LGBTQIA2S+ Out in the Foster MBA Program

This Pride Month, we spent some time speaking with students, staff, and alumni. We asked about the vibrant and active Foster MBA LGBTQIA2S+ community and allies, who are vocal about spreading awareness and taking action through a multitude of events. We pulled together scholarship and professional development resources offered by local and national LGBTQIA2S+ supporting non-profit organizations, and we heard about the ways in which staff are supporting students, from recruitment through landing employment after graduation. 

LGBTQI+ Outreach Coordinator

On the admissions team we spoke with, Noé Valdovinos Orozco, Associate Director, Diversity Recruiter who announced a new LGBTQI+ Outreach Coordinator student position. This role focuses on supporting the office of admissions to increase representation of LGBTQI+ prospective students. Additionally, the position will focus on collaborating with other student leaders and community organizations to ensure that Foster social media content continues to speak to LGBTQI+ applicants. Tanya Jha, the first to fill the role, shared her approach for the coming year.

“I plan to act as a liaison between the Foster community and potential students from LGBTQI+ and underrepresented groups and guide them onwards on a fulfilling journey in business education,” Tanya said. “As the LGBTQI+ Outreach Coordinator, my vision is to empower LGBTQI+ applicants to thrive, ensuring a welcoming environment where their voices are heard, their dreams supported, and their potential unleashed.”

Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA)

Noe also talked about one of Foster’s diversity partnerships, Reaching Out MBA, also known as ROMBA, which aims to increase the influence of the LGBTQ+ community in business by educating, inspiring, and connecting MBA students and alumni.

“Foster’s continued partnership with ROMBA is in alignment with our mission and a testament to our commitment to provide opportunities for inclusion and diversity for our students,” Noé said. “Through Foster’s partnership with ROMBA, fellows and other self-identified LGBTQ+ students can attend summer treks, the fellowship retreat, the annual ROMBA conference and more as they begin their journey at Foster.”

ROMBA Fellowship

While Foster selects and funds the financial award associated with the ROMBA Fellowship, ROMBA provides recipients of the ROMBA Fellowship with free access to their events, including the annual LGBTQ+ MBA (ROMBA) Conference – the world’s largest gathering of LGBTQ+ business students and alumni, which is open to Full-time and Part-time MBA students. The event includes a variety of panels, workshops, start-up and case competitions, receptions, and a career fair with 100 corporate partners across industries recruiting LGBTQ+ MBA talent.  There are industry panels and functional panels where participants representing top Fortune 500 firms discuss what it is like to navigate careers as a LGBTQ+ MBA.  For example, during the consulting panel, panelists discuss the nuance of coming out to clients with a consulting engagement. Students have walked away from the conference with internships with companies like Apple and post-MBA employment offers with companies like Accenture Strategies and Genentech. 

Foster MBA Career Management Support for ROMBA Conference

Foster MBA Career Management provides pre-conference support to help students get “ROMBA Ready” to achieve their goals for the conference. This support includes best practices on building a strong resume and LinkedIn profile, presenting your best self for interviews in person and online, developing your short personal pitch or TMAY (Tell Me About Yourself), and the nuances of coffee chats, behavioral interviews, and case interviews. Colette Vogel of Foster’s MBA Career Management has taken the lead in prepping conference attendees and attends the conference alongside the students to provide quick tips, answer questions, give feedback on TMAY and interview question responses, make connections with alumni and company representatives and other support on the ground. Via a What’sApp group for conference attendees, she is available for any and all questions at all hours. Colette also hosts a group dinner as part of the trip where they enjoy spending time with one another while sharing their impressions.

Robust ROMBA Offerings

While any Full-time or Evening MBA are invited, ROMBA Fellows receive subsidization to attend a cohort retreat in July along with their peers at other top MBA programs which are ROMBA Fellowship Schools. They also receive priority consideration for competitive programming including Admitted Student Treks, speaking roles at the ROMBA Conference, and Leadership Summit. Moreover, Fellows have access to exclusive year-round programming support including virtual panel discussions with corporate partners and MBA alumni, virtual workshops that foster professional and personal development, access to Reaching Out Connect, an online networking community for LGBTQ+ MBAs and Alumni, and mentoring and special opportunities to connect with other Fellows and LGBTQ+ MBA Alumni. Furthermore, ROMBA distributes an exclusive resume book of the Fellows to all corporate sponsors.

