At Stanford GSB, A Celebration Of Hispanic Culture & Influence
The Hispanic population of the United States is more than 62 million and accounts for much of America’s prosperity. Not only do Hispanic people contribute 51% of America’s population growth, they also account for nearly $2.8 trillion in GDP.
The just-concluded Hispanic Heritage Month shines light on Hispanic-American accomplishments and influence. But it’s also an opportunity to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done to move towards greater diversity, equity and inclusion, says Luis Flores, a second-year Stanford MBA student.
“Seeing is believing, particularly for those of us who are closing the gap and still under-represented in many ways — not only at Stanford but across America,” Flores says.
‘THE SPARK YOU NEED TO HAVE’
Stanford Graduate School of Business has been working to amplify Hispanic voices, this month and year-round.
“Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to learn about the rich culture and history of our community and have an open dialogue about the challenges we face,” Flores continues. “It’s the spark you need to have those insightful and meaningful conversations that can lead to surprising outcomes.”
Each year at this time, Poets&Quants partners with Stanford to take a closer look at the ways in which the GSB highlighted its Hispanic students over the past month. Then we dive deeper into what the month means to four GSB students who share their visions for greater DEI — at Stanford and beyond.
Darwin Valentine: “Hispanic Heritage Month gives you a chance to take a step back and reflect on the stories and experiences that ultimately shape such a rich and diverse culture.” Photos courtesy Stanford GSB
HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH AT THE GSB
The GSB made several efforts to emphasize Hispanic Heritage Month.
In order to encourage representation, the school organized a photoshoot to highlight Hispanic students’ experiences — not just with the Stanford community, but with those who might be considering Stanford. “It’s really important to show prospective applicants a diversity of experiences and identities here at Stanford,” says Sonny Stephens, a second-year MBA student.
“Seeing what a career or MBA experience could look like as a Latino is super empowering,” adds Flores. “During the application process it was important for me to meet with students and alumni who looked like me and had similar lived experiences.”
The GSB also put the spotlight on its Hispanic students through social media posts and a web story. Plus, Stephens hosted an Instagram takeover to showcase some of the different ways in which the GSB incorporates cultural identity into day-to-day life.
At the end of the month, from Oct. 15-16, the Hispanic Business Students Association (HBSA) is hosting an off-campus retreat to build the Hispanic community between the first and second-year MBA classes. “During this retreat, we engage in rich conversation about what it’s like to be Hispanic at the GSB and form close relationships,” says Flores, who attended last year’s retreat.
“It was one of the ways I was able to be challenged and more open, vulnerable, and authentic with others. We discussed the importance of accepting and embracing our entire selves, including where we come from, who we are, and our hopes for the future.”
See the next page of this story to learn more about the experience of Hispanic Heritage Month at the GSB through the eyes of four MBA students: Sonny Stephens, Luis Flores, Darwin Valentine, and Eduardo Zaldivar.
Sonny Stephens: “We come into Stanford with a whole lifetime of experiences that are largely shaped by our cultural identities.”
Sonny Stephens: “Acknowledging the history and contributions of Latino people is of utmost importance.”
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Stephes grew up in a traditional Mexican-American family. “I had my mom, grandparents, and great grandmother all under one roof,” he shares.
Upon graduating with an undergraduate degree in Global Affairs at Yale University, he moved to Washington, DC to begin a consulting career. He came to Stanford to broaden his horizons and explore different potential career paths.
Stephens believes that in order to look outside of students’ biases and backgrounds to fulfill the school’s motto of “changing lives, changing organizations, and changing the world,” it’s imperative that they recognize the cultures of people who may not look like them or have the same history. “The Bay Area has a high population of Latinos,” he says. “And Latinos have made a huge impact on Stanford.”
To Stephens, Hispanic Heritage Month is an opportunity to acknowledge the history and contributions of Latino people. “We come into Stanford with a whole lifetime of experiences that are largely shaped by our cultural identities,” he says. “If we’re going to become leaders who manage people — and who do so in a way that’s conducive to a better world — acknowledging the history and contributions of Latino people is of utmost importance.”
Darwin Valentine: “A chance to take a step back and highlight stories of a rich culture.”
Eduardo Zaldivar: “Stanford’s emphasis not just on excellence but on creating positive change was exactly what I was looking for.”
Darwin Valentine split his time growing up between going to school in LA where his dad lived, and spending the summers in Mexico where his mom resided.
After studying political science at UCLA, he worked in investment banking in New York City. After “one too many harsh winters,” he returned to LA where he landed another investment gig, specifically within renewable energy and clean technology.
He decided to go to Stanford so that he could explore entrepreneurship and different forms of investing. “It felt like business school was a great way to reflect on my own work experience to date, and take a step back from what I was doing before the GSB to better explore entrepreneurship, work for an early-stage startup, and test out different types of investing roles,” he says.
