The Toast celebrates Lindner’s Business Fellows

Students celebrate successes, honored for contributions to the community

The Carl H. Lindner College of Business’ Office of Inclusive Excellence held its annual Toast event for graduating Business Fellows last week at The Graduate Hotel Cincinnati. Business Fellows empowers and provides a community for underrepresented students to succeed as future business problem solvers.

Dean Marianne Lewis, PhD, opened the event, welcoming students and their family members, Lindner faculty and staff, and members of the community.

“Our Business Fellows quite literally lead this university — not just Lindner,” Lewis said of the students’ on-campus involvement and commitment to leadership. “And you know it and I know it, because I see you everywhere.”

Lewis then introduced the night’s emcee, Raven Richard, a reporter with WCPO 9 News. Richard acknowledged the past and current Business Fellows’ Executive Board and the event’s sponsors — PNC, Western & Southern Financial Group, Truepoint Wealth Counsel and EY — before moving to present the night’s awards.


From left to right: Quincy Allfree, BBA '24; Prince Kalala, BBA '24; Keiana Slaughter, BBA '25; Bitanya Derese, BBA '26; Noura Ata, BBA '24; Paola Alcantara, BBA '23; Sophie Bordron, BBA '26; Julian Hill, BBA '24; and Chanda Monroe-Williams, executive director, Urban Impact Studio.

The PACE Honors recognize individuals who exemplify the principles woven into the content of every course at Lindner: Professionalism, Academics, Character and Engagement (PACE). The following students were acknowledged in this category:

  • Professionalism: Paola Alcantara, BBA ’23
  • Academics: Sophie Bordron, BBA ’26
  • Character: Quincy Allfree, BBA ’23
  • Engagement: Tahta Fofana, BBA ’25

Following the presentation of the PACE Honors, the ceremony moved to recognize outstanding first-, second-, third- and fourth-year students in their commitment to Business Fellows and dedication to their personal and professional development. The following students were recognized in this category:

  • First Year: Bitanya Derese, BBA ’26
  • Second Year: Keiana Slaughter, BBA ’25
  • Third Year: Noura Ata, BBA ’24
  • Fourth Year: Price Kalala, BBA ’24

The next award presented was the Fellows Impacting Fellows award. This award celebrated Julian Hill, BBA ’24, for his support of his peers through mentorship and relationship building. Finally, the recognition portion of the evening ended with the presentation of the Ally of the Year to Chanda Monroe-Williams, executive director of Lindner’s Urban Impact Studio.  

After the awards presentation, guests were welcomed to enjoy dinner before the keynote speaker, Marcus Thompson, director of corporate development at TriVersity construction, took the stage. Thompson focused on the impact of his father’s death on his trajectory through life and how those who were willing to take a chance on him at his lowest points helped to turn him into the man he is today.


Marcus Thompson, director of corporate development at TriVersity, gave the night's keynote address.

Expanding on the recurring theme of the night, Thompson emphasized community as he encouraged graduating Fellows to find their core support team.

“Treat yourself like a business. Create a board of directors,” advised Thompson. “You need those type of people to be able to confide in, to be able to talk to, to be able to ask questions of and to get that perspective so that you can continue to grow.”

After Thompson’s remarks, Richard took the stage once again to honor graduating students. Each student received a commemorative plate to hang in their home or new offices and a stole to wear at graduation.

  • Jennifer Adomako
  • Niyat Araya
  • Hailey Bell
  • Azaria Blair
  • Kevin D’Souza
  • Iman Foster
  • Noah Hudepohl
  • Kayin Ivery
  • Mahaly Marcelin
  • Cameron Martinez
  • LaDawn McCalister
  • Kristen Nestor 
  • Grant Roush
  • Malachi Scenters
  • Hawa Sidibe
  • Blake Ware

Graduating senior Azaria Blair gave the toast and closing remarks. Blair raised her glass to her fellow graduating Business Fellows and honored the close bonds they formed.


Azaria Blair, BBA '23, gave the toast and joined audience members in raising a glass to the night's graduates.

“I joined Business Fellows the summer going into my first year, and that was hands down one of the best decisions I have made in my collegiate career,” said Blair. “Business Fellows has provided me with authentic friendships, meaningful corporate connections, opportunities to grow in my leadership capabilities and aid with receiving my full-time position post-graduation.”  

As the event came to a close, the words from Dean Lewis’ opening address came full circle.

“Just because you go through commencement doesn't mean it's over. This is a lifelong relationship. This family, this community is for good,” said Lewis. “For so many of us, our job is to increase the value of your degree every year. And that's what we're going to do, and you're going to help us because as soon as you walk across that stage, you're an alum, and we'll gladly have you back.” 

Featured image at top: Business Fellows 2023 graduates. Top row, left to right: Mahaly Mercelin, Malachi Scenters, Kayin Ivery, Grant Roush, Blake Ware, Hailey Bell. Bottom row, left to right: Jennifer Adomako, Niyat Araya, Kevin D'Souza, LaDawn McCalister, Cameron Martinez, Azaria Blair. All photos by Joseph Fuqua II.

Interested in Business Fellows?

Since 2011, Business Fellows at Lindner have found a strong sense of community and have benefited from the curricular, scholarship and professional development opportunities offered at Lindner and UC. Business Fellows support one another as they grow into rising business leaders and develop into empowered problem solvers. For more information on the program, email Victoria Regan at

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