News Column

Masters Plan

July/August 2005, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Sandra Gonzalez


Mariela Oetinger got more than she bargained for when she approached Safeway Inc. to sponsor a conference for her organization in 2004.

The retail food giant provided $25,000 to the National Society of Hispanic Masters in Business Administration (NSHMBA) and then made Ms. Oetinger an offer she didn't refuse: to join the company as a strategic sourcing solutions manager.

"I asked Safeway to sponsor and they ended up asking me to work for them," says Ms. Oetinger, who left her job at Mervyn's to join the company.

Not everyone finds career success so quickly, of course, but NSHMBA has launched the careers of thousands of young Hispanics since its founding in 1988. From one chapter in Los Angeles, the group now has grown to include 23 chapters with more than 6,000 members. Significantly, NSHMBA has drawn major support from the corporate world for its scholarship fund, which this year reached nearly $1 million. Almost 200 MBA students were awarded scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $5,000 last year.

Corporations, such as Sun Microsystems, Citigroup, Ford Motor Company, and Microsoft look to NSHMBA not just for future hires, but also as an investment to expand market share. The 17-year-old organization's mission to foster Hispanic leadership through graduate management education and professional development is paying off at an unprecedented level, thanks in large part to its strategic corporate sponsorships.

The benefits for companies that donate to and work with NSHMBA go beyond recruiting. The firms also derive more insight into the fast-growing Hispanic consumer market.

"NSHMBA is a great source of diverse talent. It's a strong organization and that brings us success," says Andrea Mason, director of external partnerships, global workforce diversity at Citigroup. But she acknowledges that the insight brought to the table by the NSHMBA hires is vital, too. "Moving from the hires to the customer segment, NSHMBA will be more critical to us as we roll out Hispanic marketing initiatives," she says.

The benefits of developing relationships with major corporations resonates with NSHMBA members, who are turning out for the conferences in record numbers. The Northern California LEAD (Leadership Education, and Diversity) Conference held in San Jose on May 14 rallied corporate support from eBay, Cisco Systems, Gap Inc., and Intuit, and saw a 20 percent attendance increase.

NSHMBA executives say that networking is the key to its partnership success. "Once we establish a good relationship [with companies], they donate every year," says marketing communications specialist Michelle Raczynski. And when a company hires a graduate who has been a NSHMBA member, that new hire is invariably an advocate for the organization.

The relationship Ms. Oetinger began last year with Safeway exemplifies this connection: Safeway increased its contribution to NSHMBA to $35,000 this year.

"I worked with Mervyn's on NSHMBA initiatives and sponsorships, which they still continue," she says. "Now I have Safeway involved. It's a win-win."


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