Latinx business organization sees growth after hiatus

Claire Wong | Daily Trojan

When A.J. Eckstein transferred to USC as a sophomore, he was looking forward to joining 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 launch his own club.

Eckstein, now a senior majoring in business administration, said that he spoke with leaders in Marshall and La CASA and learned that there had been a chapter of the Latino Business Student Association at USC founded in 1978, but that the organization had folded in 2016 because it lacked the leadership to continue. 

Eckstein spoke to friends on campus, who agreed that they needed to bring the organization back and began recruiting friends to help relaunch the club. 

Eckstein met Ricardo Reyes, a senior majoring in neuroscience, through a consulting club at Marshall, and they started working on the organization during the summer of 2018, focusing on recruiting members, getting USC recognition and finding sponsors. 

“He knew that I was Mexican through my background and he also has some Mexican background,” Reyes said. “We wanted to bring opportunities to the Latinx community because we noticed there weren’t any major clubs.”

They spent the summer calling LBSA chapters at other colleges and past 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 the faculty adviser for the former LBSA chapter, to join their team. 

Tolan, an assistant professor of clinical management and organization, watched the old LBSA group become inactive as its leadership, consisting predominantly of seniors, grew busy searching for jobs, she said. When Eckstein emailed her in April last year to express his interest in reviving the organization, she said she was impressed by his energy and enthusiasm to create a space for Latinx students at Marshall.

“What happened in the past was seniors would take it on and do it on their own and didn’t recognize 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.” 

Through the work they put in that summer, LBSA received four sponsors for its first semester, including Ernst and Young, Boston Consulting Group, Oracle and Union Bank. The organizations agreed to provide financial support along with one-on-one talks with recruiters for LBSA members. Within a semester, LBSA grew to more than 100 members.

Now with around 170 general members and 11 executive board members, the organization remains open to students from all majors and backgrounds. Reyes said there are no cutoffs and no selective application process to join the organization. 

“The whole point of LBSA was for it to be inclusive, especially for people that are struggling to get involved or to learn,” Reyes said. “A lot of organizations had a very difficult process to get in, so we didn’t want to do that. Essentially anyone that applies gets in.” 

LBSA hosts events throughout the semester that include professional and social networking, community service and mentorship programs. They hold a speaker series to bring entrepreneurs to talk with members, lead resume and cover-letter workshops, tour companies like Hulu and Deutsche and host recruiting events in which members get one-on-one time with company representatives.  

LBSA also collaborates with other organizations like the Black Business Student Association to hold larger and more diverse recruitment events.

To make sure the organization continues after they graduate, Eckstein and Reyes decided to pass on their leadership roles to underclassmen this semester and serve as advisers to train new leaders for LBSA.

“I think if I were to graduate as the president then once I passed it down, I would not be there to help them and to really essentially put the training wheels on and help them get through these first initial steps.” Eckstein said. 

Temoc Chavero, a junior majoring in business administration, served on the founding executive board in Fall 2018 and this year serves as president of the organization. He said having Eckstein and Reyes as advisers has helped the board members transition into their new roles while still allowing 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] had disappeared, and it was a tragedy, so we are being much more sustainable this year so that it’s much easier to pass on the information,” Chavero said. “We want to bring in people from all types of different majors and backgrounds and not only celebrate the Latino culture and not only promote them, but also because ultimately 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. Both Eckstein and Reyes said that when they visit campus several years after graduating, they hope to see the organization grow and thrive. 

 “We do want it to last,” Reyes said. “It should last. It doesn’t make sense for it to not exist … I hope that if I come back in a couple of years, it’s still here.”