learn about the different professional paths taken by alumni.
“I think it is important for students who are entering their respective programs and for second years who are getting ready to begin their post B-school lives to hear those stories and to see those different portraits of success,” Henry said.
The most impactful aspect of OP for all Eagle Club members, however, seemed to be the ability to give back to The Consortium — whether of their time or money.
“A financial contribution, if you are able, is a great place to start,” said Charles. “It’s equally important to invest your time. [That can be] as simple as encouraging a potential fellow to apply. Each of us can find a way to share our gifts and talents with the organization.”
These Eagle Club members’ hope is that they’ll inspire in current students this same desire to pay it forward by giving of their time or money to The Consortium in the future. Achieving equity in the ranks of global management, Farrell said, requires the effort of all alumni.
“The network simply doesn’t work without our engagement. Even with staff and leadership at the helm of The Consortium, it only works if we as alumni give to ensure that future generations have the same access and privilege that the program has enabled for each of us,” Farrell said. “The needle moves when we are proactively engaging and [provide] support in these simple ways and beyond.”