Business and Diversity | Beaufort County Now | Inaugural Copeland Fellows announced at annual Business Leadership Conference

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Michael Rudd.

Mark Copeland ’96, center, speaks with EY’s Ken Bouyer, left, and the newly announced Copeland Fellows. (Photos by Rhett Butler)

    It's been a while, but the Business Leadership Conference (BLC), organized by East Carolina University's College of Business, took place once again Sept. 13. COB juniors, seniors and graduates participated in the event's keynote presentation in the morning and almost 20 sessions throughout the day.

    The annual BLC theme is constructed around ethics, diversity, globalization and the environment. Diversity was a focus of this year's event thanks to the keynote presentation by Ken Bouyer, EY Americas director of inclusiveness recruiting, and news surrounding a donor's gift.

    "Organizations such as ours are relying on universities to produce talent that will work and can work across the world without missing a beat," said Bouyer. "It's critically important that universities focus on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) and that journey."

    The Copeland Diversity and Inclusion Fellows

    In February 2020, the College of Business announced the new Copeland Diversity and Inclusion Fellowship program. The program is possible thanks to a generous commitment from COB alumni Mark and Tracy Copeland. This two-year fellowship is a comprehensive program that celebrates and encourages a culture of diversity and inclusion.

    This year's BLC served as the backdrop to announce the Copeland Fellows and for Mark Copeland to meet the fellows for the first time.

    "I'm excited to see the energy they have," said Copeland. "I think about their different majors, their backgrounds, where they come from, and their activities around the university, and I couldn't be more excited by what this young generation is going to continue to deliver during their time here at ECU."

    The inaugural Copeland Diversity and Inclusion Fellows include:

  • Aurora Shafer, entrepreneurship major
  • Paige DeMutis, marketing major (intended)
  • Grant Smith, marketing major (intended)
  • Evelyn Gonzalez, accounting major
  • Jonathan Coleman, management information systems major

    The two-year Copeland Fellowship was supposed to start in the fall of 2020, but was delayed due to COVID-19. Starting this term, the five fellows will participate in a comprehensive program that celebrates and encourages a culture of diversity and inclusion. They will immerse themselves in an extensive range of programming that includes multicultural experiences outside the classrooms and a celebration of the diverse experiences that our student body brings to the COB.

    The Copeland Fellows will be required to participate in diversity and inclusion-related events for four semesters. They will each close out the experience by working on a project to demonstrate what they have learned while participating in the program. Twenty hours will be required for each semester.

    "I'm hoping this fellowship allows for these students to come together and to make an impact across the COB's student body," said Mark Copeland.

    Bouyer also had an opportunity to meet the new Copeland Fellows following his presentation and after doing so, he said he was impressed.

    "They (Copeland Fellows) are from all walks of life, and I think they're going to add so much value," he said. "I think they're going to grow and learn together as they move forward. I think this is going to be the start of something special."

    Something Special

    Aurora Shafer is an Honors College junior from Orlando, Florida. She is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in entrepreneurship with a minor in disability studies. As a person with a disability, Shafer said she is familiar with the specific issues faced by the disabled community, but she is not as knowledgeable on the specific issues faced by other historically oppressed groups. Her goal for the program is to gain a better understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion issues and better pursue a career goal of making employment accessible to disabled people.

    "I am beyond excited to have the opportunity to help define what this fellowship is all about and emphasize the importance of including disabled people in diversity, equity and inclusion conversations," Shafer said.

    As a junior in the management information systems program, Jonathan Coleman has a lot on his plate. He's a member of the football team, vice president of the Student-athlete Advisory Committee and a member of the Black Student-Athlete Organization and the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society. The Richmond, Virginia, native is excited to have a chance to "be the front-runners of this program and lay the foundation for the many students who will come after us."

    "My goal for the Copeland Fellowship is to give a voice to people who feel as if they don't have one," Coleman said. "If we can impact just one student, it would mean the world."
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