Funding for LGBTQIA2S+ MBAs

In addition to the ROMBA Fellowship, whose awardees are selected by ROMBA Fellowship Schools, and Foster awarded Dean’s Merit scholarships, applicants to Foster should check out opportunities to secure additional funding through non-profit organizations. Such opportunities include but are not limited to:

The Point Foundation
Point Foundation empowers promising LGBTQ students to achieve their full academic and leadership potential – despite the obstacles often put before them – to make a significant impact on society.

The Pride Foundation Scholarships
Pride Foundation provides post-secondary educational scholarships to current and future leaders in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and straight ally community from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

LGBTQIA2S+ MBA Foster Community – Out in Business Club

In addition to opportunities for immersion in the LGBTQIA2S+ community through ROMBA, students and allies also find community at Foster through Out in business (OiB). The effort was started in 2010 by Foster MBA Tim Hossain. At first, it was an informal social group that initially met for a welcome brunch for LGBTQIA+ students at the start of the year, then turned into a quarterly gathering. The group of Evening and Full-time MBA students attended ROMBA that year to represent Foster. It became an official club, the Jodie Fosters, in 2011 with Teresa Demel as the first official President.  The club changed its name to Out in Business (OiB) in 2013, when Mark Roberts was President. 

Ten years later, the club still aims to cultivate a welcoming community to love, support and celebrate LGBTQIA2S+ students and advocate for inclusion in business and society. OiB strives to pursue this through programming and events focused on community-building, professional empowerment, community education, and advocacy. It also aims to raise awareness for all in the Foster community regarding issues that face the LGBTQIA2S+ community, in order to equip everyone to participate meaningfully in creating and advocating for inclusivity at Foster and throughout their careers. ​OiB facilitates mechanisms for concrete action, from volunteering with local organizations to raising voices about national policies that impact the LGBTQIA2S+ community.

To support career advancement, OiB connects students with LGBTQIA2S+ leaders and Employee Resource Groups across industries. It provides professional development opportunities with unique programming, by connecting with the dedicated alumni network and engaging with ROMBA. Every Fall, many OiB students travel to attend the Reaching Out MBA Conference.

OiB members

This pride month, the outgoing VP of Allyship Jaisav Bajoria from the Evening MBA program and club presidents Abby Polley and Isabella Ramirez from the Full-time MBA program shared their experiences on leading a club where LGBTQIA2S+ community & allies thrive, learn and have fun!

I believe our club made queerness more visible. We created spaces for queer students to feel comfortable and build community, as well as opportunities for education and engagement for the broader community. In addition, we brought ideas for how our program can continue to grow within Foster, especially in continuing to provide students support to connect with queer students from MBA programs across the country through ROMBA,” said Abby Polley.

OiB organizes a variety of events year round for its members, and the club leadership shared their favorites. 

“Two of my favorite events – which were also very successful were (1) pride skate at Southgate Roller Rink (2) the Queer Underground Tour. Pride Skate was an awesome opportunity to move our bodies and be in a queer community space. The Queer Underground Tour (run by Beneath the Streets) was an awesome way to learn about the LGBTQIA2S+ history of Seattle and more about the Seattle underground. I think both events were successful because they were quite unique, affordable, educational, and most of all, fun!” – Isabella.

“To add a couple more: I really appreciated the allyship training events and volunteer day. The allyship trainings were well attended, and helped level-set: they provided history, context, and information about what it means to be an active ally. Our club also volunteered at a shelter providing housing for queer youth ages 18 to 22. We created garden boxes, cleaned up the outdoor space, and made it a place to enjoy time over the summer months. Supporting LGBTQ+ youth – who represent about 45% of homeless youth – is important work that is still desperately needed in our community,” – Abby.

