I’m so excited about our inaugural book club meeting to discuss Becoming Michelle Obama. The discussion is scheduled for Sunday, December 16 at 2p at the home of Rosetta Miller-Perry, Owner and Chief Publisher of The Tennessee Tribune.
If you have completed the RSVP, the book club meeting address was sent to your email account. If not, there is still time to RSVP and you may do so at this link.
Below are the questions that we will use to guide our discussion.
To begin, please introduce yourself and select a character from the book that you feel most impacted Mrs. Obama’s #iambecoming journey and discuss why.
1) In discussing her neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Mrs. Obama writes, “Failure is a feeling long before it becomes an actual result. It’s vulnerability that breeds with self-doubt and then is escalated, often deliberately, by fear.” How did this insight shape Mrs. Obama’s work and mission as First Lady? What can we all do—as individuals, parents, and community members—to help break this cycle?”
2) Early in her senior year at Whitney Young High School, Mrs. Obama went for an obligatory first appointment with the school college counselor. Mrs. Obama was treasurer of the senior class. She had earned a spot in the National Honor Society. She was on track to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class and she was interested in joining her older brother, Craig, at Princeton University. The guidance counselor said to her, “I’m not sure that you’re Princeton material.” How did Mrs. Obama handle hearing that statement? How does one avoid having one’s dreams dislodged by someone else’s lower expectations?
3) In her early life Mrs. Obama writes about being a “box checker,” but as she gets older she learns how to “swerve” to adjust to life’s circumstances. What does it mean to swerve and how do we develop that skill in life?
4) In Becoming, Mrs. Obama describes a number of women who have served as mentors for her at different times in her life, including Czerny Brasuell, Valerie Jarrett, and Susan Sher. What do these women have in common? What lessons did Mrs. Obama learn from them about finding a fulfilling career as a parent? Who are your mentors and how do you cultivate those relationships?
5) As a young professional, Mrs. Obama seemingly had it all—a great job, a great wardrobe, and a clear path to great things in a top-notch Chicago law firm. But she writes, “In my blinding drive to excel, in my need to do things perfectly, I’d missed the signs and taken the wrong road.” She decides to change careers to focus on public service—a move that surprises some who were close to her. What is the value of listening to that little voice that suggests you might be on the wrong path even though the world thinks you are doing exactly the right thing? How do you support someone who decides to follow their own path or create a new one?
6) In Chapter 15, Mrs. Obama explains why she chose to support her husband’s run for the presidency despite her misgivings about politics. What made her change her mind? Would you have made the same choice? How do you balance the competing worlds of family life and work in your life?
7) Life on the campaign trail was a constant education for Mrs. Obama. Among the lessons was the power in people coming together to see her and to see each other eye to eye. “I’ve learned that it’s harder to hate up close.” How do we create spaces where people can come together to talk, listen, and share stories and ideals to build stronger communities, even when people might not agree or share the same history or perspective? How do we as a nation push back against cynicism and the “us vs. them” battles that so often divide us?
8) Mrs. Obama has surrounded herself with a strong and supportive circle of friends from an early age. In some cases the circle was within reach; as she got older and busier, she had to work harder to create and maintain her circle of support. She writes “Friendships between women, as any woman will tell you, are built of a thousand small kindnesses . . . swapped back and forth and over again.” How did she create the building blocks of strong friendships in her life? What is the value in creating and maintaining a circle of strength?
9) Why do you think Michelle Obama chose to name her memoir Becoming? What does the idea of “becoming” mean to you?
I am so excited about our discussion. I can’t wait to see you there! Feel free to bring your favorite champagne, wine, or beverage as we toast to the beginning of something greater for our lives, fellowship with each other, and create community.
You are cordially invited to join Dr. Scott’s Book Club. Our inaugural meeting will be hosted at a private location in Nashville TN on December 16 at 2p. We will gather to discuss Becoming Michelle Obama by Michelle Obama.
If you haven’t purchased the book, please do so at this link. Your purchase helps support this blog.
Bring your favorite champagne, wine, or beverage as we toast to the beginning of something greater for our lives, fellowship with each other, and create community.
School season is in full swing for my husband and he is accepting patients, my daughter started Pre-K and has homework, my son is crawling and eating anything he can put his hands on, and I’m working while trying to complete my capstone to graduate.
