My Journey of Expansion: Empathy, Activism, & Hope

Guest Post By: Full-time MBA Student, Sasha Duchin. During Spring Break 2022, Sasha traveled to the American South for the University of Washington: Race, Culture, and Business Immersion class.

This spring, 20 Foster MBA students embarked on a personal and professional journey, participating in the inaugural Race, Culture, and Business MBA Immersion program. This program was the work of many hands, starting with Ed deHaan, the Gerhard G. Mueller Endowed Professor in Accounting, recognizing a need to bring tough and important conversations out of the classroom. Professor deHaan reached out to the Global Business Center to see what type of immersive, experiential learning program could be developed to explore the spaces where race, culture, and business intersect. With support from a Foster Purpose Grant, generous donors, and guidance and leadership by local 501(c)3 non-profit, Sankofa Impact, Professor deHaan, and the MBA Program Office’s Norah Fisher, Foster successfully launched the Race, Culture, and Business MBA Immersion to the American South.

Below, participant Sasha Duchin, shares thoughts on the experience.

Traveling abroad was a goal of mine before starting the MBA program. I love to travel and explore new cultures and cities, but when I heard about the trip to the American South, my goal of traveling abroad with the MBA program needed to shift. I opted to honor my goal of traveling, but staying in the US specifically to explore southern states including: Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Alabama. As I reflected upon the idea of this trip, I thought about where I was on my allyship journey, what history had taught to me as a kid, and where I wanted to go as a person and as a business leader. This made signing up for the Race, Culture, and Business MBA trip an easy choice. I want to acknowledge there is no way I can capture every aspect of the trip and the impact it had in this blog post, but I tried.

Expansion:

I have been on my own allyship journey for some time now, which includes reflecting on who I am and what I stand for, and understanding how I can do my part to support diversity, equity, & inclusion. A little about me: I grew up in the Bay Area, California in an affluent, predominately white community. This as well as with my mom being an immigrant from Iran each contribute to me figuring out my identity and what communities I belong to as a lifetime journey. I have had many privileges in my life and being able to recognize them as well as the parts of my life where I have had to overcome obstacles is something I balance every day. Before embarking upon the trip I was extremely excited – though I recognize the opportunity to spend 7 days reflecting and learning is a privilege unto itself.

My goal was to expand.

Expand to become a better human, and a better ally.

To be vulnerable, and to broaden my thought process.

My expansion came with emotional moments and times where I had to face my fears and be vulnerable. Expansion in who I am, in my thought process, and in my empathy, activism, and hope.

Empathy:

20 Foster MBA students, 2 Foster MBA faculty, and 2 leaders from Sankofa Impact all traveled together for one week. I learned so much from my peers, I was able to hear about and learn from their life experiences, and we were able to process what we were learning together. Some of my favorite moments of the trip were when Sankofa Impact brought speakers who were activists that lived through the Civil Rights movement. Hearing stories from Dr. Carolyn Maull McKinstry, Bob Zellner, Valda Harris-Montgomery, and Bernard Lafayette (just to name a few) was impactful for me. Listening to people who lived through the history that we have learn about, helped me change the narrative and grow my empathy.  One of my biggest takeaways was hearing that current events reminded them of what it felt like to live prior to the Civil Rights movement and that we should all take action.

Activism:

The moments in Montgomery, Alabama visiting The Legacy Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, the Equal Justice Initiative, and visiting the “Mothers of Gynecology” were pivotal excursions that empowered me. Meeting the artist Michelle Browder who created a 15’ monument honoring enslaved African women: Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey who were experimented upon without consent and without anesthesia upset me. I was upset about what happened to them and so many other women and I was upset that the narrative taught in schools did not include this. I will advocate for and honor this past so to ensure a more positive future. This history seems less distant when considering the current attacks on woman’s rights with the potential overturning of Roe v. Wade. A right that has existing for 50+ years along with so many other human rights are being threatened. America’s dark history continues to shape shift. Today, incarceration is the new costume of enslavement. Part of my activism journey is to stay involved in local Seattle elections and to learn more about who the District Attorney is, as they have the most impact within the carceral systems of our community. I am a breathwork and meditation facilitator in the wellness space, and it is my passion to support my community and make wellness accessible to all. I will strive to bring breathwork to incarcerated people or those in transitional living and look forward to incorporating my DE&I awareness and practice into my professional career post MBA. We all have different activism journeys, and mine will continue to evolve and expand with me.

Hope:

The trip was hard. To reflect and look upon how I show up as a human, to continue to see how capitalism and business profit off of people, and how we continue to use people as products today. It is heartbreaking, tiring, and deflating. But hearing from people on this trip, including my peers, allows my hope to grow, and I hope it grows yours too. The trip was an immersive learning experience, and through it I learned the importance of finding hope and believing in something larger than yourself.

The trip was life changing, it impacted my life.

As a future business leader.

As an ally.

As an activist.

As a human.

Read the reflections of participants Marcel Gremaud and Rebecca Ballweg.