When Aaron “A.J.” Eckstein transferred into USC Marshall as a sophomore after spending a year at Santa Monica City College, he couldn’t have been more elated. It was a lifelong dream come true.
Except something was missing. Eckstein, whose mother grew up in Mexico City, wondered why there was no Latinx student business organization for students like him.
Turns out there had been. The Latino Business Student Association (LBSA) had been founded in 1978, but had become inactive without consistent leadership.
Eckstein saw the opportunity and didn’t hesitate. While still learning his way around campus, he relaunched the LBSA, with the help of El Centro Chicano director Billy Vela and associate professor of management and organization Jody Tolan.
“These companies are getting serious on diversity and inclusion. It’s very important for them to recruit the best diverse students they can." -- Aaron "A.J." Eckstein, President, Latino Business Student Association
“I was thrilled when A.J. came to meet me wanting to rejuvenate the LBSA,” said Tolan. “His energy and enthusiasm—and unique skill set—has been instrumental in rebuilding an essential and important student organization at Marshall that brings together a diverse group of undergraduates in building community and opportunity.”
One year later, the LBSA is one of the largest student orgs at USC Marshall, with more than 160 members, a 14-person board, and corporate sponsors including the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), Ernst & Young (EY), Oracle, and Union Bank.
The Value Proposition
How did Eckstein and his board members get such elite companies to sponsor an organization that was still reestablishing itself on campus? He cold-called them and sold them on the value add.
“These companies are getting serious on diversity and inclusion,” he said. “It’s very important for them to recruit the best diverse students they can. We give them access to the best Trojans, and if those Trojans are also diverse, even better for them.”
It’s a win for students as well: On Feb. 13, the LBSA held a private professional mixer with Bain & Co. About 40 LSBA members had the opportunity to network with seven Bain professionals, including partners, recruiters, consultants and interns.
A week later, Bain & Co. returned for a USC-wide event. “There were hundreds of students there and they were not able to talk to the professionals in an intimate setting,” said Eckstein.
Members enjoy weekly professional events, outings, access to mentors and internship and job information. As a bonus: “There’s always great food at our events,” Eckstein points out. Membership dues pays for that, as well as the outreach and marketing efforts.
The Best and the Brightest
While the club is housed at Marshall, membership is open to all students, regardless of major or background.
Members recently were invited to an office meet & greet at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) office. They put on their best suits, readied their resumes, and arrived at its DTLA 52nd floor office for an informal (yet catered) meeting.
“BCG rarely has events at USC, but they do with the LBSA,” said Eckstein. Last semester, the organization was able to bring in a BCG recruiter for yet another private networking session.
The students involved in LBSA stand out. Edgar Bustos, a first-generation American and college student triple majoring in economics, business administration and political science, was recently featured on the Google Blog for his role as president of the USC chapter of Questbridge, which matches high-achieving low-income students to full scholarships at elite universities.
Hector Garcia, a first generation college student and Norman Topping Scholar, is the vice president of marketing for LBSA.
Former VP of marketing Izzy Singer applied to an NBCUniversal internship opportunity advertised in the LBSA’s newsletter. Within a week she had the internship…and now a job at NBC4 news.
With the org now thriving, Eckstein and his board are laying succession plans.
“A lot of us executive board members will be seniors in the fall and we want to be available as advisors to the new, younger board,” he says. “We want to continue the momentum after we graduate.”