University of Pittsburgh

Pitt Black MBA Network is Thriving

The Pitt Black MBA Network (PBAN) continues to ramp up its support of students and alumni at the University of Pittsburgh's Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business.

In September, PBAN members traveled to Houston, Texas for the 35th annual National Black MBA Association Inc. Conference (NBMBAA). The conference lived up to its reputation as a premier event for professional development and networking, as many Fortune 500 companies were present to recruit MBA students and graduates.  Among Pitt's PBAN contingent were its president, Gloster Current (MBA ’72); board member and past NBMBAA president of the Dallas and New Jersey chapters, Kathleen Valentine (MBA ’90); board member and past president of the NBMBAA Philadelphia chapter, Pamela Rich Wheeler (MBA '90); member and past president of the NBMBAA Indianapolis chapter, Denise Hughey (MBA, MIS '91); and Vice President Floyd Trotman (MBA '91).  One of the conference highlights was when Trotman's company, Certifi Now LLC, was announced as the the official Project Management Certification provider for the PMI© examination to the NBMBAA conference attendees. Both of Trotman's conference training sessions were sold out.

Arriving at the conference with pre-scheduled interviews, more than 50 Katz students and staff from the Katz Career Management Center took full advantage of the career fair portion of the conference, a two-day whirlwind of recruiter interviews and speed networking. In total, students secured more than 100 interviews and received 16 offers for jobs and internships.

To give Katz students additional preparation, PBAN members lent their support in three primary ways: introducing students to company contacts, giving students feedback on their "elevator pitch," and hosting students and company reps at a well-attended networking mixer at the House of Blues.

"We intentionally invite Pittsburgh-based companies to the mixer so that company representatives can interact with Katz students. This informal environment sets the tone for a successful conference and generates nice leads for internships and jobs," says Current, a board member with A.O. Smith and a retired executive with Northwestern Mutual.

PBAN is Idenitifying New Ways to Support Katz

Formalized as an organization in 2010, PBAN is an outgrowth of friends from the Class of 1972, who achieved successful business careers and wanted to create ways to help future generations of diversity students at Katz. The organization, which has about 100 members, is open to all diversity alumni from Katz.

In addition to its on-the-ground conference support, PBAN's involvement with Katz is growing in other ways.  PBAN is building up its scholarship fund for incoming Katz students and aims to award one to two scholarships annually. The first scholarship was awarded to Braxton McQueen, president of the Roberto Clemente MBA Association, in 2012.

Additionally, PBAN recently started a pilot program to help with diversity recruiting. Under the program, PBAN members would work with the National Black MBA Association chapter in their area to help identify and recruit high-quality MBA students for Katz. The test markets are Atlanta, Indianapolis, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C.

"We would, in effect, have a recruiting team around the country that would funnel students to Katz. We want to extend the reach out the Katz program well beyond the borders of Western Pennsylvania," Current says.

Another PBAN project, still an idea at this point, would develop a formal model for how alumni can offer mentoring support to students interning in their cities. Current is basing this off his own experience. This past summer he served as an informal mentor for McQueen, who was living in Milwaukee, Wis., while interning with Rockwell International.

"We have people around the country involved in PBAN. Some people can give money, some can attend conferences, and others can be a professional host to a student who has an internship in an unfamiliar city," Current says.

How Katz Alumni and Students Can Get Involved

For people interested in getting involved with PBAN, the organization is hosting several events on Pitt's campus during the University's 2013 Homecoming Weekend. On September 26 there will be a welcome reception at the Wyndham Pittsburgh, followed by an alumni breakfast with MBA students at Mervis Hall the next morning. For more information, please contact PBAN Vice President of Administration Tricina Cash (MBA '09), president and CEO of the Osmosis Group LLC.

At the September PBAN meetings, Current says the organization will open the nominating process for leadership positions, which carry a two-year term. He envisions a board structure that, once again, will represent three generations of Katz alumni: the 1970s, to represent the founding members; the 1990s for the middle-period class; and graduates from 2008 on.

Current encourages diversity alumni from Katz to get involved with PBAN. He says PBAN membership accelerates the careers of alumni, while also giving them a chance to help today's students.

"PBAN is a way to contribute back to the University. Membership is more of a high-touch and personalized mode of giving back, rather than simply sending a check. Instead you get the fulfillment of meeting students and helping them to achieve their dreams," Current says.