on February 10th, 2015
POSTED ON FEBRUARY 4, 2015 BY HAAS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS
It was the scariest thing she could think of doing as a new MBA student.
When Nikita Mitchell arrived at Haas in the fall of 2013, her top goal was to develop her leadership skills—which she knew would require stepping outside her comfort zone. So instead of heading up a club or organizing a conference, she decided to run for class president.
“I’ve never been in a big public role. I’ve never had to be the face of something, and the idea was terrifying,” says Nikita, MBA 15. “Ultimately, I decided I should do it because I didn’t have anything to lose.”
A few months into her first semester at Haas she was elected, and in 2014 she served as the first African-American woman to head the MBA Association. She also served simultaneously as a liaison to the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, which works to bring more under-represented minorities into top MBA programs. Along with co-liaisons Kory Vargas-Caro and Dan Wong, both MBA 15, she led the Haas group to win the Consortium’s highest honor and $10K to build on their work.
Just after passing the mantle to the 2015 MBAA President Dan Fishman, Nikita spoke with us about her leadership style, her accomplishments, and what she learned.
“I’ve grown a lot,” she says. “Most importantly–both personally and professionally—I’ve also learned how to ask for help when I need it.”
Nikita is up front about the fact that balancing outside leadership activities with the rigorous academic demands of the MBA was the biggest challenge she’s faced. During her first semester as president, she took on some big issues for the program, including how to make changes in the academic culture.
She credits the support of her classmates, and former MBAA President Stephanie White, for going out of their way to support her. “It was really incredible what people did to help me, often without even being asked.”
Her approach to managing it all was to build a strong team.
“I feel I created a high functioning team where everyone has been able to accomplish a lot in their own roles,” she says. “And I feel like I’ve been a strong voice for students.”
With the Berkeley MBA members of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Classes of 2015 and 2016
As a natural collaborator, she knew being at the top of an organization would sometimes mean making tough calls.
“Being at the point of making a decision, where you know not everyone is going to be happy, was the biggest development area for me,” she says. “I think my biggest lesson was the realization that being in a leadership role among my peers wouldn’t harm my friendships. In fact, the relationships I built fueled my leadership.”
Though Nikita says the experience underscored how critical it is to not go at decision-making alone, she also learned that sometimes people don’t want to have input.
“That’s part of leadership too—knowing when people want to be brought to the table,” she says. “It started to become more instinctual toward the end.”
The importance of community
As the daughter of Caribbean immigrants, Nikita is proud that she was the first African-American woman to serve as Full-time MBA class president—and it was important to her family in the tight-knit community around Howard University where she grew up.
Her father came from Trinidad on a soccer scholarship to Howard, and her mother immigrated from Barbados. They met in the 1980s at Howard, where both worked as accountants. Nikita and all four of her sisters earned their bachelor’s degrees at Howard as well.
After graduation, she landed a position at Deloitte Consulting. She later earned a fellowship through ProInspire, which matches young professionals with nonprofits, as she explored careers in social impact.
She applied to MBA programs through the Consortium, which offers full scholarships to students who get into their top-ranked school. At the last minute, she ranked the University of Michigan’s Ross first, which has a large and active minority population. But in a twist of fate, she visited Haas during the Women in Leadership conference weekend, and knew it was the right place for her.
“I was so surprised by how right the culture felt. The warmth was there. The connections I made with people felt authentic,” she says. “I felt included immediately, and I thought ‘that’s somewhere I’ll continue to grow.”
As she looks toward graduation in May, Nikita summed up her biggest takeaway:
“What this leadership experience taught me is that I like to run things,” she says.
No doubt she will.
on December 16th, 2014
Mrs. Green, Sandhya and Josanne,
I slept and rested all day on Sunday but I could not sleep until I sent this email which was heavy on my heart and mind.
I have blessed to bear witness to many Cafe Holiday concerts over the years. This concert on Saturday, December 6, 2014 was the BEST so far….but I know the best will keep coming and CAFE will have many more WONDERFUL concerts in the future.
When Ava Marie was performed I was moved to tears. I was captivated especially hearing Josanne”s solo performances…WOW!
