NEXT GEN VOICES: Introducing CASE Scholar Ashlynn Polanco

My mother immigrated to the United States when her home country of Nicaragua was embroiled in a civil war. She traversed hundreds of miles with my brother – who was only a baby at the time- before entering the U.S. southern border.  Growing up I experienced the dynamics of my identities and how they interplayed in the context of U.S. systems, often barring me from entering certain spaces that were not created for me to access. I am a Latina-American, formerly low-income, daughter and sister of undocumented immigrants.  I envision a country where communities that have been marginalized can thrive, are free of systemic oppression, and can obtain economic prosperity. Through my work, I have assisted asylum-seeking children and mothers in the U.S detention centers through the organization Kids in Need of Defense, and mentored 100+ Latinx college youth (through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute) to navigate Capitol Hill and the influence policy that impacts their communities.  Most recently, I worked for several years at ProInspire to deliver strategic consulting to operationalize REDI (Race Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) within organizations. In 2020, the racial reckoning during the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the need to dismantle systems of oppression in the workplace, create inclusive environments, and shift mindsets and behaviors to transform into a more equitable culture.

I’m also passionate about self-care, and how essential it is in creating sustainable advocacy for racial and social justice movements. I created a training series for people of color to center their wellness and healing in this journey; here is a post I wrote about this effort.

Why Fuqua?

As a first-generation student, navigating my MBA recruiting experience was challenging, and I gave up on the process many times. Had it not been for my network of mentors, colleagues, and friends who motivated me to continue, I would not be here today. When I first interacted with Fuqua and learned further about the culture of “Team Fuqua” I knew that this was exactly what I was searching for in my MBA program, a community of support and acceptance, who would enable me to grow and achieve my goals.  

Ultimately, it was my interactions with Erin Worsham, Executive Director of CASE and Rony Cepeda, current CASE scholar that solidified my reasons to pursue Fuqua, as I knew I would always have a team rooting for my success.

What impact do you hope your Fuqua education will allow you to have on the world?

I have a vision of making the world a more just and equitable place. I want to build upon my skills and experience in creating human centered, DEI-driven structures of leadership and management that deliver effective business outcomes to clients and create organizational transformation. My goal is to pivot to a multinational, private enterprise management consulting firm to make a larger systemic impact, as it would allow me to engage with many of the institutions who are in the position to either address or exacerbate many of the disparities amongst marginalized communities. I would like to take a part in addressing them.

While my comfort zone has been working in the nonprofit sector, my Fuqua education will allow me to grow my confidence, knowledge, and capability to tackle the complex challenges of private enterprises in the age of globalization and technology.

A Fun Fact:

On a solo trip to France, I met an elderly French man in the Jardin Tuileries. We start a conversation and six hours, a McDonald’s visit, and many Google Translations later, I learned you can share a lifetime during one moment of connection