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Courage

An Antidote to Polarizing Controversy: Civility, Conversation and Compromise

By Compassion, Courage, Curiosity, Humility, Impact, Integrity, Principles, Resources No Comments

You may be sick of hearing about polarization, or perhaps experiencing it, but this (understandable) exhaustion eventually gives way to apathy which ultimately resigns our society to a deep, harmful division. So, I encourage you to read on, because hope is only lost when we give up on the challenges we face and become complacent. I truly believe that a major shift in bridging divides is possible, but only if each individual works at it, practicing new habits in their everyday interactions. In order to form these new habits, we must first remember and reflect on shared values. The six Scholars of Finance values provide a strong foundation and starting point for a much needed transformation in how we treat one another. In this blog post, I explore the different ways in which our principles guide us through the tough and often uncomfortable conversations with which we are consistently confronted, from a casual classroom debate to a workplace discussion about current events. I also take what I have learned from others who have had to toe the difficult line of controversy and compromise in politics, one of the most heated arenas for these conversations. 

 

Finally, I want you to know that I am no stranger to holding opposing viewpoints in tension. As someone who grew up in a conservative, Christian home and attended a liberal, secular school, I spent each day going back and forth between opinions, forming my own from what I heard my parents, teachers, and peers say. I write this not to force my own personal beliefs on anyone, but rather to help you navigate everyday situations such as my own with grace, humility, respect, and, hopefully, success.    

 

When it comes down to it, we are all human beings living on one, shared planet. When we look at the bigger picture, we can all realize that it is much more important to have respect for one another, to care for one another, and to work together for the greater good than to bombard our co-worker or family member with a barrage of statistics to explain our point of view and shut theirs down. However, holding respect for others’ viewpoints is often easier said than done. In fact, in the everyday interactions we have, we all fall into the trap of needing to be correct, of needing to convince others of our point of view, and of needing to get the last word in. Sadly, when these temporary desires take over, our values start to fade into the background, and we become creatures of the moment, easily swayed by the temptation to “win” the debate. However, this is something that when we assess rationally and outside of the heat of the moment we find to be unsustainable. If we live all of our lives trying to simply prove our point to others with the sole purpose of “winning” without listening to others’ perspectives, we will get nowhere. No one is right 100% of the time, so why go through life with that false perception, when we can instead learn and grow by listening to others? For a more concrete example of how this plays out and is a benefit to businesses, you can observe the 20% increase in innovation brought upon by diversity of thought, as discussed in a Deloitte article. In a workplace, we need to be able to harness those diverse perspectives effectively, and thus, respectfully

 

Each SoF Value has principles which speak to this issue quite well, and offer simple yet profound advice for how to live a life of civility, conversation, and compromise.

 

  • Integrity 
  •  Speak the truth at all times.  

This is the only way to get anywhere with difficult conversations. Both parties need to speak the truth, whether that be honestly sharing a personal experience, or backing up opinions with factual data.  

 

  • Compassion 
  • Foster relationships with respect and empathy. 

Maintaining respect throughout difficult conversations is absolutely critical. Without a foundational level of respect and empathy, conversations about hot button issues can quickly escalate to heated debates or even full-scale arguments.  

 

  • Humility 
  •  Ask for and share honest feedback regularly.  

Conversations within personal relationships or in the workplace will often necessitate a discussion about where things need to be improved, and are a perfect setting for practicing civility within difficult conversations. But we first need to be open to that feedback before beginning the conversation.  

 

    • Curiosity 
      •  Seek first to understand, then to be understood. 
  •  Pursue and embrace diverse perspectives.  

We live in an incredibly diverse world, and we should take advantage of how much we can learn from each other. We all grow when we step out of our comfort zones, hear a new perspective, listen carefully and begin to question our previously held views. Perhaps this leads to a change of mind, or simply solidifies our views if we have found that we disagree with the fundamentals of the opposite argument. No matter the outcome, the key is to listen to someone else’s reasoning behind their view before making a hasty judgement or interjecting with our own opinion.

 

  •  Impact 
  • Operate patiently and think long term.  

Ultimately, when we need to have a serious conversation with someone important to us (professionally, personally, etc.), there is no guarantee that everything will be worked out in a single chat. These discussions could take months or even years, and we need to be patient with ourselves and with one another. 

 

  • Courage 
  • Stand up for what you believe is right. 

While the best practice is to listen to others seriously and consider what they have to say, at no point in this process should you compromise your own beliefs and values. Compromise on common ground, but, if after carefully considering all perspectives with an open mind, you still hold the same views, don’t compromise on what you truly believe is right. 

 

In addition to our SoF values offering guidance, we can also learn from leaders within politics about how they handled polarization. I attended a Zoom lecture/Q&A with Condoleeza Rice, former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, who gave incredible insight into this exact topic. She explained how critical it is to be a good listener in order to see where there is common interest and overlap, which should be the most important part of a controversial conversation. 

