BSU Event Allows Students to Learn from Industry Experts

Pali students and staff gathered in Mercer Hall to attend the Black Excellence Panel event hosted by the Black Student Union (BSU) on Feb. 27. 

As the event began, the panelists introduced themselves to the audience, composed primarily of African-American students and their teachers. Following these introductions, BSU Co-Presidents Brynn Green and Aneesa Cole, both seniors, presented a list of questions to the panelists and explained the significance of this event. 

“We decided to host a black excellence panel to help students gain insight into the broad nature of black talent and diversity of interests,” Green said. “We wanted to expand the narrative of black success beyond musicians and athletics and show potential and diversity in every field.”

Students gleaned insight from accomplished African-Americans in various occupations, including Bank Of America senior vice president Melack Igwe, Dentist Dr. Ijeoma Igwe, National Football League player Robert Rochelle, music producers Ricky Rude and Marlon Barrow, real estate agent Trina Gonalez-Van and strategic advisor Jamal Weathers.  

Q: What inspired you to pick your career?

A: “I wanted to improve people’s lives and give them confidence,” Dr. Ijeoma Igwe explained. “We needed a change in [the Black] community since many of us were not exposed to dentists as children. This was my inspiration.”

“I failed at everything and had six failed college experiences trying to discover myself,” Gonzales-Van added. “But, despite this, I knew I really loved houses and the concept of owning something on this Earth. My passion is to help families and communities of people that look like myself.”

“Finance has always been something I was interested in, and we as a Black community need to focus on finance and grow on our current success,” Melack Igwe said. “Four in 10 black people own homes. How many have a will or trust to ensure they can pass that down? Black generational wealth is important, and through my field, I hope to accomplish this.”

Q: What advice do you have for people pursuing your field?

A: “My advice would be to follow your heart, and play with pride,” Rochelle said. “You can always overcome adversities through hard work.”

“Patience and execution,” Weathers said. “There are no shortcuts, and you need to work hard. Once you follow these steps, you’ll get the right results.”

Students in the audience also had the opportunity to ask questions.

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?

A: “My mother is my biggest inspiration, and she taught me respect, discipline and other life skills,” Rochelle said. “With that being said, appreciate the people in your life and use their experiences as inspiration.”

Q: What are some things I should engage in during college to be successful?

A: “Associate yourself in clubs and organizations that surround your interest and goals,” Dr. Ijeoma Igwe said. “Through this you can make connections and meet people similar to you.”

Before the event ended and a commemorative photograph was taken, Rochelle left the audience with a final piece of advice: “Always walk into places whether that be school, a job, a party or whatever knowing it’s for you. These rooms full of others are where you belong. Walk in knowing that.”

“I hope students take away that there are connections and possibilities in every field, and that you can find community anywhere,” Green added. “It’s great to see people that look like you and do what you want to do, and events like these show the possibility that is out there.”