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Sam Wargolet (1Y 2021), Em Kuo (MMM 2022), Adriana Gomez (MMM 2022), Morgan Jacob Parkings (2Y 2022) and Eliza Loomis (2Y 2022) all comprise Team Rise of the JEDI, who recently competed in the John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition, a competition focused on how business schools and corporate America can address racial inequalities and injustices. Team Rise of the JEDI competed alongside another Kellogg team, Team Multiplicity, which comprised of Bri Leon (MMM 2021), Ben Richards (2Y 2021), Kai Amory (MMM 2022), Ashley Abraham (2Y 2022), Sammy Goldstein (2Y 2022) and Sandra Carruitero (2Y 2022). Both teams were semi-finalists in the competition.

Inside Kellogg had the opportunity to connect with Em Kuo and Sam Wargolet of Team Rise of the JEDI on their experience participating in the competition, as well as their work in a racial justice and equity. Here’s what they had to say.

Advocating respectfully and creatively for others

EM KUO: When I first heard of Emory’s launch of the first-ever nationwide racial justice business case competition focused on the intersection of business and racial justice, I knew I wanted to get a strong, diverse team together to compete. The John R. Lewis Case Competition (JLCC) reimagines ways businesses could sustainably and scalably bridge equity gaps; here was an opportunity to push firms to put their money and action where their mouth was — I wasn’t about to pass it up.

As a proud LGBTQ+ leader, member of the Pride@Kellogg community and Asian American, I have had profound experiences on both ends of active allyship and believe it is our collective civic duty to continue to push the status quo to be a more just and compassionate world for everyone, not just when it impacts your own in-group identity. As recent BMA Week Keynote Pamay Bassey (Chief Diversity and Learning Officer, The Kraft Heinz Company) stated, “There is power in coalition. There is power in we. The coalition needs to be diverse.”

Here at Kellogg, we continually strive to understand how we can be best equipped to be brave leaders both at Kellogg and at various global organizations for the decades to come. To me, becoming the most effective and impactful brave leader means advocating respectfully and creatively for those on the margins, those who face injustices and inequities from the systems currently in place. To think beyond yourself. To leverage your voice and privilege in whatever capacity possible to ensure that voices not in the room are heard.

I felt that the JLCC provided an important platform to grow those leadership skillsets and push in the direction that I believe all businesses should trend towards. I firmly believe that there are ways to instill racial equity as part of the DNA of every organization – private or public – in a way that is both authentic and fundamental to the core of its business model.

Moreover, in my first two semesters at Kellogg, I have felt that one of the most meaningful ways to deepen relationships with my fellow peers was through case competitions on things of interest to you. I was thrilled when Team Rise of the JEDI (justice, equity, diversity and inclusion) came together through our shared investment in social justice work. Under the leadership of Morgan Parkings (2Y 2022) and I, Eliza Loomis (2Y 2022, KSA First-Year Director, DE&I), Adriana Gomez (MMM 2022), Sam Wargolet (1Y 2021, KSA First-Year VP, DE&I) were humbled to be selected as one of two Kellogg teams moving forward as one of 24 semi-finalists out of the 120+ nationwide submissions.

Diving deeper into diversity, equity, inclusion and justice

SAM WARGOLET: When Morgan Parkings reached out to ask me to join her team for the John R. Lewis Case Competition, it was an easy yes. I came to Kellogg to dive deeper into the business world of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, and the competition was the perfect way to compliment classroom learning with real action for our client, Salesforce. In addition, I was absolutely thrilled about the diverse team that Morgan and Em had put together and was excited to learn from everyone on the team.

I grew up in a Minneapolis suburb, and as a white, straight, able-bodied girl with a profound amount of privilege, I was fortunate to have both influential teachers and inspiring, supportive parents, who not only taught me about the injustice that exists in the world, but also inspired me to be a part of the change. I deeply believe that with great privilege comes great responsibility, and I am working to do more, learn more and be more for those without the same privileges as me. It’s not always easy, and I certainly have made and will continue to make mistakes, but it is work that I believe I have a moral obligation to take up.

The JLCC was a fantastic opportunity to put this commitment to work. Our team was phenomenal, and put into action the research on how more diverse teams create more innovative solutions. Combing our unique expertise, backgrounds and lenses was only a benefit to our final product. Beyond our team’s work, I also enjoyed watching the competing teams across the country share their final presentations. I hope to take away lessons from each of them.

At Kellogg, I have had the chance to explore and learn more about DEIJ from every angle. Classes such as Beyond Diversity, Federal Policy, and Social Innovation: Design for Change, have deepened my knowledge about the challenges we face and provided frameworks and ideas for potential solutions. Through the DEI Deans Consulting Alliance, I am gaining hands-on experience as a project manager on the intricacies of change management within large organizations. As the KSA’s First-Year VP of DEI, I have the privilege of working with amazing students and faculty who are all motivated and determined to continuously improve the Kellogg experience for all students — including Em and Eliza! The JLCC was another fantastic opportunity to explore this robust, complicated and rewarding work.

Now that the competition has wrapped up, I find myself looking towards the future, excited about a few concepts in this space: first, public/private partnerships as a strategy to bring about positive change; second, a shift towards thinking beyond just diversity (representation) and towards inclusion, equity, and justice in a business setting; and third, shifting mental models around racism, sexism and other prejudice so that they are not “taboo” topics but mission-critical challenges to face head-on.

Collaborating for systemic, equitable change

We ultimately collaborated from November through January, taking calls over the holiday break to conduct research and ideate ways of reimagining how our client, Salesforce, could reach their racial justice commitments. Although we didn’t ultimately win the competition, our team formed a deep bond, forged through our mutual core value to push for systemic equitable change in all organizations. Moreover, we had a virtual mixer with the other Kellogg team – Multiplicity – to further create community among people with this shared passion for social impact. It is our hope to one day sit across the boardroom table from one another, and our fellow peers, bravely driving the change we dared to dream of during our Kellogg JLCC days.