Summer 2023

Curtis Johnson ’23: Building and Inspiring Community

Curtis Johnson smiles for a portrait on campus

Curtis Johnson ’23 knows about resilience.

His lifelong dream, before Babson, was to serve in the military like his father. He had been accepted into the United States Military Academy at West Point, but the academy rescinded the offer, citing his eyesight.

An unexpected rejection in April of senior year would leave any high school student shaken. Not Johnson.

“It all worked out, because within a week, Babson called me and granted me the Baldwin Richardson Foods Scholarship,” Johnson says. He had already been thinking about a career in finance or starting a business as a backup career. “Babson is so well known for entrepreneurship, it seemed like a logical choice.”

The oldest son in a family of six children, Johnson learned about resilience and hard work from his mother, who would put in 16-hour shifts as an emergency operator at the Chicago Police Department.

“I saw that, and it really inspired me to work hard,” Johnson says. “She worked in order to take care of us, so really it was through example that she helped me become who I am.”

Johnson would wake up at 4:30 and do his homework on the bus to high school, where he served as captain of both the wrestling team and the football team.

Johnson continued his whirlwind pace at Babson, where he served as president of the Black Student Union (BSU) and was on the founding committee of The Johnson House, a dedicated living space for students of color, named for Eric Johnson ’72, P’08, the BSU founder and the president and CEO of Baldwin Richardson Foods Company, the benefactor of his scholarship. “I got this incredible opportunity to help put together a community on campus,” he says.

Johnson was a Babson Honors Program participant and former analyst at the Babson College Fund. He became a key figure at many student-run events, such as a rally in support of a Ukrainian student shortly after Russia’s invasion, and a fundraising campaign in response to the murder of George Floyd and other unarmed members of the Black community at the hands of police.

“As long as I’m inspiring someone to take that next step forward, no matter how big or small it is, I count that as a win.”
Curtis Johnson ’23

“It was a combination of saying yes to everything and a plethora of coincidences,” Johnson says. His early interest in investment banking and work with BSU led him to Wall Street Connection, a nonprofit dedicated to helping Black youth understand and access the financial services and advisory sector, which was a finalist in the B.E.T.A. (Babson Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®) Challenge.

Now, Johnson is working at the Royal Bank of Canada, but he plans to continue his efforts at Wall Street Connection and other nonprofits that promote equality in the financial services sector.

“As long as I’m inspiring someone to take that next step forward, no matter how big or small it is,” Johnson says, “I count that as a win.”

More Undergraduate Standouts

Calliope Cortright ’23, a Weissman Scholar and Natalie Taylor Scholar, traveled to Rwanda with the Global Health Innovation Lab, working in collaboration with the Kerry Murphy Healey Center for Health Innovation and Entrepreneurship, as well as University of Global Health Equity students and her team partner and fellow Taylor Scholar, Marchel Washington ’24, to help track and prevent rabies in Rwanda.

Cindy Escobar ’23 established the College’s Semillas Society, an organization creating community and connection among first-generation students. She also led Babson’s First-Generation Conference in April and participated in the College’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab® Venture Accelerator program.

Jonathan Liskov ’23 was one of the inaugural Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (JEDI) Student Leaders and an ambassador for Multicultural and Identity Programs, creating the “Calling All White Men” event to challenge his peers to stand up and be strong allies.

Sophie Michels ’23, representing the third generation of her family business, served on the Bertarelli Institute for Family Entrepreneurship Advisory Board. She also was the president of the Babson Polo Club, which produced consecutive men’s national championship teams.

Gabriel Papa ’23 won the 12th annual Babson Trading Competition and placed in several other finance competitions. He also helped manage the Babson College Fund and served as a student assistant and manager at the Stephen D. Cutler Center for Investments and Finance.

Ysbely Santos ’23, a Posse Scholar, served on the Babson Origins of Necessary Equality (O.N.E.) executive board, and spearheaded the Black Lives Matter demonstration on campus in fall 2020.

Swarna Shiv ’23, named to BostInno’s 25 Under 25 list last fall, was a B.E.T.A. Challenge finalist in 2022 and a participant in the Summer Venture Program and WIN Lab. Her venture, Unsmudgeable, was recently accepted to MassChallenge.

Joyce Wang ’23, Roger W. Babson Award winner, served as president of the Student Government Association, president of the Babson Finance Association, and vice president of leadership development for Scholars of Finance.

Read more stories about the Class of 2023.

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