Names: Samantha Bryant and Arushi Mathavan
Class: Samantha (Senior), Arushi (Junior)
Position: WEL Institute Student Advisory Board Members
Topics of Interest: Entrepreneurship, Leadership, Social Impact, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Mentorship
In June, the Kendra Scott Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute (WEL Institute) at UT announced its inaugural Student Advisory Board. Twenty-one undergraduate and two graduate student leaders were chosen to head the institute that empowers women to lead. The WEL Institute seeks to “strengthen the next generation of courageous, creative female leaders who will change the world – in business and beyond.”
We’re excited to report that two of our own Canfield BHPeers, Samantha Bryant and Arushi Mathavan, were selected to be part of its Student Advisory Board—no doubt, ensuring the board starts on a strong note. At the time of writing this post, the WEL Institute is having an election for the Student Advisory Board President and Samantha is currently a candidate in the running.
Samantha Bryant is a senior in Canfield BHP double majoring in Marketing and minoring in English while pursuing a Certificate in Global Management. She is also the proud Chair for the Canfield BHP Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Samantha explains why she decided to be part of the WEL Institute:
“Thinking about diversity and inclusion is something I’m passionate about. I think the WEL Institute has been a big place for me to be able to find that and be able to interact with women who are engineers, women who are math majors, women who are in the College of Fine Arts or Liberal Arts as students who are studying African American studies, all those different things and that’s exciting for me.”
Originally from McAllen, Texas, Arushi Mathavan is a junior in Canfield BHP double majoring in MIS and Creative Writing. During her time on the Forty Acres, Arushi has been involved with many progressive initiatives for women, even co-founding a mentorship program for roughly fifty UT students—all women who have similar interests and backgrounds in entrepreneurship and business. But to be clear, social initiatives were what sparked Arushi’s interest in business, especially the intersection between business and technology. She realized how she could use the two for good while working on a clean water project in high school.
“I saw how you can use business and technology to create good using knowledge from different types of industries. Currently, I’m trying to get involved in areas of high impact—whether that’s in mentorship or helping different types of groups. I wanted to join the Kendra Scott Institute because I highly believe that there are a lot of systemic barriers holding women back from entering entrepreneurship”, Arushi explained.
Samantha shared what her biggest learning at the WEL Institute has been so far:
“I got to sit in on a meeting with three of the Dean’s from the university. Watching how decisions are made at such a high level when there are so many things that they’re thinking about in real-time was a big learning moment for me. I’ve worked with people who work in the tower and watching how they’re thinking about decisions and how their perspectives must play into what’s happening at the WEL Institute has been an eye-opener. Getting exposure to leadership has been a steep learning curve. Things happen a little bit differently at the university—different from outside organizations, which has also been an amazing experience for me. It’s been great to see what happens in the background of how higher education functions and works.”
Asked what inspired her to be part of the WEL Institute, Arushi tells us about the disparities between men and women that she discovered while working with multiple student-led non-profits during her first two years and how a startup founded by two Canfield BHP alums motivated her to act:
“I realized that there were so many disparities between men and women. It upset me. I saw many students who were passionate about their projects but most of them never actually continued after leaving their program. This was a common theme across every organization I worked with. I noticed there was such a big drop off among women. I was looking at our portfolio at another org I was a part of and saw that only four of our forty portfolio companies had female founders. It was crazy. I couldn’t understand the problem. This summer I interned at Kanarys, which is a startup founded by two CBHP alums. Both founders are women of color and super amazing. The entire startup focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion. My role in the company involved doing a lot of research into DEI, specifically for women and women of color. I learned there are so many barriers in the language, practices, and initiatives that different workplaces used and why so many of them failed. Having that research along with my personal experience and mentorship program, I gained a robust knowledge of the problem and a drive to find the solution. When the Kendra Scott Institute had this position open, it felt like it just dropped into my lap. I knew it was a position that I would love to be in. I’m super-duper happy that I was accepted onto the board.”
Samantha and Arushi expressed their passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion as it pertains to women and women of color. Their life experiences are unique but have placed them in similar roles that will touch the lives of many young women like them. They share many things in common but the most notable is that they share a sense of selflessness—truly wanting to do better by others. By working together at the WEL Institute, they’ll help lay down the foundation that makes concrete the path for the next generation of women leaders.
If you’re passionate about DEI and would like to get involved, the WEL Institute has created a student council this year and anyone can apply. “It’s a great way to have your feedback or advice directly influencing what the student advisory board and WEL Institute as a whole are doing”, Samantha shared.
To learn more about the WEL Institute, check out their Virtual Women’s Summit happening on November 17 featuring a speaker series, roundtable discussions, and opportunities to interact with other students and alumni speakers.