The jazz combo was absolutely OUTSTANDING…to hear the flute and harmonica blended with the steel pan was simply awesome….. and of course our very own babies .. .The Rhythm Starters…..under the gifted guidance and tutelage of Candice Thomas.
Rhythm Starters demonstrated their skills and give us a preview of their developing skills and talents
as some of them prepare to take their rightful places in Positive Vibrations in the future.
Genesis and Pantones were simply the grace notes to the wonderful musical pieces that were performed.
Our CAFE Alumni Ensemble …what can I say…SO VERY PROUD OF ALL OF THEM…as my own daughter is a member of this esteemed group! They “rocked the house”" with their usual “showmanship” and expert musical talent and provided a most appropriate ”happy” and cheerful selection during our free will offering.
The Positive Vibrations performance along with the interpretive dance and the exciting and pulsating drumming ….”Go Tell It On The Mountain” ended the concert on such a high note for me…I could not move… I sat their savoring all that I had witnessed and thanking God for blessing this concert, the performers…. and blessing CAFE.
( I forgot I was supposed to go help with the bake sale!)
CAFE”s “ship” is in good hands ….as CAFE sets sail for the “high seas” moving on to the next level ; with Sundhya at the helm steering the program and administrative growth …and the wonderful, extremely talented and gifted Josanne steering the artistic musical helm and with Candice on board….and of course our “visionary” CEO…Lorna Green.
We cannot forget Liz Caesar who steers the creative arts helm providing creative and artistic guidance for our Cafe students and whose artistic skills help to set up our beautiful table display at the bake sale. Last but certainly not least ..our wonderful tutors, parents and volunteers,,,etc.
CAFE may encounter and have to navigate through ”choppy waters”, CAFE may accidentally and unintentionally “get off the course” as we sail …but CAFE’s compass “Dare to Dream’ will always bring CAFE back safely to shore and to CAFE’s mission…to continue to serve, grow and develop our young people.
In closing all I have to say is …….ALL ABOARD!!!….make way as we sail into the future of CAFE and stop at ONLY THE BEST “ports of calls” for our young people.
May God continue to bless CAFE and each and every one, each and every family represented during the Holiday Season and throughout the year.
May peace be unto us all.
on December 5th, 2014
Positive Vibrations Youth Steel Orchestra
Saturday, December 6th
Annual Holiday Concert
First United Methodist Church
6201 Belcrest Road
Hyattsville, MD 20721
Donate a toy for a homeless child
on November 10th, 2014
Pantones CAFE’s adult ensemble performed at the 25th Annual Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, on Saturday, October 26, 2014. This was the first appearance of a steel band at the festival and the audience really enjoyed their performance as there were numerous encores requests from the audience.
The Rehoboth Beach “Sea Witch Festival” is an annual three day event held over one weekend in October, and runs from Friday through Sunday . The event draws over 100,000 locals and visitors from nearby states. The Saturday Sea Witch Parade featured, clowns, wizards and witches, cartoon characters, sea creatures, historical costumed figures, and even costumed babies in strollers. For those who did not participate in the parade there were family events featuring all types of fun, games and activities for children and adults, with lots of food, arts and crafts and free entertainment throughout the day. Many of the band members stayed overnight to take in parts of the festival the following day. We certainly hope that we would be invited back next year.
on October 12th, 2011
Feet were tapping and heads were shakin’ as CAFE instructor and steel pan virtuoso
Victor Provost, along with his Synthesis Quartet, performed at Jazz Night on September
9th, co-sponsored by CAFE and the First United Methodist Church. Victor plays a
mean tenor pan and demonstrated his artistry as both an ensemble musician and
soloist, playing straight-ahead and contemporary jazz that brought the audience to its
feet. He was accompanied by Noble Jolley on keyboard, Nate Jolley on drums, and
Eric Wheeler on bass. If you missed the show, the next time you hear that Victor’s
playing…..RUN, don’t walk, to buy tickets. Those of us who heard him will be clamoring
to be first in line!
The Sept. 9th event inaugurated Jazz in Hyattsville, an exciting new opportunity to hear
outstanding live music in the intimate setting of FUMC’s Fellowship Hall. Proceeds from
ticket sales support constituent services at CAFE and FUMC. Stay posted for future Jazz Night events this fall!