For Valentine, Hispanic Heritage Month offers Stanford students an intentional opportunity to learn from their classmates and directly engage with the Hispanic community. “Hispanic Heritage Month gives you a chance to take a step back and reflect on the stories and experiences that ultimately shape such a rich and diverse culture,” he says.
As a member of the HBSA, he aims to help create a safe, welcoming place for incoming Hispanic students; once hearing of folks from Hispanic backgrounds being accepted into the GSB, he and other HBSA members would congratulate them and offer their time to answer any of their questions. “I think it’s important that Hispanic people have great experiences inside and outside the classroom at the GSB and that they continue to engage and stay committed to not only the Hispanic community, but also other communities that are important to them on campus,” he says .
Luis Flores:[It’s] an opportunity to share our vibrant culture with the world.”
Flores was born and raised in Grand Prairie, Texas. “It was a vibrant, tight-knit community where people had an attitude of service and were actively looking out for each other,” he says. “That’s where I found my earliest mentors who inspired me to dream big.”
He came to Stanford from a background working in consumer packaged goods for PepsiCo. After six years there, he wanted to embrace a new opportunity to develop personally and professionally. Plus, he was looking to pivot his career into investing. “I thought an MBA was a perfect opportunity to develop a repertoire of skills to become a principled leader,” he continues.
For Flores, Hispanic Heritage Month “is an opportunity to share our vibrant culture with the world.”
“The Hispanic culture is very diverse,” he explains. “We have tons of different family traditions, values, and beliefs. For me, it’s an opportunity to share my own family’s traditions, including the recipes that remind me of my grandmother.”
But he believes that this month is about more than this; it’s a blend of sharing the rich Hispanic culture with others as well as being reminded that there is still work to be done. “This month is an opportunity to reflect on the progress that our ancestors and families have made over time, but also a reminder to stay committed to the challenges ahead,” he says.
By looking at the progress that still needs to be made, there’s an opportunity to have vulnerable conversations about what’s challenging and the problems that this community faces. “Plus, it’s an opportunity for those on the outside to ally with us and help move our agenda forward,” he adds.
Eduardo Zaldivar: “It’s about remembering the brave and strong Latinos and Latinas who have paved the way for this generation of Hispanic leadership.”
Luis Flores: “This month is an opportunity to reflect on the progress that our ancestors and families have made over time, but also a reminder to stay committed to the challenges ahead.”
Eduardo Zaldivar, a Stanford MBA and Harvard MPA joint degree candidate, was born and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. Growing up, he spent much of his time in Zacatecas, Mexico, where his family is from.
After working in technology entrepreneurship and investing, Zaldivar wanted to further develop as a leader. “Stanford’s emphasis not just on excellence but on creating positive change was exactly what I was looking for,” he says.
Getting the best possible education — and making the most of the opportunities he’s been given — have been guiding principles throughout his life. “My parents didn’t have the opportunity to attend college,” he shares. “My mother only attended up until middle school before having to drop out to support her family.”
To Zaldivar, Hispanic Heritage Month is centered around remembrance. Plus, it’s a chance to inspire future generations of Hispanic leaders to continue making a positive impact. “It’s about remembering the brave and strong Latinos and Latinas who have paved the way for this generation of Hispanic leadership,” he says. “Our parents and grandparents have risked everything to make it in America and provide for the people they love.”
When he graduates in 2023, Zaldivar wants to continue to build and invest in meaningful projects, with the ultimate goal of either working in or launching his own organization. “I want to become the version of myself that is most able to maximize human flourishing and minimize human suffering,” he explains.
‘DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES ARE CRITICAL’
Like all DEI efforts, there is much work to be done beyond Hispanic Heritage Month — especially when it comes to increasing representation in the MBA classroom. “My vision for DEI is to focus on representation and increase the number of applicants that are applying to the GSB,” says Flores.
Flores stresses the importance of schools and workplaces to remember that providing access is different than promoting a safe and inclusive environment — and one that’s conducive to the entire community. “Diverse perspectives are critical for several reasons,” he says. “While they’re thought-provoking and can sometimes lead to difficult conversations, they’re ultimately the best facilitators of unique solutions to the challenges we face — from both a business perspective and personal perspective.”
Stephens says his vision of DEI is to include recruitment, attainment, and advancement — “all of which is in service of creating a virtuous cycle where people can leave this institution and feel like they had a positive experience, strong foot forward to take into the professional world, and want to continue to give back to this community for those who come after them,” he explains.
To Zalvidar, he hopes to create an inclusive community of people from all walks of life that feel valued. “I wish for every single person to have the opportunity to bring about the best possible reality for others,” he says.
DON’T MISS LAST YEAR’S P&Q STORY ON HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH AT STANFORD GSB
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