When AJ Eckstein transferred to USC as a sophomore, he was eager to join a club that would combine his passion for business with his Hispanic heritage. He quickly realized after attending the Marshall School of Business involvement fair that there was no such club specifically for Latinx students.
It was up to him to start his own club.
Eckstein, now a graduate in business administration, said he spoke with executives from Marshall and La CASA and learned that there had been a chapter of the Latino Business Student Association at USC founded in 1978, but the organization folded in 2016 because it lacked the leadership to continue.
Eckstein spoke to friends on campus, who agreed they needed to bring the organization back and began recruiting friends to help revive the club.
Eckstein met Ricardo Reyes, a senior neuroscientist, through a counseling club in Marshall, and they began working on the organization in the summer of 2018, focusing on recruiting members. , obtaining recognition from USC and seeking sponsors.
“He knew I was Mexican from my background and he has Mexican background as well,” Reyes said. “We wanted to provide opportunities for the Latinx community because we noticed there weren’t any big clubs.”
They spent the summer calling LBSA chapters at other colleges and former USC LBSA alumni and messaging incoming students on Facebook to spread the word about the organization’s relaunch.
They also reached out to Jody Tolan, who served as a faculty advisor for the former LBSA chapter, to join their team.
Tolan, an assistant professor of clinical management and organization, watched the former LBSA group go dormant as its leadership, made up mostly of older people, bustled about looking for jobs, she said. When Eckstein emailed her in April last year expressing interest in reviving the organization, she said she was impressed with his energy and enthusiasm for creating a space for Latinx students at Marshall. .
“What happened in the past was that the seniors took it on and did it on their own and didn’t recognize that they needed to build an effective team,” Tolan said. “I think [the current leadership has] been very good at recognizing how to build a team that is committed to the long-term vision of the organization.
Thanks to the work they did that summer, LBSA received four sponsors for its first semester, including Ernst and Young, Boston Consulting Group, Oracle and Union Bank. The organizations have agreed to provide financial support as well as one-on-one interviews with recruiters for LBSA members. Within a semester, the LBSA grew to over 100 members.
Today, with approximately 170 general members and 11 board members, the organization remains open to students of all majors and backgrounds. Reyes said there is no threshold or selective application process to join the organization.
“The whole point of the LBSA was for it to be inclusive, especially for people who find it difficult to engage or learn,” Reyes said. “A lot of organizations had a very difficult process to integrate, so we didn’t want to do that. Basically anyone who applies comes in.
LBSA hosts events throughout the semester, including professional and social networking, community service, and mentorship programs. They host a speaker series to get entrepreneurs talking with members, run workshops on resumes and cover letters, run tours like Hulu and Deutsche, and run recruiting events where members have one-on-one interviews. with company representatives.
LBSA also works with other organizations like the Black Business Student Association to organize larger and more diverse recruiting events.
To ensure the organization continues after graduation, Eckstein and Reyes decided to pass on their leadership roles to underclassmen this semester and serve as advisors in training new leaders for the LBSA.
“I think if I were to graduate as president, once I passed it on, I wouldn’t be there to help them and to really get the training wheels going and help them get through those first initial steps. .” Ecstein said.
Temoc Chavero, a junior majoring in business administration, served on the founding board of directors in the fall of 2018 and this year is president of the organization. He said having Eckstein and Reyes as advisers has helped board members transition into their new roles while empowering them to make decisions for the organization.
Chavero said the board records everything it does at meetings and events and trains younger members to lead the organization once the current board graduates.
“[LBSA] was gone, and it was a tragedy, so we’re a lot more sustainable this year so it’s a lot easier to pass the information on,” Chavero said. “We want to bring in people from all kinds of different disciplines and backgrounds and not only celebrate Latino culture and not only promote it, but also because our end goal is to create the next generation of Latino role models.”
Last year, LBSA received Marshall’s Diversity and Inclusion Awar, and Eckstein received the Most Outstanding President award. Eckstein and Reyes said that when they visit campus several years after graduating, they hope to see the organization grow and prosper.
“We want this to last,” Reyes said. “It should last. It doesn’t make sense that he doesn’t exist… I hope that if I come back in a few years, he will still be there.