Chris Campbell, the former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Institutions and majority staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance (which he held among other high ranking government roles), spoke to SoF students and shared his own experience balancing agendas and perspectives which were definitely at odds. He emphasized always being honest– no matter who it is you are speaking with, and to fight the instinct of thinking poorly of someone for simply having a different perspective

Lanhee Chen, a political campaign veteran, who served as the policy director for the Romney-Ryan campaign, maintains a similar perspective, and believes in beginning the process of these discussions by agreeing on a problem statement. For example, if both a Democrat and a Republican can agree that healthcare costs are too high in our country, that is a place of common ground from where they can begin, and then they can work together to find a solution. 

While it has been far easier to write this out than to put it into regular practice, I genuinely believe that if we listen carefully, assume best intentions and think well of the person across the table from us, and start from a place of common ground, we can actually begin to make progress. Remember, this doesn’t just apply to politicians; it applies to you while conversing with your dad who holds the exact opposite political views as you, to your colleague when you need to revamp your company’s sales strategy, and to your friend at dinner when she brings up the local elections. 

In summary, remember that you and everyone around you are merely humans. You are humans who make mistakes, who have had countless views thrown at you by the media, school, and family for as long as you can remember, and who are just trying to do the best for yourself and those around you. We are all going to mess up on this journey, but let’s mess up together, be understanding, and find common ground through civil discourse and legitimate compromise—and, most importantly, let’s do it all with genuine respect for one another. 

 

Further Reading + Resources: 

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to reach out to the author at: isabella@scholarsoffinance.org or bella17@stanford.edu.

A Call to Character Amidst a Defining Moment

By Compassion, Courage, Curiosity One Comment

Dear Scholars of Finance,

After reflecting on the events that recently transpired in the U.S. Capitol, I am writing to offer some encouragement and guidance on how we can grow and act as leaders in a time when our leadership is more important than ever.

On Wednesday, January 6th, millions of people went online and watched violent rioters storm the U.S. Capitol, witnessing the chambers of democracy being desecrated and looking on in suspense as the very principles the U.S. was built upon were challenged. The character of this nation was threatened. The House of Representatives and Senate reconvened safely that evening and completed the election certification. The democratic process prevailed over violence and intimidation. 

Following this day of infamy, five have been reported dead. The FBI has identified dozens of rioters to be prosecuted for egregious crimes. The current President of the United States has been banned from Twitter and Facebook indefinitely, and impeachment is under consideration. 

We’re living through a moment that will define our generation.

Many of us have felt scared or confused by what has in some cases been portrayed as the unraveling of the safety and security of democratic processes and institutions. Many of us were shocked or deeply disappointed that people would so recklessly defile the halls of Congress. Many of us are angry about the obvious inequality and inequity displayed, recognizing that several Black Lives Matter protests were treated more harshly, leading us to question how Capitol police would have responded had the rioters not been predominantly white. Some are not even surprised by the events, given the divided state this nation has devolved to and the vitriolic rhetoric of the current President. Some simply don’t know what to think or what to say.

The moment continues. With a presidential inauguration approaching and the deep division of our nation becoming increasingly apparent, it may last for weeks or months, maybe even years. 

Many of us are asking ourselves what our role is in this moment. What can we do? What should we do? The problems can feel so much bigger than us. The solutions can seem far out of our reach, lying in the hands of national officials, courts, or political leaders. How do we make an impact? Can we?

Yes we can. We can take action within our circles of influence, whether we only reach our family members down the hall or we reach hundreds or thousands. We can do something now and we can make a difference.

Our mission is to inspire character and integrity in the finance leaders of tomorrow. We may wonder what action we can take while still so early in our paths to becoming finance leaders and investors. What role does finance play in all of this? 

Eff Martin, a former Partner at Goldman Sachs and a close friend of SOF, once told us that “you need to build character now, so that in 15 years, when you’re put to the test and your decisions carry much more weight, you have the character to do the right thing.” One day, some of us will make decisions with millions of dollars and impact many, many lives. So, in this moment, as future finance leaders, we seek to examine how we can act with character to prepare ourselves for our future impact. In doing so, we can also make an impact right now.

I encourage all of our members, and anyone else reading this, to consider our core values of Courage, Curiosity, and Compassion and how to apply each of them in the weeks ahead. Here are a few thoughts to help you get started with your reflection and next steps:

Courage — There is deep division in the world which threatens the foundations of our society. Help solve this large and important problem. The situation in our country may get better from here, or, for a period of time, the state of affairs may get worse. Remain calm. Maya Angelou said, “Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” Courage overpowers the fear that resigns us to this new status quo.

Curiosity — There will be many debates about what has happened, is happening, and will happen. First, seek to understand, then to be understood. We will naturally bias toward talking about these events only with people who share our worldview. Embrace diverse perspectives. Abraham Lincoln, who led the U.S. through arguably the most divided time in our national history, said, “Those who look for the bad in people will surely find it.” Curiosity extinguishes the flames of anger between us.

Compassion — There are people severely affected by what’s happening. Show empathy to those suffering. There are people who view this situation differently than we may. Show them respect and kindness. People will say things that initially offend us. Extend them forgiveness. Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us that, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Compassion is our primary antidote to the divisiveness that plagues us.

