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As the former Treasurer of Students Against Institutional Discrimination at Northeastern University in Boston, Anneke Gustafson (MiM2022) has always been focused on social justice. Having completed numerous volunteering roles and full-time work experience placements during her undergraduate studies, she has now come to London Business School to study for a Masters in Management (MiM), with the aim of helping to improve at least one person’s life in her future career.
I’m from Orange County in California. For my undergraduate degree, I studied Sociology at Northeastern University in Boston. My school had a co-op, which meant you could work full-time for six months during your college years. I did that twice, working in event planning at The Boston Globe as well as working as marketing coordinator at a BIPOC beauty company called thirteen lune.
I’ve always been focused on social justice. Growing up Black in America really gives you that perspective on life; I think as a Black person you have to be an activist, it’s just the nature of your being growing up in the States. I got really involved with social justice during my freshman year at Northeastern University.
I became the Treasurer of Students Against Institutional Discrimination and worked with them to create educational programmes on diversity for students. We were also working on different initiatives to get radical Black thought leaders to come into our space. We were looking at revolutionaries at the time, such as Angela Davis, and decided that we wanted to bring Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, onto campus to speak at an event. I was put in charge of bringing that to fruition.
At the age of 19, I didn’t really know how that worked. I wasn’t sure how to book events and talk to agents and PR representatives, so I was really thrown in at the deep end, but everyone told me I’d figure it out. I worked with our administration to get the funds to pay for the events and started to organise different spaces, and this brought me into the arena of events organising. I realised that I really liked it. I had a huge sense of fulfilment from planning an event and then seeing people’s faces at that event, for example when they were listening to a speaker.
Working with Students Against Institutional Discrimination was my central focus, but my time with the group also brought me to a number of other experiences of activism during my education. I was involved in local organising focusing on gentrification within the community; I wanted to raise awareness that the local Black neighbourhood of Roxbury in Boston was being eclipsed. Through this, more students became aware of the effects of gentrification.
As well as community activism, I also started volunteering. I worked with Big Sister Boston - a branch of Big Brother, Big Sister, which is a volunteer mentorship programme. I then started volunteering at a local school, the Learning Project Elementary School. I realised that when it came to my education, seeing people that looked like me was really important for my advancement, so I wanted to be able to do that for other people. My main takeaway from these experiences was that organising events takes a lot of work and emotional labour, and that educating and constantly engaging in critical thought is incredibly taxing; but also incredibly rewarding.
My last year of college was during the pandemic so I didn’t really get to have a full college experience. I felt like I wasn’t done with my education; I wanted to have another year. I called my mentor, the Chief Marketing Officer at The Boston Globe, in a panic, saying that I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. He suggested that we get a plan together. He has been hugely instrumental in my career so far, and even helped me get my job at beauty company Thirteen Lune. He studied at the London School of Economics so he suggested that I hop over the pond to London to take a break from America, and see what life was like somewhere else.
I knew I was really interested in business and social justice, so he suggested that I focus my aspirations on a career involving social impact. I decided to study the Masters in Management and applied to a few European schools, and he wrote my letters of recommendation. I got offers from a few schools and I couldn’t decide which one to pick; I was in agony trying to figure out where to go.
I decided to look at what the schools had to offer, and the London Business School community seemed really inviting. I had a great talk with Tabria Lenard (MBA2021), the co-founder and former president of the Black in Business club at LBS and a fellow Northeastern University alumnus, and she really convinced me to come here. She has been an amazing mentor to me and has broadened my social and professional networks. I was also really attracted by the global reach of the School; Northeastern University is also an international school and I knew I wanted to be in a similar environment, surrounded by worldly people.
London Business School was really helpful in transitioning my life over to London and then bringing me into the community, which has been good. The School has also made a big effort to connect me with people and resources to help me on my own path.
Finding out that I’d received the Black in Business scholarship was great. It frees me from the financial and emotional burden of having to pay for school, so that’s a real blessing. Having access to a community of Black people in a new environment has been really helpful in integrating into a new life into London.
One of the highlights of the programme so far has been the weekly Sundowners sessions, where students, staff and faculty come together in our cafeteria to network. It’s a great space to meet new people and make friends, while talking about our careers and new ideas.
The networking and relationship-building aspect of the community here has been my favourite part of the programme so far. Attending conferences, going out with friends and getting drinks with the professors has really helped me to engage and think more critically about the things I’m learning in class. I feel like on a theoretical level, yes, we’re learning, but you don’t really get to have that face-to-face time with your peers and professors during the classes. So I enjoy being able to go through my coursework or talk about cases and companies, and learn from them in that way.
Right now I’m working as the Vice President of Community for Black in Business, which means I organise get-togethers and events for the club. We just had an Afrobeats brunch event that I organised and also had the Head of Diversity from Google come in to talk to us about diversity in the workplace. It was really interesting to engage with him.
I’m also the community rep for my Masters in Management stream, and I really love bringing people into spaces to engage with each other. After all of the COVID-19 restrictions, it’s been really nice for us to come together and do things in London as a group. In February I’m organising a trip for us to go and watch the Merchant of Venice at the Globe Theatre. My dream is to plan a London Business School Olympics where everyone competes against each other, so we’ll see what happens in my next term! I’ve also been involved in the Social Impact Club and want to get more involved with that in 2022. I’ve slowly been reaching out and talking to various people to try and meet others from those networks as well.
Next, I’m looking forward to the Global Immersion Field Trip and the electives. For the Global Immersion Field Trip I’m going to Dubai to learn about sustainability and emerging markets. I’ve never been there before and I’m looking forward to really diving into my niche within business school. So far I haven’t really looked at sustainability or social impact as we’ve been doing general modules, so I’m excited to go into the content that I find really interesting.
I partly decided to come to the School because of a few professors whose work really interests me. One of these was Alex Edmans (Professor of Finance). He writes about sustainability and social impact based on organisational performance; essentially, looking at stakeholder value and how it increases with ESG factors. I’m going to be taking his elective on Managing and Investing in Responsible Businesses, so I’m really excited about that. I’m also looking forward to the social-focused business electives, such as World Economy: Problems and Prospects.
My advice for people considering the Masters in Management would be that you don’t have to know exactly what path you want to take, or the job you want to have at the end of the programme. But I do think you need to come in with clear intentions about what you want to get out of this experience. There’s a lot to do and a lot of academic pressure, and I think it’s important to prioritise. People here have their priorities pretty intact, whether it’s academics, networking or getting a job. So I’d say it’s good to know what you want to get out of the experience before you begin.
It’s hard to say what my next career steps will be. At the moment, I’m looking at the social impact space within London, and then Europe more broadly. I just want to engage with work that I find fulfilling and where I can impact at least one person’s life.
Find out more about the Masters in Management programme.