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More than 400 undergraduates from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School gathered Sept. 19 for the 30th annual Undergraduate Business Symposium.

This year’s event, which brought representatives from 43 companies and attracted students from 29 different majors, incorporated a theme of diversity and featured networking opportunities that targeted underrepresented populations including minorities, females and LGBTQ students.

“The topic of diversity appears to be increasing in importance for many of our stakeholders. UNC is investing resources to improve diversity and is making great strides as a result,” said David Vogel, associate director for undergraduate business career development and employer relations at Kenan-Flagler. “UNC Kenan-Flagler also is working aggressively to recruit, admit, educate and retain a diverse group of individuals.”

The importance of diversity was also highlighted during the keynote address given by Beth Brooke-Marciniak, Global Vice Chair of Public Policy at EY. As the global sponsor of EY’s diversity and inclusiveness efforts, Brooke-Marciniak is a prominent advocate for the benefits of inclusive leadership. She stressed that EY, this year’s Diversity Title Sponsor for Symposium, knows that diverse teams will always perform best.

“It is strategically important to us,” she said. “We fundamentally believe that diversity and inclusiveness improve the bottom line and performance.”

Brooke-Marciniak also emphasized that authenticity and passion help shape people into great leaders. Although leading diverse teams isn’t easy, she said, learning to value differences is key.

“Great leaders know how to cultivate difference,” she said. “Great leaders learn to respect difference and respect opinions that aren’t their own.”

Saniya Sachdeva, a senior at Kenan-Flagler and a member of the Core Committee that planned Symposium, said that Brooke-Marciniak was the committee’s number-one choice for a speaker.

“I was fortunate enough to have seen Beth Brooke-Marciniak be interviewed at EY’s Emerging Leaders Summit last year and was very impressed with her style, speaking abilities, approach and insights,” Sachdeva said. “When she accepted our invitation to be our keynote, the entire Core Committee was beyond excited.”

Just before the end of her address, Brooke-Marciniak shared some words of advice for students as they prepare to eventually enter a diverse workforce: “Realize the importance of relationships,” she said. “Relationships matter. The world doesn’t work any other way than relationships, and they’re so important to start building right now.”

Story by Olivia Hart, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Photos by Dan Sears, Office of Communications and Public Affairs

Published September 19, 2014