Again, one day, many of us will be leaders in finance who help shape the economy and our nation’s political agenda. It is incumbent upon us to practice these values now to help heal our nation and prepare for the days when our actions have far greater implications. My sincere hope is that the last week and the months ahead can become one of the greatest periods of growth in our lives to date so that we can help avoid events like these from happening again, and that in the process, we help shape this moment into a foundation for a brighter future.

If you have questions, need someone to talk to, want to discuss how to uphold these values in more detail, or perhaps want to be a resource for others seeking clarity through this period, you can always reach out at hello@scholarsoffinance.org and a member of the team will be grateful to talk with you.

Best,
Ross Overline
Co-Founder, CEO

A Lesson in Curiosity, Humility, and Courage

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility No Comments

Next to the entrance of every Sam’s Club nationwide is the consumer electronics section. In this section stands a sales representative dressed in a suit promoting the store’s latest deals. To adult shoppers, the consumer electronics department is their go-to place for discounted TVs on Black Friday or a new phone when a family member needs a replacement. For children, this section offers the most captivating gadgets to play with while parents complete their weekly grocery run. The consumer electronics department in Sam’s Club was my home last summer.

Like many high school graduates, I pursued a summer job in the months before heading to college. This opportunity was the ideal time for many of my classmates to earn some spending money from a stress-free retail or tutoring job. For my friends, my decision to sell DirecTV and AT&T plans for the summer was a complete mystery. I was an introvert; in the classroom, I did not draw attention to myself by jumping to answer questions. Every action I made was carefully calculated until I was sure I could succeed. The sales rep role was the complete opposite, as conversion rates averaged only 5%. Why would someone like me take a job that required me to seek out attention and rejection from disinterested shoppers? The answer was simple – I had never done it before. This split-second decision only took 5 minutes of courage, but it made a world of difference.

This display of courage led me to a week of sales training where I was taught to smile, laugh, make conversation, and recite a sales pitch. Too quickly came my first day “in the field.” I leaned against the phone display waiting for customers to pass the station. As they walked through the sliding doors, I straightened my blazer, stood up straight, and took a few steps forward. My heart pounded and I opened my mouth to greet them.

“Hi y’all, who’s your TV provider? We’re doing a promotion to–,” I was cut off by a quick wave of a hand and they turned brusquely away. My first rejection. Another one came a few minutes later. Then another. And another. I didn’t make a single deal that day, or even in the first week. I finished my week in the field dejected and began to echo the doubts of my classmates. I thought, “maybe my personality just wasn’t cut out for this role.”

Motivated by my less than satisfactory performance, however, I wanted to improve. My courage had allowed me to take the first step in stepping out of my comfort zone, but I needed to continue growing in that direction. To achieve this, I utilized humility and curiosity. I knew the bounds of which I still had yet to learn and sought the resources to do so. Over the course of the next two weeks, I arrived at weekly check-ins early and stayed later to work with senior executives. They threw every possible scenario at me while I practiced navigating client interactions. I also remained curious about each team member’s unique sales strategies and learned how to apply their sales “personas” to my own. As I improved my communication skills, I also gained confidence. My poor first week stemmed from being so focused on closing deals rather than genuinely engaging with customers. After overcoming this obstacle, I returned to the consumer electronics section with a newfound excitement. My goal would be to connect with people, and deals would come naturally.

Monday morning came around and I once again waited for the first customers to come through the sliding doors. Using a tone similar to that of talking with an old friend, I greeted, “Good morning, y’all, how are you doing?” The members started to talk about their day and I learned about their kids, gardens, and pets. Immediately, I noticed a difference in my sales. I had formed personal connections with customers and even if they did not need a TV or phone right then, they gave promises to return. My first day back, I closed two deals.

My experience as a DirecTV sales rep was a lesson on the importance of courage, humility, and curiosity, and it transformed my perspective on life. Although I still am an introvert, I learned to utilize courage and take risks in order to grow. In pursuing a role that starkly contrasted my personality, I broke through my own doubts that introversion made me unfit for a sales role. Today, I continue to seek opportunities to make genuine connections and meet new people with diverse perspectives. I also strive to help others, promote positivity, and remain humble and curious in each relationship, whether it’s with friends, colleagues, or mentors. It only takes five minutes of courage to venture beyond your comfort zone and exceed your limits, and I challenge all of you to find that moment. What’s something you’re afraid of that’s holding you back from where you want to go?

A Brief Reflection On Courage…

By Courage No Comments

Following Courage being voted as the value of the month, I began thinking about everything that’s taken place over the last several months, for myself and for the rest of our community here at Scholars of Finance.

We’ve all been faced with a lot.

Undoubtedly, the elephant in the room is the COVID-19 and navigating its effects, but in addition to that we’ve had an election, several friends and family members pass away, and a wave of civil unrest in the United States to name a few things. 

