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Meet Ivey’s Reaching Out MBA Fellows

Jun 22, 2021

Baowen Zhang and Courtney Young in front of the Ivey Spencer Leadership Centre

(L-R) Baowen Zhang and Courtney Young.

When Courtney Young, an MBA ’22 candidate, was featured on Ivey’s Instagram account and publicly shared her experience with LGBTQ+ advocacy and goal to create a safe and welcoming environment for all students on campus, it prompted some valuable class discussions.

“Just starting that conversation and having a louder voice in it in class has made a difference so far,” she said.

Step by step, Young has sought to have a more public-facing voice in support of the LGBTQ+ community. She started with some advocacy work while doing her undergraduate business degree at Brescia University College. Later on, while working at The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), she participated in a public campaign sharing what Pride means to her in the workplace.

Now as one of Ivey’s first Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) fellows, along with fellow MBA ’22 candidate Baowen Zhang, Young has her most public profile to date.  Both Young and Zhang are excited to bring their voices to a new level. The ROMBA Fellowship is a joint effort between prominent business school programs and Reaching Out MBA to develop out LGBTQ+ and ally leaders. Each Fellow receives a minimum $20,000-scholarship and access to exclusive leadership programming, including an all-expenses-paid retreat.

Giving voice to the LGBTQ+ community

“I knew that I wanted to have more of an LGBTQ+ focus for my MBA program in terms of being out in the program and accessing community support, so ROMBA was a perfect fit,” said Young. “I think what’s so great about Ivey offering this fellowship is it is able to have a bit more of a public-facing voice for its support of the LGBTQ+ community. Being able to be part of that transformation for the School was very important to me personally.”

On the other side of the spectrum, Zhang is in the early stage of her journey in terms of advocacy. Aside from participating in Pride parades, she hadn’t been out at her workplace and rarely spoke about identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. But after the COVID-19 crisis and Black Lives Matter protests began, she felt the need to speak up.

“Last year, lots of things happened that made me who I am right now,” she said. “I realized that if you keep quiet, nobody is going to understand your struggles. I wanted to be in a bigger community and be able to make a bigger impact. I also wanted to state the truth to myself.”

Learning that Ivey offered the ROMBA Fellowship was a factor in her choosing Ivey’s MBA. She applied for the Fellowship because she wanted to be involved in social impact initiatives during the program.

Encouraging LGBTQ+ allyship

“What’s important about the ROMBA Fellowship is that it’s not defined for sexual orientation. It is not just for the LGBTQ+ community, it’s also for allies,” Zhang said. “I feel it’s a milestone [to have the School offer it] and it shows the School is supporting the initiative and putting more focus on the [Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion] EDI agenda and that’s a good direction.” 

Advocacy through the Pride Club

Young and Zhang are both also involved with the Ivey MBA Pride Club; Young as President and Zhang as Vice President. In addition, Zhang is Vice President of the Ivey MBA Operations Club. Their goal with the Pride Club is to focus on advocacy in the School community.

“Bringing to light that Pride can be celebrated no matter where you are in your journey is the mission of our club as well,” said Young. “Whether it is celebrated quietly on your own or loud and proud with those around you, no matter what, the community is here for you and the Pride Club is here to support you. We’re here to celebrate you at every stage of the journey.”

Young and Zhang said ROMBA provides a lot of support to student-run Pride clubs. Among other things, it runs an annual Club Leaders Summit bringing student leaders from many schools together to share ideas and best practices. Student clubs also have an opportunity to share an initiative for a chance to win a prize.

Both Young and Zhang said they encourage others to consider applying for the ROMBA Fellowship, citing the benefits of a supportive network.

“No matter where you are in your journey as a queer person, there are things ROMBA can offer. It can help you to explore yourself, meet others in the community, or make an impact in a leadership position,” said Zhang. “It offers me a whole network of queer students. I don’t feel like I’m alone. I feel like I can reach out to them and have this instant connection being in the same community – that’s the biggest part for me.”

Learn more

Those wanting to learn more about the ROMBA Fellowship or the Ivey Pride Club, can contact Courtney Young and Baowen Zhang.