Admittedly, this is possibly the busiest we’ve ever been, and quite frankly, we are all exhausted. However, it is during the busiest moments of our lives that we must remind ourselves why it is all worth it. Therein lies the value of vision.
Before I begin discussing the three types of self-discipline you need to accomplish your vision, allow me to use a conscious discipline method that my daughter taught me, I encourage you to practice it with me right now. The method is called STAR, which means, smile, take a deep breath, and relax.
Give it a try right now, smile, take a deep breath, and relax.
Remember how that method made you feel because we will discuss it again shortly.
Three types of Self-Discipline
There are many ways that we can implement self-discipline practices everyday. Here are examples of three types: active discipline, reactive discipline, and proactive discipline.
Active discipline is doing what you need to in that very moment such as eating a healthy meal, limiting your distractions while studying, and exercising.
You were actively disciplined when you chose to eat healthy instead of unhealthy. You were disciplined when you took the time to study and turned your phone off. Another example happened when you decided to exercise instead of watch TV or surf the internet.
Reactive discipline is controlling your thoughts or behaviors when dealing with unforeseen situations such as getting a flat tire on your way to work, dealing with a rude person, and locking your car keys in your car.
Instead of complaining, you used these situations as opportunities to learn. When you got the flat tire, you got the tire fixed. In that moment, you chose to be grateful that it was just a flat tire and no one was hurt.
When dealing with that rude person, you turned the other cheek. You realized that their rudeness was their issue and not yours. You understood that “an eye for an eye” leaves everyone blind. You decided to treat that person with extra kindness because they needed it.
You locked your car keys in the car. You said to yourself, “It’s okay, mistakes happen.” You realize the importance of forgiving yourself and moving on. You know that this is just one minor setback during your full 24 hour day.
Proactive discipline is doing things in advance in an effort to better control a situation such as bringing an umbrella on a rainy day, creating a to-do list, and going to bed on time.
You watched the news that morning and prepared for the weather. You had goals that you needed to accomplish on a deadline and decided to create a to-do list to prioritize those goals. Instead of staying up late, you decided to go to bed early to wake up on time the next day.
Admittedly, it is hard to commit to self-discipline everyday. Self-discipline is no easy feat because we are constantly faced with issues that seem to occur at the most bothersome time.
It is true that we have no control over what can happen but we do have control over how we react to what happens. We also have access and opportunity to practice techniques that enable us to exercise self-discipline and reach our vision.
A vision statement is what motivates you to reach your goals in life, don’t allow a lack of self-discipline stop you from reaching your goals.
A vision statement is what motivates you to reach your goals in life. Lack of self-discipline delays us from accomplishing our vision and failure to implement self-discipline techniques causes us to stray away from our vision.
When determining self-discipline techniques, consider your vision statement and these six questions.
What can you do in this very moment to achieve what you want to accomplish?
If you encounter a set back, how will you react to it?
What is the worst thing that can happen or what might go wrong?
Do you have a method to deal with it?
How can you prepare to achieve your vision?
What should you begin doing today that can help you reach your vision tomorrow?
Now, recall the STAR method. Remember how that exercise made you feel? Good! I’ll share a secret that I’ve used for sometime to help with self-discipline and accomplishing my vision.
Secret: Practicing self-discipline well and achieving your vision happens when three things occur: 1. You feel good while achieving your vision, 2. You do not allow setbacks to control your feelings, and 3. You feel good after your vision is accomplished.
Now STAR, you’ve got this. Go out and accomplish what you’ve been put on this earth to do!
According to Businessweek, the number of underrepresented minorities (URMs) — African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans — currently enrolled at top-ranked business schools is 13.4 percent.
The Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt is consistently ranked in U.S. News and World Report as one of the Top-ranked business schools in the country. According to the Owen business school website, the number of URMs enrolled for the MBA Class of 2020 is 15 percent, higher than average.
Officially founded in 1969, nearly 50 years later, Cleon Rice, MBA Class of 2018, became the first black president of the Owen Student Government Association (OSGA).
In this interview, Rice will share his experience as OSGA president, discuss how MLT created the framework for his business school and career success, present the programming that he spearheaded to support the needs of students, and give advice to the newly elected OSGA president.