While these examples don’t encapsulate everything we’ve faced this year, they serve as a testament to how courageous everyone in our organization has been.

Watching this all unfold from a bird’s eye view, it’s been inspiring to see how boldly our entire organization has acted.

We’ve all remained focused on our team goal of creating a future where all finance leaders steward the world’s capital to serve the greater good. Not only that, but several members of our community, from all walks of life, stand up for what they believe in and speak up when they felt something wasn’t right.

Most of us have been online for the majority of the semester and have been secluded from our chapters and classmates. Some of you are living internationally and have to wake up at 4am to attend class, others were forced to either stay home or leave home, and others have certainly had family members be furloughed or laid off because of the impacts of COVID-19. Regardless, the two themes that I’ve seen have been endless uncertainty and relentless courage from you all to combat that uncertainty. 

It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen tomorrow, much less next month or next year. I can personally say I’ve been inspired by how quickly everyone in SOF has adapted to this new normal. Watching chapters mobilize and make progress while being fully remote, seeing you all put forth your best effort even when it’s much easier to get distracted and multi-task, and hearing about how many of you have found new interests and internships have been just a few of the ways that I’ve been inspired to keep learning and keep moving forward. 

With everything that’s in front of us now and in the future, I’d encourage you all to focus on courage for the rest of November. Work toward solving the world’s biggest problems. Stand up for what you believe in. And most importantly… stay bold.

A Message To New Yorkers

By Courage No Comments

New York City is dead forever.

A claim so comprehensive and all-encompassing that it lacks the substance to garner true attention from New Yorkers. Still, it conveniently reaches the tongues of pessimists and spreads like wildfire in an already-tense social, political, and economic climate—the perfectly chaotic and anxiety-inducing combination for students, professionals, and families transitioning back into New York City. Of course, to say that New York is the same bustling metropolis, holy grail of nightlife/culture, and flooded tourist attraction it was last February is to reject the truth. And how could it be? But to say that New York is dead, lifeless, and unrecoverable is to turn your back on your home—and that is a notion I must reject.

Back in late February when COVID-19 first posed a threat in New York, there was just one overarching emotion that found commonplace among the city’s population—fear. As we faced the brunt of COVID-19’s effects throughout the spring and into the summer, this deep-rooted fear unfolded, grew, and took the shape of real, tangible, life-changing tragedy. Tens of thousands of human lives were taken, and countless measures of human progress—long-developed businesses, future study/travel plans, or major events including that of athletics and politics—were delayed if not wholly eliminated. New York City would quickly become the COVID-19 capital of the world, making a name for itself as the singular most unsafe place to reside during the pandemic—and yet, remarkably, New York proceeded to crawl up from the depths of COVID-19’s effects, stand as a model, leader, and forward innovator to urban spaces around the world in the areas of COVID-19 prevention, research, and recovery, and come to be defined by its overall solidarity, compassion, and genuine regard for human livelihood and safety. Never before in my entire life did I feel so proud to call a place my home than I did during the aftermath of the pandemic’s worst, and never did I predict a city as large, iconic, and reputably unforgiving as New York—with residents hailing from every corner of the world, practicing every faith, and living such drastically different lives from their mere closest neighbors—to become small. Shrink. Integrate into a single unit bound by genuine hope, unwavering commitment, and calculated action. To express the slightest bit of disregard, lack of empathy, or fruitless negativity toward a city that has shown such resilience in the face of a pandemic would be a grave disservice.

And oftentimes—conveniently, of course—those claiming that New York City is “dead forever” have absolutely no will, plan, or desire to change it. There is undeniably a certain demographic that criticizes from a comfortable distance, and far too often that demographic is comprised of people who would rather moan over basic inadequacies than make the first step toward solutions (i.e. donating to local hospitals/healthcare workers, staying indoors/following safety protocols, supporting local restaurants and businesses, etc.). This mindset is not unique or original in light of the current pandemic, but rather holds true through an array of different topics and institutions—politics, policies, social issues, and so on. Logically speaking, how much easier is it to complain about an issue than to actually solve it? Or rather, attempt to solve it? Contribute to solutions? Much, unfortunately. And while many of us recognize that such a mindset is unproductive and vain, it’s quite effortless in its execution. Why exert effort into hope, optimism, and practicality when you can comfortably slide into the groove of pessimism—a fan favorite and easy conversation starter! In fact, I’m beginning to sound pessimistic myself.

Thus, as you can imagine, it upset me when I announced to family and friends that I was moving back to New York City for my sophomore year of college and was met with this exact sort of negativity. Not only did it bother me, but it opened my eyes to the ubiquity of such a thought process—one marked by blind and utter complacency. Complacency in our current systems, institutions, and problems. Complacency in accepting the fact that there is greater comfort and familiarity in negativity than in forward thinking and progress. While it can be daunting to speak on ideas, solutions, or topics you’re passionate about in a genuinely positive manner, it will be personally rewarding to know that you’ve moved in the direction of change and haven’t fed into the negativity that is oftentimes so welcoming and comfortable. Courage is a value we hold deep to our core here at Scholars of Finance, and it’s one that New Yorkers unapologetically express as they stay positive, aid in the city’s social and economic redevelopment, and make their way back to residence. Facing such criticism and negativity not one but several times before my move back to New York has been quite difficult, but as mentioned, I’ve confronted it with my passion for positive change, commitment to forward thinking, and loyalty to New York’s recovery—and haven’t looked back since.

