Rebranded Student Club Aims to Include New Cultures; Broaden Membership Base

Former Asian Society, now Asia Business Student Association, welcomes new faces, direction with inaugural gala.

February 10, 2016

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Omid Scheybani, MBA ’16, led a fireside chat with Udamy CEO Dennis Yang, MBA ’02. | Stacy Geiken

A hallmark of the Stanford Graduate School of Business experience is the lifelong bonds and tight networks formed during students’ time on campus. One of the ways these close connections are fostered is through the participation in student groups. With 150 to choose from, Stanford GSB students have a wide range of interests around which to spend time with their classmates beyond the classroom.

One club that exemplifies the inclusiveness of Stanford GSB is the newly rebranded Asia Business Student Association, which recently celebrated its new identity at its inaugural gala. While an organization specifically for students of Asian heritage can be traced back to 1986, ABSA wanted to focus on including students not only from Asian cultures — from Genghis Khan to Singapore — but also any student on the Stanford campus with an interest in learning more about the perspectives Asia has to offer.

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Diversity events enhance the academic experiences of our students and build a strong community within the MBA program and throughout the extended Stanford GSB network.
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Dean Saloner

The group’s fresh take is also particularly relevant and timely for the Asian and Asian American community at Stanford GSB given the recent discourse in the media around a “bamboo ceiling” and the underrepresentation of Asians and Asian Americans in top executive positions, even in tech companies where they are well represented among professional staff. The group aims to address strategies for Stanford GSB students of Asian descent to overcome these barriers and increase awareness and understanding of these challenges amongst the broader community.

“We looked at the landscape of clubs and realized there was an Asian Society and Greater China Business Club, but not all Asians identified with parts of the Asian Society,” said second-year MBA candidate Shu-Min Wee, who served on the gala committee and is one of the organization’s leaders. “We asked, why isn’t there a diversity club that represents the interests of Asians? That’s a huge gap, given we’re probably the largest minority group aside from women at Stanford GSB. I think the very first thing we did was to open up the discussion; there’s a lot that is thought but there isn’t really a forum where people can talk openly and share their views.”

Open to any Stanford student interested in Asia-related business topics, the group hosts cultural appreciation events and brown-bag lunches with influential members of the Asian community to impart practical career advice.

“We want to ask, ‘What does it mean to be Asian at Stanford GSB?’” Wee added.

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Dean Garth Saloner delivering remarks at the ASBA Gala. | Stacy Geiken

At the January 2016 inaugural gala, titled “Asian Redefined: Confident Voices in a New Era,” close to 130 students gathered in cocktail apparel in Vidalakis Dining Hall in the Schwab Residential Center.

“My hope is that this event continues to be led by first- and second- year [students] so that future classes build upon the accomplishments of the class that comes before them,” said Philip H. Knight Professor and Dean Garth Saloner who kicked off the festivities. “Diversity events enhance the academic experiences of our students and build a strong community within the MBA program and throughout the extended Stanford GSB network.”

Dennis Yang, MBA ’02, now CEO of Udemy, shared key takeaways from his time at Stanford GSB. In a fireside chat-style conversation with first-year MBA student Omid Scheybani, he also shared lessons from his career, post-graduation. “Entrepreneur is a state of mind; it doesn’t matter where you are or what you’re doing, it’s more of your mindset and your approach,” Yang said.

Regarding leadership, “It’s really easy to get caught up in doing stuff. You have to realize how precious your time is and only focus on things that can move the needle,” he said.

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students at the ASBA gala

Stacy Geiken

Beyond Yang’s takeaways, attendees testified to the value of opportunities at Stanford GSB to unite students and give a glimpse into other cultures and their approach to business.

“Being an international student, the most fascinating thing about being at Stanford GSB is learning about other cultures,” said second-year MBA candidate Daniel Kob. “The Asian culture is so different: It’s important to understand different approaches and thoughts around collaboration and voicing opinions. Participation in the ABSA is a window to that.”

By Heather Hansen

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