February is Black History Month, so it is fitting that The University of Tulsa’s vibrant alumni community is being enriched by the creation of the Black Alumni Leadership Council (BALC). This new group has four main goals:
- To serve as a stimulus for the inclusion of Black alumni voices in the broader TU community and the TU Alumni Association board of directors
- To advise and support institutional leadership in the advancement of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives
- To unify Black alumni and foster personal and professional networks
- To support student success among African American students through mentorship, networking and scholarships.
Members expect to focus their advocacy and planning efforts on scholarships and fundraising, alumni engagement, student mentorship, and special events and programs.
The council’s 13 members will serve for one, two or three years. They work in an array of industries and are spread out across the country from Washington and California to Virginia and Maryland.
Inaugural chair Dessie B. Nash (BBA ’94) is a managing director and market investment executive at Bank of America Private Bank for the metro New York market. Nash has been with Bank of America for 15 years, manages the investment teams and leads the portfolio managers in developing customized investment strategies for high net worth clients.
“The Black Alumni Leadership Council is an incredibly important addition to the TU Alumni Association,” said Ann Heidger (BA ’99), president of the board of directors. “Dr. Nash and the entire council bring a perspective to the organization that will help advance TU’s mission in becoming a more diverse and inclusive community and will help us provide more mentoring and programming opportunities. I’m looking forward to serving alongside this important group as we find better ways to engage and support our students and alumni of color.”
Investing in the next generation
Nash’s motivation to serve on and lead BALC sprang from her student days. “When I was at TU, a lot of people took time to invest in me,” she remarked. “They provided me with a runway to take off to where I am right now. I feel I have an obligation to do the same and pay it forward. We have to invest in the next generation. We need to pull them through and hold them up.”
Thinking about the council’s potential contributions, Nash underscored the importance in ensuring DEI initiatives, are topics at the table as TU evolves according to its new strategic plan. “BALC will help the university achieve its strategic goals and ensure a level of accountability for diversity and inclusion through recruiting, retaining and supporting Black students; recruiting Black faculty; and developing a curriculum that helps embrace all that,” remarked Nash.
The council’s importance, Nash believes, lies also in the fact that Black students will have access to Black alumni: “This allows students to network with individuals who, like myself, are very passionate about the success of the university around the diversity and inclusion mandate. Now, they have individuals who look like them and who serve in the industries they may want to work in and can open doors for them.”
Council of leaders
“It’s a very impressive council, and I’m so happy to be a part of it and honored to lead BALC,” said Nash. Five of these individuals served as president of the Student Association during their years at TU.
Joining her in this council of leaders are:
- Ashley Jackson (BSBA ’08), Commercial Finance Manager, RectorSeal (Houston)
- Maurice James (BA ’91), Senior Director, T-Mobile (Seattle)
- Odis Johnson (BA ’95), Bloomberg Distinguished Professor, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), PhD
- Akilah LeBlanc (BSBA ’95), Regional Manager, Shell (Houston)
- Brittany Opeloye (BSBA ’09), Supervisor, ConocoPhillips (Houston)
- Thomas Porter (BSBA ’14), Senior Land Negotiator, Occidental Petroleum (Denver)
- Paige Samuels (BS ’12), Advisor, Chevron (Houston)
- Byron Sanders (BSBA ’06), President & CEO, Big Thought (Dallas)
- Brian Surratt (BA ’98), Assistant Vice President, Alexandria Real Estate (Seattle)
- Nicole Latimer Smith (BS ’92), Agency Sales Leadership, State Farm (Oklahoma City)
- Reggie Tucker-Seeley (BSBA ’95), Assistant Professor of Gerontology, University of Southern California (Los Angeles), PhD
- Quinn Woodard (BS ’11), Operations Advisor, Chevron (Houston)
“The Black alumni I’ve talked to are so excited about BALC,” remarked Nash. “It never dawned on us that this is what was missing. Now, we can reconnect as a family in the community we grew up in. It also allows us to give back our time and our resources, both financially and physically. We have an opportunity to contribute to the endowment because we do not want a Black student to not be able to attend TU or have to leave because of financial resources.”
Please consider contributing to the Black Alumni Leadership Council Scholarship Endowment Fund through our giving page. By doing so, you will help establish a significant legacy to assist TU students for years to come.