In a world where one can choose to be anything, I may never understand why so many choose to be negative. How can you live a positive life with the weight of a negative mind? Moving forward, when prompted with “Why would you move back there now? New York City won’t ever return to normal!” I’ll simply make it known that normal wasn’t in the cards—New York will be back and better.

A Lesson From Shoveling Mulch

By Courage, Curiosity, Humility No Comments

A Lesson From Shoveling Mulch

One of the earliest memories I have of life back in Ohio is shoveling mulch in the summer.  I could feel the oppressive rays of the sun persuading me to race back inside where I was promised cold, refreshing water, but my older brother always insisted we continued piling black mulch on top of the soil. 

“The faster we work, the sooner we get done,” he assured me. I wasn’t amused. The ache in my muscles did not care for his cliche captain obvious remarks. As I felt my skin cooking in the midwestern heat, I couldn’t stop thinking to myself: What’s the point?

It didn’t make sense to me; we would spend the better part of two days piling on at least 20 bags of mulch to cover the plot in the garden only for the wind to blow and the sky to rain, eroding all the mulch we worked so hard to place. Why were we spending so much time and putting so much work into something that could never last? Every summer we’d repeat the same cycle of buying mulch, piling it on, and waiting for it to blow away.

When I got a little bit older and was less afraid of questioning my parents, I asked them the question burning in my head for years: why? Why do we spend so much time and money on this? My mother gave me an answer that puzzled me.

“It looks nice. Even if it’s for a moment, it looks nice.” I could tell she did not put much thought into her response, as if it should have already been clear. Again, I was not amused. 

At that time, I was about 13 years old, I was still going through that annoying pre-teen phase, and my first reaction was well, why should I care? After all, if someone sees our yard and thinks it looks disheveled or horrible, that’s their own opinion. How should that affect me? But as I learned more, read more, and took more classes in high school, I started to realize that appearance isn’t vain. Appearance doesn’t have to be people-pleasing, and appearance at its base can serve a bigger purpose.

For instance, if you have ever seen me write with a pencil or pen, you’d know I have very neat handwriting, but it does come at a price: I write extremely slowly. Often, people would notice and comment that those perfect round letters aren’t worth the cost of my glacial writing pace. To them, this is just another ploy to gain approval from my instructors when I turn in a prim and proper paper. 

But they’re wrong. Though I’ll admit I did play the role of teacher’s pet from time to time, that was never the aim with my neat handwriting. Whenever I doll up my paper and worsen my writer’s callus, that is me putting on my gardening gloves and shoveling mulch. I’m putting that work in for my lawn, for my growth, for my plants.

And let me be clear– it’s not because I want to have the best lawn in the neighborhood or that I want my lawn to be the object of everybody’s envy. It’s simpler than that. It’s because after working for long hours over two days, I can have a sense of accomplishment. I can lean back, have a glass of water, and say it looks nice. Even if it’s for a moment and even if nobody sees, it’s okay– it still looks nice.

My challenge to all of you is to reject the idea that your accomplishments only matter if there is someone to congratulate you, to perceive you. Have the courage to say “no, I’m not trying to impress anybody but myself,” because, at the end of the day, the mulch is going to wash away anyway.

South Asian Allyship in the Age of BLM

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

It’s bad to be Black in Desi culture.

Hasan Minhaj described it best. We shy away from the awkward discussions at the dinner table, let the racist comments slide, because, what do our parents know? British colonization (which ceased in India as late as 1947) had adverse effects on our parent’s values and biases. They grew up surrounded by Fair and Lovely ads, taunted by their classmates and parents for being “kala” (which means dark, or black in Hindi and carries a negative connotation), and exposed to these notions of anti-Blackness subtly throughout their lives. It only makes sense that once they immigrated, they translated these biases into American society. These stereotypes were reinforced by the de-facto racism that plagues our social and political institutions and the harmful rhetoric that our leaders spew, brushing the notion of white privilege under the rug.

Spending all of my formative years in Staten Island, New York, sheltered in the most-suburban and least-diverse borough of New York City, I easily internalized the casual racism and the “model minority” myth touted around my community. My parents instilled in me the drive that us first-generation Indian kids know too well. Anyone can work hard, get into the best-gifted programs and magnet schools, get the highest scores on all standardized tests, and eventually, get into the college of their dreams. So when I began attending a magnet school in Coney Island, Brooklyn, I was armed with the notion that everyone had an equal means of succeeding if they worked hard enough. Attending this school, however, came with an unintended side effect- for the first time in my life, I was exposed to children of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds. I went to school with the children of Academy Award winners, Ivy League legacies, and, alternatively, low-income students with drug-addicted and absent parents. Interacting with my peers helped me discern the intersectionality of race and socioeconomic status- it just so happened that the majority of the low-income students were people of color. It enabled my understanding that only a few years into their schooling, these students were already at a significant disadvantage compared to their privileged peers. But it was not until I took AP United States History my junior year of high school, however, that I could pinpoint the institutionalized racism in America, and the ripple-effect of longstanding policies that allow it to proliferate and adversely affect our Black community. It took an optional Advanced Placement class for me to recognize the significant whitewashing of our history curriculums, and the Eurocentric ideals that govern our social norms and beliefs, the effect of which has not been lost on the Asian community.

