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Reaching Out MBA Fellow advances 2SLGBTQ+ allyship at Ivey

Jun 27, 2024

Mayank Agarwal

Mayank Agarwal, MBA '25 candidate and one of Ivey's 2024 ROMBA fellows.

Ivey has partnered with Reaching Out MBA Inc. (ROMBA) since 2020 to grant two MBA students fellowships each year. The fellowship provides students with financial support and access to exclusive programming. For privacy reasons, one of Ivey's 2024 ROMBA fellows was unable to participate in this article. 

Mayank Agarwal, MBA ’24 candidate, knows how important it is for members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community to have a supportive network of peers. Born and raised in India, he always felt like he had to hide his sexuality out of fear of judgement from family and friends.

“There was nobody who could guide me through my conflicting thoughts about who I should love,” he says. “People have opinions, and it was difficult to have feelings that were against what others had. I think that’s the main reason why I never came out to anyone there [India] except for a few close friends.”

This lack of support was the main reason why Agarwal applied for Ivey’s ROMBA Fellowship. The fellowship provides several benefits to two Ivey MBA students each year including a minimum $20,000-scholarship, access to exclusive leadership programming, and entry to a network of ROMBA alumni. After moving to Canada and feeling a strong sense of diversity and acceptance, and learning about his offer of admission, he wanted to be open about his sexuality at Ivey after hiding it for so long.

“I was eager to apply for the fellowship because I felt like I had to put a stop to the way I was living my life at home,” he says.

Leading with pride

Now, as one of Ivey’s 2024 ROMBA fellows, Agarwal wants to connect with other candidates in his cohort by sharing his experience as a member of the 2SLGBTQ+ community. Although he only recently opened up about his sexuality, he has taken on a leadership role as President of the MBA Association's Pride Club. He credits the role for pushing him out of his comfort zone and is determined to develop a network of allies within Ivey’s student body.

Agarwal aims to have open conversations about the 2SLGBTQ+ community with anyone, but particularly those who haven’t been exposed to it before. In doing so, he hopes to raise awareness about the stereotypes placed on queer people.

"People have different ideas of what members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community are like. I think a lot of opinions are shaped by how gay people are portrayed in the media, which is often colourful and exaggerated. But this isn't always the case,” he says. “Toxic masculinity plays a large part in this by influencing perceptions and reinforcing stereotypes."

Allyship in action

Agarwal says he’s particularly happy to have already connected with classmates who aren’t from the 2SLGBTQ+ community. After coming out to his cohort, he faced questions about how he knew he was gay. He was happy to explain and normalize the process.

“Those without 2SLGBTQ+ friends have assumptions about how queer people learn they’re gay,” he says. “I discussed my experience with some of the MBA candidates in my cohort and told them about how it came naturally. This is why it’s so important to create a comfortable space for closeted individuals.”

School-wide support

So far, Agarwal is pleased with the level of interest and curiosity shown by his peers. With Pride celebrations fast approaching, he said he’s happy to be openly involved in the planning process. But above all else, he’s looking forward to supporting the people around him to grow and become allies.

“I want to make sure that our Ivey community understands the importance of being an ally, and that we can work together to support our peers,” he said.