Return to the Columns
Greek Life invites young black alumni to share with students.
When Lincoln Stephens first watched the movie Boomerang (1992) starring Eddie Murphy as hotshot marketing executive Marcus Graham, he was both impressed by the character’s flat-screen TV and struck by how rare it was to see a company that was completely run by African-Americans.
With the goal of being a successful advertising executive in mind, the Dallas native majored in strategic communication at Mizzou and got involved in the Legion of Black Collegians and Missouri Students Association. By his senior year, he was head of the Department of Student Activities, managing a budget of $700,000; a team of seven people and a few hundred volunteers.
“It was the Missouri Method,” Stephens, BJ ’03, says. “I was learning by doing.”
After graduating and working in various advertising agencies, Stephens couldn’t help but notice that he was frequently one of the only African-American men among the company’s ranks. His solution was to create an organization built around mentoring the next generation of talent and leadership.
In 2007, Stephens launched the Marcus Graham Project, a nonprofit organization based in his hometown that he sees as a pipeline for young African-American men to come into the advertising industry. Entering its sixth year, the Marcus Graham Project’s flagship program, the ICR8 bootcamp, is specifically designed to provide diverse aspirants in the field of advertising, public relations and marketing with the exposure and experience necessary to solidify careers within the marketing industry.
Stephens’ newest endeavor is bringing him back to Mizzou. In collaboration with the Office of Greek Life and in conjunction with Black History Month, Stephens is involved in a program called Return to the Columns: Young Black Alumni Seminar. The event is Feb. 14-15.
Looking for a way to engage current students and alumni of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), nine African-American Greek-letter fraternities and sororities on Mizzou’s campus, the Office of Greek Life invited six young alumni to campus to network, empower and engage with students.
“The idea is to connect our young alumni to our students,” says Janna Basler, associate director of Student Life and director of Greek Life & Leadership. “They’ll talk about their experiences here on campus, how they took those transferable skills, the outside-the-classroom skills we’re teaching them in organizations and activities, and use them now.”
Other returning alumni are:
- Julian Bowman, BJ ’04, of Winter Park, Fla., is director of marketing at the University of Central Florida Arena. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi.
- Brandon Williams, BA ’00, of St. Louis is a practice attorney at Penny Williams & Morris. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha.
- Riccarda Lacey, BA ’01, of Pearland, Texas, is manager of development at Asylum Entertainment. She is an Alpha Kappa Alpha member.
- E. Jerome Madison, BGS ’95, of Dallas is regional vice president of sales at Caris Life Sciences. He is a Kappa Alpha Psi member.
- Sharisse Summer Allen, BS BA ’03, MBA ’04, of Chicago is a senior project and program manager at AT&T.
“We have an opportunity to show the current students what they can become in a few short years, what they can accomplish after they leave Mizzou,” says Stephens, a Kappa Alpha Psi member.
The two-day seminar Feb. 14-15 will include a dinner to raise funds for the NPHC Scholarship Fund, a meeting to discuss the current state of campus and to brainstorm additional opportunities for alumni engagement, a panel discussion to learn tips for making the most of the opportunities provided at Mizzou, and a networking reception.
Both Basler and Stephens hope the inaugural event is a catalyst for more events in the future.
“We want to afford alumni the opportunity to reconnect with Mizzou in a different way,” Stephens says. “There are some alumni who don’t see the immediate value of giving back to the school financially. This gives them another way to give back and add value to someone else.”