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Finding Family: The HBCU Experience

February 16, 2021
Blake Sias Turner
Blake Sias

Associate, Single-Family Digital Products

Every February, Fannie Mae celebrates Black History Month, and this year we are honoring the 2021 theme – The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity. Part of this identity has been shaped by Black education. Historically Black Colleges and Universities have created a community that fosters unity and support for the Black Family. This sense of belonging led Blake Sias, an Associate in Single-Family Digital Products, to seek out a graduate experience different from her undergrad. While she experienced the best of both worlds, Blake benefited uniquely from her time at Howard University.

Q: What influenced your decision to go to a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) for your graduate studies?
A: With family roots in the D.C. area, I have generations of family members who attended Howard University. After graduating from a non-HBCU undergraduate college and working for a few years, I became interested in attending business school. During that time, I attended my cousin's graduation at Howard University. The moment that I stepped on Howard’s campus, I was consumed by a sense of family and culture. After learning it was #1 in recruitment of African American MBAs, I submitted my application. I always say that I chose my undergrad, but Howard chose me!

Q: What made your experience at Howard University different than your other university?
A: The biggest difference was the type of support I received as a Black student. During undergrad, I was one of only four Black students majoring in finance, so I felt like I had to prove myself. Conversely, at Howard I was surrounded by people like me and was supported in the discipline I chose to pursue with resources and ideas. This initiated a completely different learning experience. At Howard, I was able to focus on how to excel instead of what I had to do to prove myself.

Q: Tell me about your path from graduate school to Fannie Mae?
A: While I was attending graduate school at Howard, I met a colleague who worked at Fannie Mae in Multifamily, who referred me to an opportunity. I applied and was offered a rotational position that created an environment like Howard. I was able to focus on learning and exceling in my role. It subsequently sealed my interest in pursuing a career with Fannie Mae. I have been with the company for ten years.

Q: What sense of community do you experience at Fannie Mae?
A: Fannie Mae is more than a place where I work, it’s family to me. I have been delighted over the years to find various segments of community at Fannie Mae, through work teams, lifelong friendships, sorority sister meetups, and Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). There is something for everyone here at Fannie Mae, and because we are aligned on a mission to help others, we are a community that really cares.

Q: How has being a part of ERGs impacted your experience at Fannie Mae?
A: Being a part of the ERG community at Fannie Mae has significantly increased my investment in my career at Fannie Mae. I am currently a member of several ERGs, including African Ancestry Business Leaders for Excellence, Invisible Inclusion, Women’s Employee Resource Group, and I serve as the Vice President of Christian Salt & Light. Not only do these groups provide a community of support, they also provide a unique sense of camaraderie that transforms a work atmosphere to family. It’s a game changer when thinking about a long-term career commitment.

Blake’s experience with a HBCU reminds us of the importance of being a part of an environment you can thrive in. Whether you find your sense of community with a school, an organization, or an employer, surround yourself with supportive people who will be with you every step of the way. Interested in joining our team? Check out our open positions and be a part of our inclusive culture.

Want to join our team of Future Makers? Search our open opportunities.

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