Black Alumni Leadership Council: Uniting students past and present
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Black Alumni Leadership Council: Uniting students past and present

Two years ago, members of The University of Tulsa’s alumni community sought to establish a space for Black TU graduates to reconnect and unite by establishing the Black Alumni Leadership Council (BALC). Inaugural Chair Dessie B. Nash (BSBA ’94) recently reflected on some of the council’s greatest achievements so far. Additionally, Nash identified the goals that the council is now working toward.  

At the outset, the group established 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 

Solidifying purpose 

Large group of people holding up blue styrofoam fingers and smiling for the picture
Black Alumni Homecoming Reunion ’22

In thinking about ways that BALC has accomplished its goals, Nash recalled the successes of Homecoming 2022. “We were able to spotlight alumnus Curnelius Arnick and his business, Tequila with Friends, at our Black Alumni Reunion during Homecoming last fall. His business is now being selected as a potential vendor for TU Uncorked 2023,” Nash said.  

The council reunited more than 100 Black alumni during TU’s Homecoming festivities. Now, BALC is creating a database of Black graduates to help mentor students of color. “We are discussing potentially creating internship opportunities for TU students through various alumni companies as well,” stated Nash, who hopes that BALC’s reunion will become a strong TU tradition. “This is our opportunity to help Black alumni reconnect with the university and, in turn, connect them with students. This kind of involvement supports many areas of our mission, especially being a voice in the broader TU community.” 

Each year, the council will spotlight an alumnus who is making an impact through their service or business. Additionally, BALC will award a scholarship to a TU student of color. “In less than two years, the Black Alumni Leadership Council has raised close to $60,000 for scholarships. That is a huge accomplishment that I am incredibly proud of,” Nash said. 

Everyone benefits 

two women in business casual in a dim lit room smiling big for the camera
Dessie Nash and exercise and sports science junior D’kari Wrice

Engaging Black alumni is not only crucial for TU students and graduates, but also for the university itself. Nash pointed out that “as the university enters this new era of transformation, acknowledgement and support, groups like BALC become crucial to future growth and brand recognition of TU.” She expressed that others can show their support for BALC by following and sharing their social media pages on Facebook and Instagram 

Additionally, Nash wants to encourage BALC members to continue engaging with chapter and club events and informing the TU community that BALC exists and is a great resource for prospective students, parents and current students. “Some ways that alumni can reconnect with TU is by getting involved with their local alumni chapters by volunteering for recruiting events in their city,” Nash advised, “or becoming a mentor for a student. Teaching young minds how they can make a difference and impact their community goes a long way and contributes much to their success.” 

New year, new goals  

Council member Ashley Jackson (BSBA ’08) expressed pride at the council’s growth in the past two years, stating that BALC has not only grown in number, but has solidified their purpose at TU. “Going forward, I would love to see us continue to collaborate and support TU and the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as provide financial, mentoring and career opportunities for students,” she said. “I enjoyed my time at TU and to have that connection … that incites change and supports current students has been amazing.”  

This February, council members will attend and support the Association of Black Collegians’ events to honor Black History Month such as Soul Food Soirée. Additionally, BALC will utilize their social media platforms to post informational videos about the Black experience at a predominantly white institution and offer insightful perspectives on the key challenges for Black life on college campuses.  

Would you like to learn more about the Black Alumni Leadership Council, BALC initiatives and alumni events? Check out Facebook and Instagram (@balc.tulsa) to get involved with this impressive group today!