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8 Things LGBTQ+ MBA Applicants Should Know

Sep 5, 2018
LGBTQI graduate business school students belong at Vanderbilt.
What LGBTQ+ prospective students should know before applying to business school, from fellowships to recruiting opportunities

By Kara Sherrer

Business schools are eager to build diverse student bodies, which include LGBTQ+ applicants, or those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. For LGBTQ+ MBA candidates who are out, there are many resources — both national and local — available for those looking for support and a community within the business world.

To find out what LGBTQ+ applicants should know, we sat down with Associate Admissions Director Zeke Arteaga, as well as Taylor Kunkel and Chad Fritzsche (both MBA’19), who are involved in the Out & Allied club at Vanderbilt Business; Kunkel is the president this year. Arteaga, Kunkel, and Fritzsche covered what MBA applicants should know from both the admissions and student perspectives as they research and apply to programs.

Reaching Out MBA is a great resource.

Taylor Kunkel (MBA’19)

Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) has been educating, inspiring, and connecting the next generation of LGBTQ+ business leaders for more than 20 years. “ROMBA is one of the best, if not the best, resource for LGBTQ+ prospective students to go to,” Arteaga affirmed. ROMBA offers a pre-MBA summit and treks, as well as a fellowship program at partner schools (more on the fellowship below).

ROMBA’s flagship event is the annual conference it hosts every fall, connecting students with companies specifically recruiting for LGBTQ+ talent. “It’s probably one of best opportunities in the country as far as conferences. You’re getting a lot of facetime, more than any other conference. The lines are very short so you can actually interact and talk with companies,” said Kunkel, who got his summer internship at PwC as a result of last year’s conference.

Companies are looking to hire you.

If you’re concerned about whether diverse, LGBTQ+-friendly companies recruit at MBA programs, the answer is yes: Brand-name corporations are actively looking to hire LGBTQ+ talent, as the recruiting events at any ROMBA conference will show. If you’re all right with being out during the recruiting process, this can help open up opportunities that might otherwise not be available.

“If you’re comfortable being out, be out. Let companies know, because they are looking for that. You’re also going to find…a better environment for you going forward,” Kunkel said.

“There’s definitely specific channels you can go through (for LGBTQ+ recruiting). I think companies are looking to build out their diversity,” Fritzsche added.

Each school usually offers campus support as well.

Zeke Arteaga

Most business schools support a campus affinity group or club specifically for LGBTQ+ business students. At Vanderbilt, the club is called Out & Allied, but b-schools call them by many names. Many universities also offer more robust LGBTQ+ centers that support students across all schools, such as Vanderbilt’s K.C. Potter Center. Even if the business schools you’re looking at aren’t one of ROMBA’s partners, chances are good that they offer other resources for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Students should also know that if a school does not partner with ROMBA, that doesn’t mean that they’re not LGBTQ+-friendly,” Arteaga advised. “If you’re out and comfortable having those conversations, ask admissions officers, ‘What type of support do you have?’”

Be proactive about fellowships and scholarships.

There is financial support available for LGBTQ+ MBA candidates. ROMBA offers fellowships of $10,000 a year directly through their partner schools; students apply by answering an additional essay question at the time they submit their application to the school. “It’s just an essay sharing your story: why it’s important for you to be a part of the community, if you’re doing any advocacy to support the community. We just want to know what you’re doing and how you’ll bring that experience into business school,” Arteaga said.

The Point Foundation also provides scholarships to LGBTQ+ undergraduate and graduate students, including MBA candidates. Scholars are also paired with mentors and receive additional support. Applicants are evaluated on a proven track record of leadership and community involvement, strong academic achievement, working for the betterment of the LGBTQ+ community, and financial need.

Look at the broader community in each city as well.

Chad Fritzsche (MBA’19)

Research the LGBTQ+ community in each city and see if there are advocacy and/or professional organizations that you can get involved in. These organizations might even have relationships with business schools; for example, the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce  allows member of Owen’s Out & Allied club to attend some of their events for free.

“I’ve met some really good contacts in Nashville (through the Chamber of Commerce). They’re really excited about younger people wanting to attend those meetings and really receptive to making introductions throughout the Nashville community,” Fritzsche said.

Don’t neglect the rest of the business school experience.

Of course, the LGBTQ+ community is a very important factor, but remember to look for other resources that will also inform your time at business school. If you know what job function or companies you want to recruit for, make sure that the school has the curriculum and company relationships to support your career goals. Also look for clubs that can support other aspects of your identity, such as cultural/ethnic associations and affinity clubs for hobbies such as sports or cooking.

“Even within the LGBTQ community, we’re all different, and we look for different things and fit in different places. When you’re looking at schools, don’t underestimate the importance of feeling like you fit in in that community,” Fritzsche said.

Let admissions officers know you’re out, if you’re comfortable with it.

The decision is completely yours to make, but if you are out and comfortable talking about it during your b-school application process, admissions officers can help connect you with LGBTQ+ groups and ensure you have a chance to apply for any relevant fellowships that may be offered.

“If you’re out…and this part of your life is important to you as you go through the business school search, share that with admissions officers,” Arteaga advised. “They will want to know, and they will point you to resources at the school or to organizations like ROMBA that are going to be really helpful as you narrow down your search.”

Visit the schools if you can.

Visiting schools can be a big commitment of time and money. However, it is often the best way to determine whether a school offers the community you’re looking for, LGBTQ+ and otherwise. “I think it’s a really big investment to come get your MBA, and you owe it to yourself to go somewhere where you’re really going to grow and thrive over the next two years of your life,” Fritzsche said.

“There’s other small things you can see when you visit a school (that shows) if they’re thinking about these (LGBTQ+) issues, like the gender-neutral bathrooms in the library,” Kunkel added.

Want to learn more about getting an MBA at Vanderbilt Business? Visit the program page or request more information.

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