As Asian students, we proudly tout this “model minority” narrative, in which our immigrant parents have excelled as business leaders, innovators, and pillars of American society. We buy into this myth that we made it because we did the hard work, the work that our fellow Black Americans are too “lazy” for. We are so quick to ally ourselves with conservative groups intent on ripping apart affirmative action admissions processes, despite the fact that our minority is overrepresented at these leading academic institutions, and have minimal barriers to entry compared to our Black peers. What we fail to recognize, however, is that our families could only immigrate to this country subsequent to the Civil Rights movement, through the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which increased Asian immigration by five times. We turn a blind eye to the fact that our success in America has been directly contingent upon the bravery and struggle of the Black community throughout the 60s. We buy into this divide and blissfully ignore our privilege as non-Black people of color. And now, our silence is deafening. How is it that we proudly support examples of Black excellence such as the Obamas, rappers, and NFL and NBA athletes but remain silent as our Black brothers and sisters are ruthlessly murdered in our communities by the very force that has sworn to protect them? How is it that we ingratiate Black culture into our own through the likes of Nav and Drake, but are hesitant to step forward and speak up against the injustices and casual racism that persist in our Desi communities? How is it that we have normalized our silence on these issues, simply because they don’t affect us? 

A lot of us, as first and second-generation immigrants have the privilege of handpicking the elements of our culture that we identify with. And for us, racism and the model minority myth will not be one of them. Educate yourself, it is not the burden of Black people to educate you. Have those tough conversations at the dinner table. Share Black stories. Uplift Black voices. Utilize your privilege and platform to support the people and culture we revere so deeply. For our Black communities, this is more than just an Instagram trend. It’s reality. 

 

Educational Resources

  • To Watch:
    • Stream “Views for a Vision” to donate money to BLM
    • When They See Us
    • 13th
    • Dear White People
    • Who Killed Malcolm X?
    • All Day And A Night
  • To Read:
    • Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making Black Lives Matter, by Tehama Lopez Bunyasi and Candis Watts Smith
    • No More Heroes: Grassroots Challenges to the Savior Mentality, by Jordan Flaherty
    • I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, by Austin Channing Brown
    • Stamped from the Beginning, by Ibram X. Kendi
    • This Book is Antiracist: 20 Lessons on how to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work, by Tiffany Jewell
  • To Donate:
    • Black Lives Matter: funding the BLM movement
    • Innocence Project: Non-profit dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions and bring reform to the justice system
    • National Bail Out: Black-led and Black-centered organization aiming to create a national community of leaders who have experienced incarceration
    • Black Visions Collective: Minnesota-based Black, trans, and queer-led organization committed to dismantling systems of oppression and violence
    • NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund: Nationwide organization that fights for racial justice and investigates police-involved murder

It is Not Enough to be Non-racist

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

In the last week, as these events have unfolded, I’ve been going through a range of emotions, including feelings, of anger, distress, sadness, and at times, helplessness. Aside from taking action, I’ve found myself often letting thoughts race through my mind for long periods of time. They often weigh me down with angst and stress, but I’ve begun to find ease in just voicing them. With the support and platform provided to me here by Scholars of Finance as a black member of the organization, I’m able to further do that. One of these thoughts has been tied with the increased circulation of the Angela Davis quote: “It is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” This powerful and truly poignant quote is extremely relevant to the moment we are in, but I’ve begun to inexplicably see negative sentiments from white people arising towards the quote, questioning it and seeing it as almost “too pressured”, that’s it “unnecessary” to be making such distinction almost as if it’s petty in the wider scope of the movement. It’s pained me to see and read such reactions to the quote and expression, and to see that some people aren’t understanding the interpretation or meaning behind it.

In voicing my thoughts I want to shed some of my own light and personal perspective on the quote. In channeling my experience, I want to show there is entire validity to that expression, and for people to truly understand why it’s meaning is important within this movement.

I want you to put yourself in my shoes. You have a young niece living on the east coast. Your sister and her family are expecting a second child due this year. That’s two close, immediate young relatives who you wish the best and would do anything for. Whether it’s for them to have the best opportunity in life, be treated fairly, be able to live their lives without fear, go about their lives doing the things that everyone should be able to do without any worry, judgment, or prejudice against them; that’s what I want you to imagine. For someone that was of your family, looked like you, that was of not just your blood but of your ethnicity and you just wanted what was fair for them, but that the world around you just isn’t a place where that is possible. You have a friend aware of the situation you face, that they are aware that you are fighting for someone who is of your family, who you care deeply about, who you want to see treated the same as everyone else, just as you wish you were, but you want to fight for them. I want you to imagine that you ask your friend, “where do you stand on this topic?” 

