Keith Vaughn has been an advocate for strong minority business students for many years. For 10 years, he served on the board of directors for The Consortium and worked in the admissions office at the Marshall School of Business at his alma mater, the University of Southern California. He graduated from USC in 1994 and now works with accepted.com as an educational consultant.
Vaughn is also a long-time member of the Consortium’s Eagle Club, among the most dedicated donors to the organization. In our wide-ranging Q&A, Vaughn said “it should not be difficult to identify the Eagle Club as a viable choice” for Consortium alumni.
How did you first learn of The Consortium and what compelled you to apply for a fellowship?
A non-Consortium MBA alumnus first informed me of The Consortium and encouraged me to apply. The fellowship was an added incentive as well as the list of schools and the geographic diversity.
What did you do between undergraduate school and your MBA?
I chose to take a job in banking on the west coast immediately after finishing my undergraduate degree in economics. After several years, I returned to the east coast and worked with a small family business until following my fiancée to Chapel Hill, where she was completing her residency in psychiatry. It was there that we made plans to return to the west coast and, at the time, The Consortium had only one school in California.
Why have you decided to become so deeply involved financially with The Consortium? How would you persuade someone to become a member of the Eagle Club?
After finishing my MBA and accepting a job with the school, I initially believed my employment was an in-kind repayment or, at the very least, a generous opportunity to give back to The Consortium. However, as I became aware of the Eagle Club and witnessed Sherry Wallace (director of admissions at UNC) make a cash donation, I was encouraged to do more. She set a fine example for others to follow.
So, if more Consortium alumni find themselves in a position to be able to “pay it forward” it should not be difficult to identify the Eagle Club as a viable choice. During the OP, each of the respective schools does an excellent job in pursuit of a 100 percent participation rate in fundraising, as well as making a sizable financial contribution. This challenge should continue once students leave their respective schools to increase the numbers in the Eagle Club. There are many more successful alumni in the ranks of The Consortium.
How would you advise Consortium fellows to get the most out of their membership after they receive their MBA and move on?
Simply stay involved. Stay connected. Social media now makes it almost impossible not to be aware of the changes happening at the schools or in The Consortium.
To become a Consortium member, you had to show a demonstrated commitment to our mission. How have you carried that forward through today?
Black and brown and red and white are part of the rainbow that continues to make up the diversity of The Consortium. I worked for more than 20 years recruiting students who would add value to the ever-changing complexion of corporate America. One student, one alumnus, one successful career at a time makes a huge difference.
In what other ways does your work — personally or professionally — align with our mission?
As mentioned, my work was the work of the Consortium. Our missions were perfectly aligned.
Why did you stay with USC after your MBA? And what do you do now with accepted.com?
A dean at USC, Mark Zupan, recruited me and pushed me to support his efforts to make a difference. My only regret is that I did not follow him to Arizona and, later, to Rochester where he became the dean of another Consortium school.
Today, at accepted.com, I am afforded another opportunity to continue my effort to inform prospective candidates in pursuit of an MBA. As the list of Consortium schools has grown, many of these aspirational applicants are considering member schools of the Consortium, making it easy for me to engage them and answer their questions.
Where would you like to see The Consortium go in its next 50 years? Where are our growth or improvement opportunities, from your perspective?
In a multicultural climate and perpetually evolving corporate environment, there will always be a place for an organization such as The Consortium. New companies today, such as those in the Silicon Valley, are seriously lacking in being representative of the people who buy and use their products. America is not without its challenges but must continue to be the shining example for the rest of the world. Inclusivity requires a watchdog just as freedom requires laws.
The Consortium will continue to face challenges ahead that will require creative solutions. Its mission will morph with the unpredictable politics and diverse populations of tomorrow. Opportunities to strengthen its partnership with the schools and companies will never cease.
How has the climate for diversity in U.S. business helped or hindered you on your path? Has that climate changed over the years? Have you seen ebbs and flows? In what way?
Obama’s election in 2008 allowed some to believe that racial problems in America had been overcome or that we were seriously on the road to recovery. What we have seen though is that these issues have surfaced rather than been laid to rest or dormant and that our collective goals are forever intertwined with race, culture, language, politics and business. Schools are challenged to enhance their curriculums, to recruit and train the best students, to shape an inclusive business environment that can be both profitable and progressive.
When is the last time you referred someone—either a student prospect or a business associate—to The Consortium? What was the conversation like?
Every week I have a conversation about the Consortium. How could I not?