Michigan Ross Celebrating Black History Month: Students and Alumni Build a Better World Through Business
Black History Month is a time to collectively recognize, celebrate, and reflect upon the accomplishments and contributions of Black people across the world. This year, the Ross School of Business celebrated its extraordinary students and alumni who are making history in business and society every day.
Kareem Edwards, MBA ’15
Franchise Owner, Chick-fil-A South Loop Chicago
Kareem Edwards is making history as the first Black-owned Chick-fil-A franchisee in Chicago and is committed to creating business solutions anchored in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“My vendor selections are diverse with respect to race, gender, and more,” said Edwards. “For example, my cleaning vendor is a local business owned and operated by two Black women. Additionally, I have partnered with several organizations for recruiting efforts, such as Howard Brown, who focuses on caring for LGBTQI+ communities of color.”
Edwards’ priority for the year is to help reduce the impact of the pandemic on the Black community by continuing to provide safe job opportunities.
“It’s my obligation and privilege to lead authentically so that other Black people, young and old, know they can pursue entrepreneurship and franchising by being their beautiful, amazing selves,” said Edwards.
Ayodele Ojo, BBA ’23
BBA DEI Task Force Member and MLK Spirit Awardee
Ayodele Ojo is a BBA student and business owner. She helps make health and wellness more accessible to the Black community with her company, Fit With Ayo.
Ojo is an outreach ambassador and BBA Council DEI recruitment director. She also is a BBA Task Force Member, MLK Spirit Awardee, and mentor. The MLK Spirit Award is given to "members of the community who exemplify the leadership and vision of Dr. King through their commitment to social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion."
At Michigan Ross, Ojo works to build an equitable learning environment and to ensure that Black students feel included and supported in their goals. As part of the BBA DEI task force, she works with administration and shares recommendations to recruit and ensure equity and inclusion for underrepresented communities.
In Summer 2020, Ojo organized efforts that led to the creation of the Michigan Ross Commitment to Action. Now she works to ensure that the school remains accountable for its commitments to diversity and support for Black students.
“I aim to amplify the voices of Black students at Ross,” said Ojo. “We are a small community, but our experiences and our contributions make Ross better, and it's important that we are heard.”
Kene Onuorah, MBA ’21
MBA Student and Growth Marketing, FNDR
Kene Onuorah is an MBA student, growth marketing intern at FNDR, and a Michigan Business Challenge award winner for his company Comme Homme. He and his partner Mejoy Lawson, MBA ’21, lead Comme Homme, a direct-to-consumer cosmetic and lifestyle brand for bald men. Onuorah also serves as a mentor for at-risk high school students.
At Michigan Ross, Onuorah is actively involved in the Black Business Student Association. This year, he was a co-chair of the 45th annual Alfred L. Edwards Conference. The conference celebrates the contributions and successes of Black students at the U-M and is one of the longest-running conferences at Michigan Ross.
Onuorah says that his leadership in the Black community is most demonstrated by his willingness to be authentic in all spaces, in addition to his willingness to pursue untraditional opportunities and career paths.
“I think that these things help me set a tone for others that shows a Black person in America can succeed in any space just as I can,” said Onuorah.
Kimberly Keaton Williams, MBA ’94
Vice President, Talent Acquisition and Development and Chief Diversity Officer, McLaren Health Care
Kimberly Keaton Williams’ dedication to supporting and advancing the Black community starts with her work responsibilities, but extends much further.
“As chief diversity officer for McLaren Health Care, I develop programs and practices to ensure a diverse and inclusive workplace for all employees and culturally competent healthcare for our patients,” she said.
In addition, she serves as vice chair of the board for the Rhonda Walker Foundation, an organization “empowering inner-city teen girls towards becoming strong, confident, successful and moral future leaders.” She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the Links Inc., and Jack and Jill of America.
“Each of these organizations has a significant focus on service to the community,” Williams said. “I pray that my personal and professional efforts help to enrich and bless the lives of others.”