Susan Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement — a movement aiming to reduce the cycle of intergenerational poverty among African Americans — delivered a keynote speech about finding one’s purpose to approximately 100 people in the Ross School of Business Robertson Auditorium Friday night. The speech was a part of the kick-off even of the 41st annual Alfred L. Edwards conference, hosted and organized by the Ross Black Business Students Association.

The Ross Black Business Students Association, one of the largest professional student-led organizations in the Business School, is devoted to the recruitment of undergraduate and graduate Black business students and the professional and academic development of its members. The association does this through program initiatives focused on professional and academic development events throughout the academic year. 

As a part of her keynote, entitled “Mindful Brilliance: The Deliberate, Courageous Path to Purpose,” Taylor described the foundation and creation of the National CARES Mentoring Movement

Taylor described her inspiration for founding the National CARES Mentoring Movement, and shared personal stories of her experiences with both that organization and Essence magazine. She also offered advice on becoming a successful individual by talking about what she values in life and how she learns the most from her failures, not her successes.

“(Life) is not a playground, but it’s a school room,” Taylor said. “We’re here to refine ourselves and I haven’t learned so much in my joy but in my pain, in my sorrow, in my losses … When I was wise enough to just stop and say, ‘Ok, what do I have to learn from this?’ That’s where I really began to develop.”

Furthermore, she repeatedly reflected on the current nature of the United States education system and what she learned from her groundwork with her organization.

“How are we allowing a system to measure our children’s success who are living in poverty, who come to school hungry,” she said. “They’re measuring with the same yardstick that my lovely granddaughter, who’s now at Spellman and graduated from some lovely high school somewhere in Johns Creek, Georgia with 35 clubs that they could belong to, when the schools (CARES mentors) are working with don’t even have computers.”

Taylor added she was not going to let the cycle continue under her own watch. 

"We need to link arms and get this right," Taylor said. "I want to sing ‘God Bless America,’ I want to say ‘America the Beautiful,’ but we need to make it that.”

Business sophomore Jasmine Forbers, who attended the keynote, also participated in a fireside chat with Taylor and other business students before the event, where they were given the opportunity to ask Taylor questions in a more intimate setting. Forbers described various aspects of the discussion and what she took away from her experience of talking with Taylor.  

“We got to ask her more personal questions about her life, like ‘What motivates you?’ ” Forbers said. “The biggest takeaway I have is loving yourself and knowing your worth and knowing what you value. I think that sometimes we can get lost and distracted in everything going around us and we forget who we are and what our purpose is for doing that thing. I think it was very sobering to hear that coming from someone that has so much influence whose had so many experiences to tell it's the little things that count and to know that that's really true and to live by that.”

Attendees of the fireside chat made up a significant portion of the crowd, most of whom were prospective full-time Master of Business Administration students who had completed their interviews for the program prior to the keynote speech.

Courtney Andrews, a prospective MBA student from New York, shared how the keynote helped put her decision to attend the Business School, if accepted, into perspective.

“She’s definitely a strong data point,” said Andrews. “If Ross is able to bring her in and have us listen to her it's convincing. I think Susan is really in relation to sort of what we’re looking for and what we’re looking for in our Ross experience, so it’s really good to hear these talks to reaffirm our interest in the program.”

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