Carjie: Cleon, what is life like after Owen?
Cleon: It is refreshing but I haven’t got my first paycheck yet. laughing I started July 30. I work for a biotech company commercial rotation development program in sales and in a couple of weeks, I’ll move to Providence Rhode Island. I knew I wanted to be in healthcare. I studied biology at Morehouse. I just wasn’t sure where I would fit in healthcare. My sister is a Pediatrician and my brother is a Dentist. So something healthcare related was a natural choice for me. I was in a program called MLT and the program helped me land an internship before classes began at Owen.
Carjie: So, your situation was unique because unlike most students you had something lined up before school?
Cleon: Yes, I was exposed to the biotech pharmaceutical industry and it aligned with the biomedical research I was doing in undergrad at Morehouse. I felt like this job would help me get closer to patients. I got the job through [Management Leaders for Tomorrow] MLT so I knew that I’d end up working here after Owen.
Carjie: When you were an applicant, what were you looking for in a business school?
Cleon: I was looking for exposure in finance and accounting. I was a little intimidated and I wanted to find a small school that would help me with healthcare. After meeting with Consuela, the diversity and recruiting manager, I knew that Owen was where I wanted to be. Honestly, Owen wasn’t the first school I saw. I had visited Owen over the diversity weekend. I felt a community feel and I enjoyed the small class size.
Carjie: There are a number of top ranked B-schools across the country. What led you to study in the south?
I am from rural Virginia but went to Morehouse and lived in Atlanta for 10 years. The south is home. Nashville was a big difference from Atlanta, but it wasn’t a big deal.
Carjie: Why were you interested in serving as student body President?
I wanted to create the personal scale culture in action.
Cleon: It started in mod 1, when my older brother passed from a heart attack. I went home for about two weeks and I was getting calls from my classmates. I couldn’t wait to get back to school to be with my school family. These people took care of me, I didn’t have to worry about food or anything. I wanted to make sure every student felt that same support throughout. I wanted to create the personal scale culture in action. Especially for the international students, it wasn’t that we were deliberately leaving them out, it was just hard for some to figure out cultural similarities. Business school was my time to do something different, I was able to travel a lot and experience everything I could in these two years and the opportunity to run for president was something that I wanted to experience.
Carjie: Thank you for sharing that. I’m so sorry for your loss. It is amazing that you were able to create joy for others while you were in so much pain. That’s honorable. In the YouTube video, “My Vanderbilt and Nashville experience” you mentioned how you cultivated, “a partnership with the Management for Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) program.” What is that program and why are programs like MLT valuable to top-ranked business schools?
Cleon: Well, James Murray was the first person from MLT. My class [class of 2018] was the first group of MLTers. MLT helped us to understand what the business school process looked like. In MLT we did a branding exercise, to be sure our personal brand was a part of everything we do. MLT helped us with developing our career and gave us a purpose. MLT has a large network with business schools across the country. We were able to call up different people at business schools to get feedback about the institutions. I participated in MLT MBA Prep. MBA Prep served to increase the number of minorities at top MBA programs. I then applied to the MLT professional development program. The PD program helped me to secure my first internship. My MLT coach helped me talk through things and told me what to do over the summer. MLT has partner business schools and partner companies. These companies hire, train, and enroll MLTers.
Carjie: Wow! MLT is a great program. Thanks for sharing your MLT journey with us. Another highlight of your video was the “Humans of Owen initiative.” Are you able to share why that program is valuable to Owen?
It humanizes people and we were able to highlight every story and not just the people who are loud and proud.
Cleon: Yes, Humans of Owen is powerful. James Murray and others put a lot of effort into that. It started the year before I came to Owen. We talk about diversity and inclusion. HOO is a celebration of everyone’s diverse backgrounds. It humanizes people and we were able to highlight every story and not just the people who are loud and proud. With such a small student body we have an opportunity to highlight stories. Chemitra Clay, Jessica Bayless, and Thayer Rosenberg kept the momentum going.
Carjie: Humans of Owen is still going strong.
Cleon: Glad to hear it.
Carjie: The Owen MBA Class of 2018 profile like most top B-schools was comprised of – 26% women, 11% minorities, and 18% international. What was it like to lead a student body comprised of a majority white male population? How were you able to support every student throughout their time at Owen?