Of course, you would hope that people would stand on your side where they are with you, they support you, they are there willing to fight alongside you for something as evidently important as this, for something as basic and fundamental as this, in terms of treatment, in terms of how one should be able to justly and equally live their life. That is the true ally.

On the other side of the scale of responses, there is the response of someone who explicitly doesn’t believe that. They believe they shouldn’t fight for you, they explicitly reject your cause, they hold firm that you are wrong, they are on the complete, evident opposite end. That is the obvious bigot, the racist, the oppressor. Hopefully, I don’t need to say too much to shed light on that. We’re aware of what that looks like, especially when expressed in an overt manner.

I then want you to imagine with this same scenario, same instance, you approach a friend and they say “I understand your cause, I understand where you’re coming from, I hate to see it but I’m not going to actively help you, I’m not willing to actively be there for you, I’m not willing to actively do something to help you, in ensuring that your family member, that your younger relative, that someone close to you, that someone who looks like you is treated the same way, is able to live a fair life, is treated in a manner that isn’t oppressive and unjust, is able to go about their life equally as everyone should.” I want you to imagine that a friend or someone you approached or was aware of your situation and took this neutral stance, that they weren’t showing they would be there with you fighting, actively pushing your cause on your side. They’re not saying they’re against you (oh no they wouldn’t say they’re against you), they say they’re not racist, but at the same time they are just going to stay where they are, enabled to do so by the position of their privilege (even if ignorantly unbeknownst to them) and wish you well, but they will not actively support you.

I want you to imagine that you’re in this situation and that it’s your family member, that it’s someone who’s life is at a constant risk just because of the way they look, the way you both look, and a friend or someone you know read a message you’d sent out, has seen the plight, the injustice, the cause, and the situation you yourself, or your family, or someone close to you, or someone who looks like you faces as I’ve described, and yet they’re not ready to actively step forward and actively fight with you for the position you’ve been subjected to. They may be “happy” with the motive of your cause, but they’re not ready to actively champion it with you.


Do you not see how in this situation you’d feel betrayed, upset, angry. You’d feel that their silence, their reluctance to act is just as good to you and to the fight for your cause, as someone who IS the oppressor on the other end of the divide. That is what Angela Davis means when she says “it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” It is not enough to just say that you observe the injustice and you don’t support it. You must actively fight against it, you must actively be there to support those suffering the injustice. 

Once again imagine that is was a cause a close to home as your family, yourself, your future descendants, your children, your brothers, your sisters, your nieces, your nephews, your people that were in this position and being treated in such a way, and you saw that someone, a friend wasn’t there to support you, that they weren’t there to stand up for your cause with you, to fight alongside you, to actively be out there making a change, making a difference. You would not feel that it’s okay in any regard for them to sit there in silent acceptance, agreeing with your cause only in name. This is what it feels like to be in my shoes. This situation I face and the stance I see so many resided to. That neutral reaction is what in this day and age it means to be “non-racist” instead of being “anti-racist”, and that is not good enough.

You need to be active against the oppression and police brutality that black people have been facing, against racism that still is prevalent in the lives of so many black people both in the United States and further afield in the Black Lives Matter movement.

A few weeks ago before George Floyd was brutally murdered, I was watching the black comedian Michael Che’s stand-up special on Netflix where he addresses the phrase“Black Lives Matter” itself. He points to how the phrase to some still seems controversial. “Matters.” I repeat “matters.” That it is not an understood aspect of our society that the life of a black person is equal, that we should be treated the same as others, that Black Lives matter and have always mattered. This is where we are at and people seemingly still struggle to openly get behind it, but that is where we as black people are left: marching, protesting and calling for our voices to be heard, and we will continue to do so until the actions and world we see around us reflect that Black Lives do indeed MATTER. As we continue in this movement, please realize non-black people that there is no middle ground. Non-racism is not good enough. People must take action and be actively anti-racist.

Control the 90%

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

“Lately, the Charles R. Swindoll quote, ‘life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it,’ has really resonated with me.”

 

A few months ago, I received an internship offer from a company that I have loved for years and was going to be traveling across the country to a place I have always dreamed of living. Unfortunately, with everything surrounding COVID-19, they had to cancel their internship program due to budget cuts. When I got the news, to my surprise, I was relatively calm. Was I disappointed? Of course! This had been a dream of mine for the past few years and just like that, it was gone. However, I kept telling myself to keep things in perspective.

At this point, allowing my attention to gravitate towards everything beyond my control would do me no good. Instead of allowing negative thoughts to creep in, like “why does this have to happen to me”; “I don’t deserve this”; or “I wish I could catch a break”, I repositioned my thinking: what do I have direct influence over? From what I’ve learned in life so far from coaches and mentors of mine, I can only control two things: my attitude and my effort. With this mindset, everything was much simpler and I was able to think clearly.

