Christian Bonner hosting the AOCNW luncheon

What does engagement from one of the largest alumni networks in the world look like? It might resemble something like the first-ever Alumni of Color Network Weekend at Fisher College of Business.

The two-day event recently brought together hundreds of graduates, faculty, staff, students and community partners to showcase the reach, power and support of Fisher’s diverse alumni network.

“The Alumni of Color Network Weekend was a wonderful opportunity to strengthen an important part of our community through events centered around what Fisher does best — such as programs designed to: expand networks, foster personal and professional development, mentorship and advocacy, and celebrate our young and established leaders,” said Cynthia Turner, chief diversity officer.

“The response to this inaugural event was overwhelming, which demonstrates to us a strong desire by our alumni to stay connected with Fisher and each other.”

An Evening of Celebration

The weekend culminated with the signature event — an Evening of Celebration in which attendees formally gathered to recognize groups and individuals for their accomplishments and positive impacts as diverse leaders and Fisher alumni.

David Harrison, senior director of Fisher’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services and Corporate and Community Outreach (ODISSCCO), delivered remarks recognizing the university’s Council of Black Students in Administration (CBSA), one of the oldest student organizations of color on campus.

Harrison, who, along with the event’s advisory council, also helped create and coordinate the Alumni of Color Network Weekend, congratulated the CBSA and its leaders for their work over the past 50 years.

Students Jett Hannan and Jasmine Mathis shared their personal experiences as presidents of the Native American Indigenous People’s Cohort and the Undergraduate Black Law Student Association, respectively.


The event also highlighted the recent creation of The David E. and Tamara E. Harrison Diversity Scholarship Fund. The fund, which garnered pledges from many in attendance at the Alumni of Color Network Weekend, will provide scholarships to diverse undergraduate and graduate students at the college. It will further Harrison's commitment to creating leaders and champions of diversity and inclusion who have been empowered to make positive and significant differences in their organizations, their communities and our world.

Special tribute was paid to the late Thaddeus Spratlen (BSBA ’56, MA ’57, PhD ’62) for his lifetime of work dedicated to diversity and inclusion through higher education and research. The college announced the creation of the Alumni of Color Distinguished Educator Award, which will be presented annually to an alumna or alumnus who is a world-class scholar, educator and mentor of color, and whose academic thought leadership brings about positive impact and change in the world.

The evening finished with the presentation of the inaugural Alumni of Color Legacy Awards to four individuals for their professional accomplishments and service to Fisher and their Black, Hispanic, Latinx and Asian Pacific Islander Desi American communities:

Ken Coleman headshotKenneth “Ken” L. Coleman (BSBA ’65, MBA ’72), Chairman, EIS Group



Lori Guzman-Castillo headshotLori Guzmán-Castillo (MBA ’09), Vice President of Global Marketing, NatureSweet



Ming-Hao Shiao headshotMing-Hao Shiao (BSBA ’01), Project Director, Of All Trades (a project of the Center for Transformative Action)



Jesse Tyson headshotJesse J. Tyson (MBA ’76), CEO, T&S Food Services, LLC



“While it is true that this marked the inaugural Alumni of Color Network Weekend, this event was a culmination of decades of dedication, accomplishment and positive impact made by so many business graduates of color,” said Anil K. Makhija, dean and John W. Berry, Sr. Chair in Business. “This foundation, laid years ago by many of the inspiring individuals we’ve honored, has not only made this weekend possible, but it is also the bedrock upon which all of Fisher’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts rest.”

Young Alumni and Student Luncheon

A Young Alumni and Student Luncheon provided current students with the opportunity to hear from recent graduates about their post-Fisher experiences and how they’ve continued their development as business leaders. Three individuals were honored with Alumni of Color Emerging Leader Awards for their professional success as well as their commitment to Fisher’s leadership ideals:

Edwin Jones headshotEdwin Jones (BSBA ’08, MBA ’15), Software Sales Leader, IBM



Michael Song headshotMichael Song (BSBA ’10), Vice President, OpenGate Capital



Melissa Trejo headshotMelissa Trejo (BSBA ’15), Financial Manager, Financial Leadership Development Program, Aflac



“These individuals embody what it means to be leaders,” Turner said. “They are more than just successful in business — they are curious, committed to causes beyond themselves, and they are examples to our students of what principled leadership looks like.”

Be Board-Ready Workshop

A panel discussion led by Barb Smoot, president and CEO of Women for Economic and Leadership Development, focused on the skills, education and experiences necessary for individuals to become “board-ready” for service on corporate, nonprofit and governmental advisory boards. The session featured insights from Dwight Smith (BSBA ’78, MBA ’79) and Coleman.

A Silicon Valley pioneer, Coleman has served or advised organizations such as Prevedere, Saama Technologies and Entertainment Partners, Andreessen Horowitz Venture Capital Firm and Carrick Capital Partners Private Equity Firm, Pinterest and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, among many others.

Smith is the founder, president and CEO of Sophisticated Systems, Inc., one of Inc.’s 500 Fastest Growing Companies in the country. He shared his perspective as a leader who established his own nonprofit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children locally and around the world.

“Ken and Dwight’s experiences illustrate that a commitment to service within business can take many shapes,” Turner said. “Beyond advising young leaders on simply how to get involved with advisory boards, Ken and Dwight shared how they were able to use their skills, knowledge and experiences to impact an organization — and how that organization shaped their continued growth as professionals.”

My Brother’s Keeper Conference

In partnership with the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods, Fisher hosted the My Brother’s Keeper Business of Sports and Entertainment Conference at the Ohio Union. The event, coinciding with the Alumni of Color Network Weekend, connected nearly 200 high school students and young men of color with leaders in sports, business and entertainment to explore career opportunities in the industries.

In addition to panel discussions by sports and entertainment leaders, conference attendees met and engaged with Fisher students and successful Fisher alumni in a networking session where they shared personal stories and exchanged ideas. Many students cited the session as the highlight of the larger event because it was the first time they had experienced meaningful conversations with adults outside of their families and teachers.

“The conference was a wonderful opportunity to connect high school students with Business Buckeyes and our alumni of color, many of whom have walked in their shoes, shared their experiences and overcome many of the same challenges on their way to academic and professional success,” Turner said. “Through this event and future partnership opportunities with My Brother’s Keeper, Fisher and Ohio State look forward to serving as resources for these high school students as they explore their personal and professional passions.”

Other activities throughout the Alumni of Color Network Weekend included guided tours of Ohio Stadium, visits to the Frank W. Hale Black Cultural Center, tours of The Ohio State University Campus and a watch party for the Buckeyes’ football game against Nebraska.

Cynthia Turner Asst. Dean and Chief Diversity Officer, EY Faculty Fellow
Faculty Profile