OBBS holds reception for Mentees/Mentors

By Debbie Kosinski

Everybody has someone he emulates because of what the person has achieved, but wouldn’t it be wonderful to actually know your role model personally as a friend?

Tuesday night, the Organization of Black Business Students (OBBS) held the first reception for their Mentee/Mentor Project, which will be held annually.

OBBS President Catherine Reeves, a junior marketing major, invited a select panel of culturally diverse professionals ranging from assistant dean of NIU’s Graduate School to CPA firm owners, some of whom are NIU graduates, to discuss their trials and tribulations throughout college and beyond.

The Mentee/Mentor Project is geared toward helping students reach a more realistic view of where their majors could lead, by hearing about the personal survival skills of success stories that were once exactly where the students are now.

Darius Bolling, co-owner of Bolling & Hill CPA firm and NIU graduate, shared his learned knowledge of how to be successful.

“I think it’s most important for students to know that what they are striving for is achievable,” he said. “The mentors here today are not superhuman. We’ve had some of the same problems and failures as every student here.”

Bolling was president of OBBS from 1979 to 1981, and was the first to gear the organization towards a more academically concerned level.

“Originally, OBBS was formed in 1974 by four guys who had basically wanted to start a business when they graduated,” he reflected. “They got together some finance students, accounting, marketing, management … but it never came to pass.”

Bolling said there has been a drop in the number of African-Americans that graduate from the College of Business since he was at NIU. Many black students had employed a program called CHANCE to get into NIU, as it admitted them at lower ACT scores than originally required, he said. This is because many black students started with a disadvantage coming from high schools that did not offer as much of a business foundation as other students entering NIU.

Although most black students were on an equal level with the rest of the business school by junior year, sometimes their self-confidence would be shot before they get there, Bolling added.

“This reception will be a great help because the students will see people, not much older than them, who have succeeded,” Bolling noted. “Hopefully, they’ll realize that there really will be a day when they’ll get to where we are.”

Bolling’s partner Howard Hill, also an NIU graduate, added the insight that,”Those who accept the status quo are the ones who will get the status quo, yet it’s the proud and inspired people who take a step beyond.”

Irene Johnson, assistant dean of the Graduate School as well as a tenure track professor at the College of Education, thought it very important for students to see their role models as real people that have gone through all the same steps that the students are climbing right now.

Barbara Henley, vice president of Office of Student Affairs, expressed her belief that life is more difficult at present as there are more complex issues for young people.

Henley stressed the point that she believes it is crucial for a person to keep his options open for “no matter how high up you go in an occupation there’s always someone above you to pull strings, so one never knows when a job might end.”

Students should start preparing themselves now and strive to get a variety of experience, because every little bit counts when you bring it to the table at an interview, she said.

Henley, who grew up in Chicago and went through the Chicago public school system, thinks that anyone can rise above diversity to achieve even the highest goals.

Sharri Daniels, who graduated from NIU five years ago, was one of the first black students to get a scholarship from the Black Alumni Council. She has very positive aspirations for the Mentee/Mentor Project in that students need to see how beneficial it is for the mentors to give back a little life experience to aspiring mentees.

Bertrand Simpson, assistant professor for business law at the College of Business, remarked that he believes that people, like himself, who’ve achieved some level of success should share their experiences. “After all,” he interjected, “isn’t that what a university is all about?”

Zennie Lynch, NIU sophomore accountancy major, expressed that the primary objective of the evening is to form valuable networking with the mentors. “It’s a social aspect as well as a business aspect in that it’ll help us learn the characteristics needed to associate ourselves so that we can be successful with our futures.”

Nolen Hendreson, NIU senior english major, believes that by coming to the reception he has gotten a flavor of what OBBS is all about. “I think that tonight is a very positive thing,” he commented. “We need to see older, successful individuals to give us encouragement and motivate us to keep going.”

Keith Ellis, NIU junior political science major, said that by coming to the reception he will become more aware of how to prepare himself for when a job opportunity comes up. “There are a lot of negative factors on this campus, but we can’t use that as a crutch,” he said. “We need to use other vehicles to be successful, like self-encouragement and going to things like this reception, to stay encouraged.”