A great leader helps us discover what we are truly made of and gives us the confidence to take bold action. Great leadership means to continuously put your team in a position where they can utilize our individual gifts in the most authentic, exciting, and fulfilling ways possible.

When I entered Fuqua as a first-year student, I felt insecure, incapable, and afraid—like I didn’t belong. My dear friend Andrew Fischer helped me find my voice. He reached out to me, and I vented to him my fears and insecurities. He simply told me that we do not have to be perfect, we just have to be willing.

With an offer to join the MBA Association’s (MBAA) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion sub-cabinet, my Fuqua experience took a complete turn. I made a commitment to myself to be the type of classmate, peer, and leader I wanted to be for the rest of my time at Fuqua and beyond.

To become a leader capable of helping others achieve their high aspirations, I knew I would have to show up, engage, and interact. I wanted to leverage what I learned and discovered from the people who inspired me to achieve greatness by serving as MBAA co-president.

Developing as a Leader

My co-president (and better half) Arya Diwase and I share a vision of inclusive collaboration. One of the first lessons I learned from Professor Aaron Kay is that the key to business and management is not about how we choose to divide the pie, but rather how can we make the pie bigger. Inclusive collaboration is how we make the pie bigger. By recognizing that we share many of our goals, personal or professional, we can make the pie bigger. With inclusive collaboration—whether it be in the club spaces, with events, with initiatives around campus, etc.—we will be able to accomplish more, drive deeper impact, and learn from one another. This is an idea Arya and I are putting into action this year.

Stephen Ezekoye, left, and Arya Diwase, right, stand together in the hallway of flags at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business
Me (left) with my MBAA co-president Arya Diwase in Fuqua’s hall of flags, March 2023

One of the fun (but overwhelming) parts of business school is the sheer volume of things to do—the possibilities are seemingly endless! I believe our diversity is a strength, and we are only beginning to understand how powerful of a force it can be. My goal entering my second year is to explore and celebrate other cultures, lived experiences, and backgrounds while encouraging my classmates to do the same.

Building Community

I’m happy to share that this idea has already come to life when the American Latinx Management Association (ALMA) and Asian Business Club (ABC) held a joint food event. The event was about so much more than food—it was a living example of why I love the Fuqua community. By sharing food, we had the chance to experience two different cultures and offered the two affinity groups a space to be celebrated and respected.

Stephen Ezekoye sits to the far right of the stage where two other speakers are seated before a crowd of others
Me (left) facilitating a conversation between two alumni and Management Leadership for Tomorrow fellows, March 2023

This coming year, I look forward to expanding this sense of belonging to other Fuqua students, just as my dear friend Andrew did for me one year ago. His mentorship taught me the importance of learning from my peers—a reminder not to forget how much we need one another.