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Poole Class of 2021 Spotlight: Kiara Richardson

For many individuals, the work of being a full-time MBA student is enough to keep them busy. But in the aftermath of the George Floyd riots and heightened awareness of racial injustices, when Kiara Richardson realized there wasn’t an organization to provide resources and support to black MBA students, she started one. 

The Jenkins Minorities in Business Student Association (JMIBSA), founded by Richardson in 2020, seeks to support all minorities enrolled in the Jenkins Graduate School that experience discrimination, racism and microaggressions. To date, the association has built a community of more than 40 members and hosted events such as a diversity panel for prospective students and a talk on “A View from the C-Suite” from Microsoft CTO Gina Loften. 

Richardson, who graduated from NC State in 2016 with a degree in chemistry, came to the Poole College of Management Jenkins MBA Program after a few years in the workplace.

“I held various positions at BASF that varied from sales to customer service to sample management,” Richardson says. “It was there that I developed an interest in analyzing sales and marketing metrics, so in 2019, I decided to pursue my MBA at NC State as a full-time student to gain that knowledge.”

Kiara Richardson virtually meeting with the Jenkins Minorities in Business Student Association team, an organization she founded in 2020

While working toward her MBA degree, Richardson led a team for the National Black MBA Case Competition – a highlight of her time with the program, she says.

“I was able to put together a team at the last minute and formulate a plan that led us to beat out more than 30 graduate schools to become one out of seven finalists,” Richardson says. “Unfortunately, we did not win but it was an amazing accomplishment since the school had not reached that far since winning second place in 2016.”

Reflecting on her time with the MBA program, Richardson says relationships played a pivotal role in her growth not only academically, but personally as well.

“What I will remember most will be the close friendships I formed with the three other black women in my cohort. We have leaned on each other for support inside and outside of the program. I do not think I would have made it this far without them,” Richardson says. “I will also remember my relationship with Bev Porter, as she has been supportive since the first year of my MBA. She was willing to jump in and become the advisor for JMIBSA and is very committed to making sure there is a safe environment for minorities enrolled in the program.”

Richardson, who plans to pursue a career as a business or marketing analyst after graduation, hopes Porter and the next generation of JMIBSA leaders will continue to forge the path she started in providing support, connections and resources for minority Jenkins students.

“The organization plans to grow and hosts diversity conferences, financial seminars and talks on bias,” Richardson says. “I have enjoyed leading the organization and hosting various events for our members, but the best part is knowing that I will be leaving a legacy that will last longer than me.” 

This post was originally published in Poole College of Management News.

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