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Winter 2005 CalBusiness  
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Infusion - Focused on Improving Domestic Diversity at Haas

By Michelle D. Thomas, MBA 04, Infusion Co-founder

This article was written by Michelle Thomas, MBA 04, cofounder of Infusion, and represents her opinion, not that of the Haas School or the University of California, Berkeley.

Berkeley MBA students are known for their ability to mobilize and enact change. In a school that emphasizes such dynamic thinking and action, it is not surprising that three students should take lessons from the classroom and apply them in starting their own organization. What is surprising is that this organization, Infusion, is a nonprofit working on a systemic problem within the Haas School community, the low number of underrepresented minority students enrolled in the full-time Berkeley MBA program.

Founded in 2003, Infusion is the product of the efforts of three students of color in the Berkeley MBA class of 2004 – Clay Akiwenzie, Angel Martin, and myself. Responding to the low number of Black, Latino, and Native American students in the MBA class of 2005 (currently less than 4% of the full-time student body), the founders came together to form an organization that not only addressed the lack of diversity in public business schools, but also created a mechanism for students to share the intellectual capital gained in school with underserved communities.

Infusion is now looking to reach out to the Haas School's alumni both to increase awareness of diversity issues on campus and to ensure that funding for the Infusion Minority Fellowship Program continues.

Infusion was built on the idea that improved access to educational resources and a more efficient deployment of these resources in community settings will measurably reduce the glaring economic disparities that exist between minority and Caucasian communities. We see a unique opportunity for partnership between corporations, MBA students and alumni, minority professional organizations, and public educational institutions to create sustainable and meaningful investment in these often overlooked communities. Investment in the next generation of minority business leaders will be a catalyst for this intellectual infusion; the investment starts this year with the organization's flagship program, the Infusion Minority Fellowship Fund.

The Infusion Minority Fellowship Fund is not just another scholarship program. The fund provides fellowships ranging from $5,000 – $10,000 a year, directly from Infusion to students of color accepted into the Haas School of Business who share in the organization's mission and demonstrate a commitment to underserved communities. Fellowship recipients agree to provide consulting services for a local minority business owner and mentor an undergraduate student of color while in business school. This year Infusion is proud to welcome their first two fellows, Natalia Williams and Ryan Pintado-Vertner, both students in the Full-time MBA class of 2006.

In Infusion's short history, we have developed strong working relationships with the Haas School of Business and its Dean Tom Campbell (currently on leave), the Robert Toigo Foundation, Wells Fargo Bank, and the Level Playing Field Institute – Infusion's fiscal sponsor and underwriter of all administrative costs. These partnerships have allowed Infusion to raise over $50,000 in individual donations, corporate grants, and in-kind gifts, which will all be used to fund the organization's programs.

Infusion does not exist alone. We need your help in expanding our impact! We are looking for individuals to take a hands-on role by becoming board members, mentors, and providing internships for our fellows. If you would like to assist Infusion in revitalizing minority communities, please visit our website at www.infusionproject.org or contact us at info@infusionproject.org.

Editor's note: The University of California, Berkeley operates under the rules of Proposition 209, a state law passed by voters in 1996 that ended all preferential treatment on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin. Private scholarships are not subject to Prop. 209.


Michelle D. Thomas, MBA 04

Michelle D. Thomas, MBA 04
Infusion Co-founder

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