London Business School’s newest club is amplifying the voices of First-generation, Low or Intermediate-income background students (FLII).
Founded by Michelle Alvarado (MBA2021) and Shajia Meraj (MBA2021), FLII Club aims to promote diverse socioeconomic representation at LBS, and create a safe and supportive environment for FLII students and their allies to network.
Shajia said she and Michelle first connected during an in-class storytelling exercise, where they realised they shared somewhat similar life experiences. Both women are first-generation university graduates from low-income families.
“Because socioeconomic status is so often invisible, it’s hard for students like us to get talking and share our stories. This was a big motivation for us setting up the club; to connect these students and amplify their voices,” Shajia said.
Even with formal qualifications, FLII students and graduates often find themselves at a disadvantage. Networking often comes with a financial cost that FLII graduates may be unable to meet. FLII students must also often navigate bias in recruitment processes.
Michelle said: “At most business schools, there’s no platform where students from these marginalised socioeconomic backgrounds can come together, embrace our identities, and find mentors to help navigate these challenges.
“Without this, FLII graduates lose out on opportunities, and businesses lose out on great candidates. After all, grit, resilience, a whatever-it-takes work ethic and a unique perspective can bring a lot to a business.”
FLII Club hopes to address these inequalities.
“There’s never been a better time to empower socioeconomic diversity, especially at one of the world's leading business schools,” said Shajia. “The Black Lives Matter protests opened our eyes not only to racial injustice, but also to the economic disparity that exists in our society today. The pandemic has only exacerbated these inequalities; now, more than ever, we need to come together as a community to educate ourselves and support those around us.”
The Club builds on existing financial aid opportunities awarded to incoming students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, including the Laidlaw Women’s Leadership Fund.
This year, LBS alumni Thomas Wong (MIFFT2001) and Candy Wong (MiFFT1997) establish a new scholarship for MiF and MBA candidates, the HK Alumni Scholarship.
Thomas said the financial support he had received to attend LBS two decades ago had been life-changing.
“I am from a very humble family,” he said. “I had the privilege of studying at LBS - which truly transformed my future - only because of the support of the Chevening Scholarships.
“20 years after my graduation from the school, I wish to help others who are in a situation similar to the one I was in once!”
The HK Alumni Scholarship is an expansion of the Masters in Finance Hong Kong Women's Scholarship funded by Candy since 2014.
“As the first in my family to attend university, I would not have made it through my undergraduate study without the help of scholarships,” Candy said.
“I was also fortunate enough to be selected as the first batch of recipients of the HK Chevening Scholarship, which funded my Master in Finance study at LBS. The MiF programme has truly transformed my life, and I am forever grateful to those who gave me the opportunity in the first place.
“I would like to pay it forward so that more talented students, especially women, can enjoy the privilege of studying at LBS,” she said.