MBA Diversity & Inclusion Interview: Nicholas Whiteside of Fisk University

MBA Insights Staff

August 09, 2018


(One in a recurring monthly series featuring efforts of the Mortgage Bankers Association's Diversity & Inclusion Committee, part of MBA's commitment to increase racial, gender, sexual orientation and ethnic diversity within the mortgage banking industry.)

NicholasWhitesideNearly a year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association collaborated with HomeFree-USA, Wells Fargo and Freddie Mac to create The Center for Financial Advancement, focusing on career opportunities and financial education at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This summer, Nicholas Whiteside, a sophomore accounting major at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., became the first student to serve an internship through the program--right here at MBA.

A native of Memphis, Tenn., Whiteside applied for and received a scholarship through the Center to spend the summer in Washington. Working in MBA's Residential Policy and Member Engagement Department, he spent the summer in numerous events on Capitol Hill--such as participating in a meeting with Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan.--and developing an internship program model for MBA focused on impacting and retaining Millennials in both the workplace and in the mortgage market. He also got the opportunity to develop relationships with other interns at MBA.

Whiteside said he appreciated the opportunity to do substantive work this summer. "You don't have to have interns do clerical stuff--we can do things that have a real impact in the industry," he said. "The thing that shaped my decision to come here this summer was the opportunity to be part of something. It was an opportunity show what an intern could do [for MBA] and, as a Millennial, what my generation is capable of doing."

The Center for Financial Advancement is designed to promote financial literacy, homeownership and expand diversity and inclusion in the mortgage industry, with the goal of preparing African-Americans both for homeownership and for an empowered life with financial freedom. Through this program, the Center will elevate money management skills, teach students about credit and homeownership plus position many for a financially rewarding career in the mortgage industry.

Fisk University is the first HBCU to participate in the program; Marcia Griffin, founder and president of HomeFree-USA, is a Fisk graduate.

"There is desire in the African-American community to move up and to uplift ourselves--we just need a little bit of guidance, some direction and just a bit of advice," Griffin said in 2017. "The reality is this: money is made off the backs of those who don't know. The less we know, the more somebody's going to make off of us. The less we know, the more opportunity there is for rip-off. I'm here to show the mortgage, real estate and finance industries what we can do--not just HomeFree-USA, but what HBCUs can produce."

During the first year, the Center hosted educational events, bringing in speakers from all segments of the financial services industry, from banks to mortgage companies to nonprofit counseling organizations. More than 700 students from all majors on the 40-acre campus can use the Fisk Center for Financial Advancement. Students who complete the entire series of seminars will receive a Certificate of Financial Readiness, signed by the leading sponsors. Programs included an annual series of seminars conducted jointly by HomeFree-USA and mortgage banking leaders. The curriculum includes banking and savings basics, mortgage lending, student loan debt, homeownership, credit reports, overall financial capability and "enriching information" about mortgage industry opportunities.

The Center also held a "Day of Empowerment," to introduce students to the Center and its partners; and this past November held the first of its Money4Life Workshops. The well-attended program was designed to help students build money management skills, manage student loans, provide an understanding on how credit works and lay a foundation for building wealth throughout life.

Griffin, Whiteside said, provided support and networking opportunities for him, as did Center for Financial Advancement Director Gwen Garnett and CFA instructor Milan Griffin. At MBA, he said, he quickly found several mentors who provide him with guidance and opportunities, including Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Industry Relations Steve O'Connor and Vice President of Residential Policy and Member Engagement Tamara King.

"One thing Steve did was help me connect with his external network," Whiteside said. "I want to mentor and teach literacy to students from my high school, and he connected me with someone who is going to help me. Steve not only helped me get to the door, but through the door."

King, Whiteside said, "has been an amazing leader and she's definitely been an advocate for my work here at MBA. She opens the door for more work in the industry and for my personal growth as well. She has been a driving force."

Whiteside said he enjoyed his summer at MBA and looks forward to that he and other members of his generation make an impact in the future.

"The industry should be more inclusive," Whiteside said. "MBA is providing more opportunities within the workplace and I want to make sure our contributions are impactful."

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The MBA Diversity and Inclusion Committee was formed in 2013 to provide leadership and guidance to help the real estate finance industry gain a competitive advantage by increasing diversity in leadership, workforce and suppliers.

MBA encourages its members to support these efforts and to recognize the competitive advantages of embracing a diverse and inclusive workforce and marketplace. For more information about the MBA Diversity and Inclusion Initiative, click https://www.mba.org/who-we-are/mbas-diversity-and-inclusion-initiative/about-mbas-diversity-and-inclusion-initiative.

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