Tevej Rhodes understands the hurdles a person of color can face in the business world.
“From pronouncing my name wrong” – it’s pronounced “Tuh-vaye” – to “worrying about my physical presentation (how my hair looks, how my nails look), I think it can get into my head and even affect my mental well-being. I don’t want to feel like a quota.” she said.
An economics major from Walterboro, Rhodes is the vice president of student engagement and an executive board member of Clemson University’s Minority Business Student Association (MBSA). It’s an organization that was formed in the College of Business to help minority business students feel included and bond with other students on campus.
With more than 70 members, the Minority Business Student Association strives to “Recruit, Retain, and Develop Diverse Leaders,” while maximizing their career potential in business.
Cameron Blassingame, a junior finance major from Greenville, is the president of MBSA. Pursuing a minor in accounting with a concentration in corporate finance, Blassingame seeks to earn a law degree upon graduation and work with contract negotiations in the sports industry.
“Where I’m from, there’s not too many resources available for this kind of work,” he said. “I’ve grown up with a love of sports, but all I saw was the entertainment side of that in my future and not the corporate world. As an association, MBSA works to break down these barriers for students.”
He believes MBSA can help younger generations of minority students get excited about their future professional careers. “My cousin who just turned seven looks up to me,” he said. “Making waves in the business world with MBSA makes me proud to be his role model.”
After a five-year stint in the military, Blassingame entered Clemson and started looking for ways to become more involved with the campus community. He was particularly drawn to the family-oriented, relationship-building aspect of MBSA.
“When I worked in the Navy, getting involved was a requirement. At Clemson, it’s a volunteer effort and I think that makes my passion and work as president for this group stronger.”
Antonio Harrison, co-founder of MBSA, connected Rhodes with the association during its fall 2017 kickoff event.
Rhodes immediately felt the connection with other members Harrison hoped to foster. “My favorite part of MBSA is the deep relationships that are developed, especially with mentor figures,” she said.
Now in her position as vice president of student engagement for MBSA, Rhodes works to bring minority first-generation college students to the group.
“We have an obvious lack of diversity on campus,” Rhodes said. “I do not see black female professors from the South in any of my economics classes. Building diversity helps minority students feel a shared experience, which is important for success.
“In class, I am often the only female of color and I have instantly connected with others because of MBSA, which makes my classroom experiences much more positive and supportive,” she said.
MBSA aims to maximize the career potential of its members while at the same time be a support group on campus.
“We are here to bring bigger and better things to the campus,” Rhodes said. “Diverse perspectives allow nuances and approaches that haven’t been thought of before.”
“One of my favorite experiences with this organization is just seeing all the friendships that have flourished and the development of every student member,” Blassingame said. One of his most important goals is getting this mission out there to the community and continuing to reach more people.
“It can be very difficult to sell yourself. What can you do to set yourself apart from others? It is one thing to have the experience, but how can one communicate it?” Rhodes said.
“In MBSA we created a Shark Tank Simulation to challenge students to think quickly about selling tactics that would captivate their audience’s attention,” she said. “We invited notable Clemson alumni and faculty to provide concrete feedback to help boost their knowledge and confidence. All of our members were very engaged and took tangible lessons for the stimulation.”
Rhodes said she wants members to stay involved with MBSA. “Member retention is a priority. After members graduate, we want them to bring their business knowledge and experience back to the group.”
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