OiB pride skate

Pride skate at Southgate Roller Rink

The club leadership unanimously agreed that they had learned a lot about leadership doing their tenure on the OIB board, and they shared some of their key lessons.

“Execution and organization is important but so is big picture strategy and vulnerability,” – Isabella.

“Persistence is important! If it doesn’t happen the way you were hoping, try a different route. The effort is worth it,” – Abby.

“Staying connected and communicating is primary especially keeping in mind all our busy schedules,” – Jaisav.

When asked about a favorite memory, here is what Jaisav shared:

“My favorite memory would be going to Drag Brunch. It was such a big party in the middle of the day, the black out curtains were pulled and it felt like we were in a nightclub,” said Jaisav.

OIB is actively working beyond the Foster MBA with the greater UW community to provide networking opportunities for LGBTQIA2S+ students and allies.

“We know there is interest in connecting LGBTQ+ students across campus to have a wider community and strengthen our voice for advocacy. We began the process of connecting leaders across campus to begin organizing this community. Although it is in its early stages, we created an official student group “Out Grads” to gather this community, and we look forward to seeing where it will go in the future,” said Isabella.

Queer Underground Tour

Queer Underground Tour

The club leaders also shared some insights on the goals they had for the club and the progress they have made so far.

“We are a relatively small club. This year we worked on increasing our membership. We also do not charge membership fees because we are a diversity club – this promotes accessibility to our club. This year, we were able to triple our budget thanks to a big push in the MBAA EC by yours truly!” – Isabella.

“Another goal, given we are a small club, was to look for ways to connect and collaborate. We have co-hosted many events with other clubs to join forces. Additionally, more Foster OiB representatives attended ROMBA events with MBA students from across the country, an incredible experience connecting us to the wider queer business community,” – Abby.

“Another area where we can try to get more traction would be to reach out to companies who could sponsor some club events and thereby further develop a relationship with Foster Business school,” – Jaisav.

When asked which students or why do/should students join the club, here is what the outgoing leadership had to say:

“The obvious answer is LGBTQ+ students and allies will join this club. Others may be questioning whether to be out, they may have a close queer friend or family member, or might be simply curious to learn about the community,” – Isabella. 

“Everyone, although likely with different levels of engagement. As a queer person, the community is fun and essential. For others, it is an important moment to show active solidarity. We know the rights of queer people across our country and world are being challenged, and student participation in this club is one of many important ways to show your support of queer people and rights, and learn how to be a more active voice,” – Abby.

“I would encourage all incoming students from the LGBTQ+ to come join the club. We have so many events which are geared towards supporting not only students at Foster but also work towards helping the local community. We in the past year have had formal and informal events, such as rooftop hangouts, which have helped us connect with each other. As an ally, I would urge all students to join if they want to support queer rights and ensure representation in business,” – Jaisav.

The outgoing leaders also shared compelling reasons as to why incoming students should not only join OiB but to run for leadership positions of the club.

“We’re fun! There is a ton of space for creativity and collaboration with other clubs at Foster and throughout UW. You can meet inspiring professionals, organize the best events, and work alongside the most fun peers while you do it,” – Abby.

“I would say OiB is one of the most chill and fun clubs at Foster. I always felt at home, connected with other students and generally did not want to miss any events organized by the club,” – Jaisav.

Foster and the Greater Seattle Community

Seattle is home to the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA) which is Washington State’s LGBTQ+ and allied chamber of commerce, and the largest in North America. Foster aims to support the local LGBTQIA2S+ community in the greater Seattle area and recently partnered with the UW Law School to offer free legal consults and negotiation training to BIPOC, LGBTQIA2S+ and women small business owners. Through such initiatives, the school of business aims to foster a conducive environment and a supportive community for LGBTQIA2S+ students and allies, on campus and beyond.

To learn more, prospective students are welcome and encouraged to connect by writing to [email protected] to speak with a student. They can also connect directly with Foster MBA Out in Business Leadership here.