Penn State Law in University Park hosts panel on minority business development

April 27, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Leaders and entrepreneurs from across the legal and business fields participated in a live, online discussion of minority business development on April 20. Attendees received a crash course on the issues facing minority business owners in the United States, insight from those who have navigated the obstacles first-hand, and suggestions for how to move forward to address racism and inequality.

“Perspectives on Minority Business Development” was co-chaired by Samuel C. Thompson Jr., professor and Arthur Weiss Distinguished Faculty Scholar at Penn State Law in University Park, and Sabrina Conyers, partner at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

A recording of the event is available online.

“It was an honor to be joined by such a diverse group of experts who, together, were able to provide a rich and in-depth examination of the legal, financial, and cultural issues that have inhibited minority business owners in this country, both historically and currently,” Thompson said.

The event was connected to Thompson’s course, “Minority Business Development: The Lawyer’s Role in Helping Close the Minority-White Gap in Business Ownership,” currently being offered to Penn State Law in University Park students in the spring 2021 semester. The course is also available online and is free to the public.

Conyers, and numerous other participants, contributed to the course in addition to being featured as guest speakers at the live event.

“What I think was really unique about this event, as well as the online course, is that it explored the issues surrounding minority business development and the wealth gap from a variety of perspectives,” Conyers said. “It included not only attorneys, like myself, but also academic leaders, economists, financial experts, bankers, venture capitalists, investors and entrepreneurs.”

In addition to Thompson, several Penn State Law in University Park faculty members participated as guest speakers, including Hari M. Osofsky, dean of Penn State Law and School of International Affairs, distinguished professor of law, and professor of international affairs and geography; Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, Samuel Weiss Faculty Scholar and clinical professor of law, and director of the Center for Immigrants' Rights Clinic; Tom Sharbaugh, professor of practice and director of the Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic; and Mark Storslee, assistant professor of law.

“I am grateful to Professor Thompson and Sabrina Conyers for organizing this innovative event on minority business development, and to Professor Thompson for developing this important course and making it open to the public,” Dean Osofsky said. “This cross-cutting work is needed to support the growth of businesses owned by those from traditionally underrepresented groups.”

Also representing Penn State at the event were Charles Whiteman, dean of the Smeal College of Business; and Barry W. Ickes, professor of economics and head of the Department of Economics.

Thompson and Conyers also brought in experts from outside the University and from a variety of fields and industries, including legal leaders Robert Mundheim, of counsel at Shearman & Sterling, and former dean of the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School; and Leo Strine, of counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, and former chief justice of the Delaware Supreme Court.

Other guest speakers included:

  • Francisco R. Angones, partner at Angones McClure & Garcia and former president of the Florida Bar Association;
  • Glenn Carrington, dean of Norfolk State Business School;
  • Dr. Chitra Dorai, founder and CEO of Amicus Brain Innovations, Inc.;
  • Ollen Douglass, managing director at Motley Fool Ventures;
  • Robert Fairlie, professor of economics at the University of California, Santa Cruz;
  • Kay Gordon, partner at Nelson Mullins, New York City;
  • James M. Griffin, co-founder and COO of HomeFree USA;
  • Marcia J. Griffin, co-founder and CEO of HomeFree USA;
  • Bernel Hall, CEO of Invest Newark and Principal of the New Jersey 40 Acres and a Mule Fund;
  • Beverly Moran, professor emerita of law at Vanderbilt Law School;
  • Sabastian V. Niles, partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, New York City;
  • Gina D. Nisbeth, director of Structured Lending and Investments at Citi Community Capital;
  • Ayana Parsons, senior partner, board and CEO Inclusion at Korn Ferry and Co-Founder, Fearless Fund;
  • Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board;
  • Loren Ponds, partner at Miller & Chevalier Chartered; and
  • Ethan Smith, co-founder and managing partner at Starfield & Smith.

For more information, visit the event page or the Minority Business Development online course page.   

Last Updated April 27, 2021