I think that just being cognizant of what their interests are is valuable. I had to take a step back and look at the overall picture. I had to not rely on making black first or minority first decisions.
Cleon: It is interesting, and I felt that weight, you see it in every interaction. I had the opportunity to get to know classmates beforehand. A ton of the fears that we have is that we can’t relate to each other. What I sought to do is determine what their individual motives are. I think that just being cognizant of what their interests are is valuable. I had to take a step back and look at the overall picture. I had to not rely on making black first or minority first decisions.
Carjie: How did it feel to have been selected as the first black OSBA president?
I knew I had to come correct in everything I did. And although I identify as black, I wanted to make sure other voices were heard.
Cleon: I think that the feeling was, how did I finesse this. laughs It was because we have a small group of minority students so I wasn’t sure if I was going to win. When I won, I felt the responsibility and pressure to serve them. I believe that when I would speak I had to be sure that I spoke clearly. I had to make sure I was on time for meetings. I remember some of the first emails, I had to be sure my grammar was correct, I knew I had to come correct in everything I did. And although I identify as black, I wanted to make sure other voices were heard.
Carjie: Cleon, I really appreciate your honesty and the sincerity of your response. I think that those are some concerns that many minorities face everyday. Other than the Humans of Owen initiative and the MLT partnership, what was your greatest accomplishment as OSGA president?
Cleon: Our greatest accomplishment was the diversity and inclusion advisory board comprised of leaders of Owen. For change to really happen we wanted to see faculty, staff, and student supported recommendations from that committee. We wanted those ideas to be sustainable. We wanted to be sure that minorities, females, and international students were supported. Dr. Rangaraj “Ranga” Ramanujam is the chair of that committee.
Carjie: If given the opportunity, what would you have added or what would you have done differently as OSGA president?
Cleon: I would have tried to take care of myself better. I was all in. I was trying to support my student body, as a black male, and things like that. I didn’t do the best job of taking care of things for myself. It was empowering to help others and encourage other students to make the changes that needed to happen. But the job started from day one of second year, and I had just lost my brother and then we lost Nii. [Nii was an international classmate from Africa and member of the MBA Class of 2018.] I was mourning his death but I was the President at the same time. I had to be strong. But, at the end of the day, I was just the OSGA president of a business school so if I could do something differently, I would have to taken care of myself better.
Carjie: Thank you, Cleon. You dealt with a lot in business school and you left a lasting impact at Owen. What would you like to see top-B schools implement or continue to do to recruit and support minority students?
Cleon: I think it just needs to be all hands on deck to make sure an increase in diversity and inclusion in business schools is made. Relying on one diversity recruiter is just not fair or sustainable. These efforts must come from the top down. It has to radiate throughout. Students see that, so leaders have to get out and push into communities. For example, Nashville is the country music capital and people have perceptions about that. At a school like Owen, everyone needs to be all hands on deck to show what it takes to take care of its’ minority students.
Carjie: What advice would you give the new OSGA President, Emily Redfield?
Cleon: I think what Owen needs is better branding to bring the fun and the programming. I think that Emily will bring that. My advice is to sit down, take a deep breath, and listen to students. One of the things we don’t think about is how valuable it is to listen to the issues of others and hear people out. Sometimes people need an ear more than a solution. You want people to see you as this person of who they can come to and speak to. All students need help not just the loud ones.
This interview celebrates the legacy of the Owen Class of 2018, the life of Cleon’s older brother who passed during the school year, and the life of international student Nii Amarfio MBA ’18 who passed during the school year as well. Thank you Cleon. – Carjie
On my third year anniversary at Vanderbilt, I was interviewed by Dr. Will Deyamport, III, producer, of The Dr. Will Show. His show highlights the work of education industry leaders and encourages listeners to invest in themselves.
Dr. Will has created the hashtag #investinyouEDU, to advertise the show which is streamed on YouTube, SoundCloud, and iTunes. Dr. Will has over 10,000 followers on social media, over 18,000 hits on SoundCloud, and has had over 400,000 hits on his website.
Below is the interview, if you want to give Dr. Will questions to ask me in Part II of the series, please comment below.