As Mr. Swindoll was getting at, outside of these two things, I cannot control anything else. When unfavorable events occur, rather than centering your attention on the event itself and its negative impact, consider how you can move forward. This mentality has helped eliminate a lot of the stressors and negative thoughts I previously possessed. So many situations in life are out of our hands, but, at the same time, those in which we can control have a drastic influence on the way we see our world and the impact that we can make in it.

In the weeks and months ahead, my ask of you is to focus on what you can control. In simplest form, it’s your attitude and your effort. Inevitably, unfavorable and adverse times will occur in your life. Accepting that these events will happen and only focusing on things in which you have direct influence over is powerful. Control the 90%.

 

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” – Charles R. Swindoll

— 

Brandon Schmidt is a member of the Minneapolis Chapter of Scholars of Finance. Brandon is currently a sophomore at the University of St. Thomas and is majoring in Operations & Supply Chain Management with a minor in Data Analytics at the Opus College of Business.

The Adventures of Being Adrift

By Courage, Curiosity No Comments

Lost. It’s a feeling we have when we’re presented with what seems like an endless amount of choices, yet a very small amount of time to explore them. This isn’t just a familiar feeling for me, but it’s likely something that everyone who is reading this has felt at some point in their lives. I even let myself become adrift and consumed by this fear of seeming lost. I eventually came to realize that being adrift just meant that I had a new adventure in store. 

For me, that adventure began back in high school when it seemed like just about everyone was taking on specific activities and classes to get into certain schools. From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like they had their life figured out, and I thought mine was too. Growing up in a family filled with engineers I believed my path had already been chosen for me. As senior year came to a close and having struggled through my AP Chemistry and Honors Physics classes, becoming an engineer no longer felt like the right path. I  always enjoyed my involvement in business clubs, yet it wasn’t until I visited Dubai in the summer after my senior year of high school that I truly fell in love with the business world. 

A few weeks before orientation at the University of Minnesota, I ventured out to see the marvel of a city that I had heard so much about⁓Dubai. The more time I spent there, the more I  learned how Dubai had transformed from an impoverished desert into a thriving metropolis. Before discovering oil, the people of Dubai relied on pearl diving as their primary source of income. However, after observing what happened in the rest of the Middle East, the king at the time, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, had known that this resource wouldn’t last forever. Thus, they heavily and strategically invested to transform Dubai into the metropolis of wealth and wonder that we all know today. I discovered that Dubai’s transformation was fueled by their strategic investments, then fell in love with finance. Knowing that finance is a field that impacts billions of people and organizations globally, I decided to go against my familial norms and pursue a career in finance. 

I was thankful for this eye-opening realization, but it hadn’t dawned on me until after orientation, so I spent my freshman year working hard to transfer into The Carlson School of Management. I started to explore the different branches of finance, and uncovered that each one was so interesting to me and came with a myriad of opportunities : consulting, financial services, corporate finance and the most well known of them all, banking. The workaholic in me was instantly drawn to the world of banking, especially the 80 hour work weeks and high powered clients.

About halfway through my sophomore year, I was fortunate enough to visit Carlson alumni out in New York. While I was there, I became entranced by all of the people, companies, but mostly by the scale and caliber of the work they did.  In spite of all of this,  as I used our alumni connections coupled with the power of LinkedIn and started to study for banking interviews, I felt something was amiss. While I knew it might not be a perfect fit, I started to repress this feeling that something wasn’t right. After not knowing what field I wanted to go into and transferring into Carlson, I didn’t want to start from scratch again. On top of this, that summer I was already going to Singapore to do a corporate finance internship, but my mind was still set on banking.

The first few weeks of my internship felt endless, because of the lack of available work. That all changed as soon as I proved to our finance director that I could handle a heavier workload. During this time I was able to connect with her, and I never felt this connected to anyone or at ease when I explored banking. Through her mentorship, I was able to see corporate finance through a new lens. The work I had done had helped the organization stay accountable to its stakeholders, improved their business processes, and ensured their employees’ well being. I was even able to help them get a crisis management framework that they are using amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. 

While I loved the fast pace work environment of banking, I just couldn’t see myself fitting in with the organizational culture that surrounds it. Especially not for over 80 hours each week. The most important thing I had learned was that the workaholic in me would thrive in any environment, but finding a company that matched my values and where I felt a greater sense of community would be the biggest deciding factor. For me, that company is Microsoft.  I’m excited to start my virtual finance internship with them this summer, and for a new adventure to begin! Feeling lost can be daunting, but a little courage can go a long way. Courage isn’t always about confronting your fears, it’s accepting that you will feel lost again and there is nothing wrong with that. It’s better to conquer your fears than to let your fears conquer you.

 

— 

Subha Ravichandran is a member of Scholars of Finance and the Executive Vice President of the Minneapolis Chapter. Subha is currently a Junior at the University of Minnesota and is majoring in finance at the Carlson School of Management.

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