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“The theme of supporting, accepting, embracing diversity, not simply tolerating it, is one of Johnson’s greatest strengths”


Stephen Crowe, MBA ’14, writes about his experience as a member of—and advocate for-- LGBT individuals at Johnson and Cornell University. 

Johnson hosts its LGBTQ Preview Day on Thursday, October 24, 2013, for prospective students. Current students and alumni will share their personal experiences as a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender student in pursuit of their Cornell MBA and career advancement.

I never thought of myself as the type of person who could stand up in front of his MBA class and out himself as a gay man. I never thought of myself as someone who would be president of a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organization. But there I was, standing on a table in the middle of Atrium one Thursday afternoon, speaking to hundreds of members of the Johnson community, talking about just that.

This past April, Johnson’s Out for Business group hosted one of the year’s best Sage Socials - where a fabulous troop of flash mobbers quieted Sage Social down for the first time in history. As part of our efforts to connect with the Cornell community outside of Johnson, we were partnering with Cornell’s LGBT Resource Center to promote the “1000 Allies” campaign. The campaign sought to find 1000 individuals in the Cornell family who would identify themselves as an ally of the LGBT community, write a statement asserting their support, and have their picture taken. The statements and photos were then used to create an art installation in Willard Straight Hall. In the end more than 100 Johnsonites – gay and straight - came out as an ally!

That theme of supporting, accepting, embracing diversity, not simply tolerating it, is one of Johnson’s greatest strengths. This program attracts a special person – someone looking to be more involved, someone looking to connect with a family, and dare I say someone more open-minded than at other schools. You really feel that when you’re here. And it was in that environment where I felt empowered by my sexuality for the first time in my life. For an LGBT individual, that is a fairly significant moment.

I had never planned to run for president of Johnson’s Out for Business Group. Nsombi Ricketts, our Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, put the idea in my head during the 2012 Reaching Out conference, and it began to sink in. I knew I had never been a major Gay Pride advocate, but I had seen the power of the Johnson MBA to push people in ways in which they are unaccustomed, or even downright uncomfortable.

If that person is open to flexing their leadership skills and committed to the school community, then getting out of that comfort zone can really help them influence the Johnson MBA experience for others for the better. And I am extremely proud that the efforts of Out for Business– supporting admissions, acting as a resource for LGBT individuals, sponsoring joint community events with other clubs, and proving the value of MBA diversity – has done just that over the past year.

—     Stephen Crowe, MBA ‘14