Over three thought-provoking days, policy and equity expert Angela Bannerman Ankoma integrated into the campus community as Bryant’s inaugural alliantgroup Visiting Executive. The program, which ran October 10 to 12, was sponsored by Trustee Jim Brady ’81 and hosted by the university’s College of Business.
“Visiting Executives provide valuable knowledge on their experiences that complement the classroom experience,” said Brady, CEO of alliantTALENT and alliantgroup vice chairman of advisory services.
Ankoma, who serves as vice president and executive director of equity leadership at the nonprofit Rhode Island Foundation, has maintained a long career in public and health policy. In 2021, she launched the foundation’s Equity Leadership Initiative, which builds a pipeline of local leaders of color through mentorship and networking opportunities.
Additionally, Ankoma is recognized as a trailblazer in the service sphere. During her time at Bryant, Ankoma conveyed the ways in which faculty and students can make a lasting impact where they work and live.
“There's an opportunity for both students and faculty to put the community at the center of their work,” Ankoma said in an interview following a Tuesday session with faculty held in Bryant’s Center for Teaching Excellence, where the group discussed service-learning and volunteer opportunities. “I’ve seen it already: Bryant’s faculty and students are doing incredible things. I’m eager to be a resource and a facilitator so the skills and expertise that exist on this campus can be maximized by members of the community.”
Equity in action
On Wednesday, Ankoma visited an “Introduction to Global Anthropology” course taught by Lecturer of History, Literature, and the Arts Holly Dygert, Ph.D., where she guided students through a screening of the documentary, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequity Making Us Sick? The film, which explores the relationship between racism and health through the lens of birth outcomes for babies born to Black mothers, laid the foundation for an engaging classroom discussion.
“Raise your hand if you’ve never heard about these outcomes before,” she asked the students who, by a show of near-unanimous hands, were new to the concept of social determinants of health — the subject of a course Dygert will lead at Bryant in the spring.
"It's so important, now more than ever, to have a systems approach to solving problems."
Later in the day, in the Heidi and Walter Stepan Grand Hall, Ankoma stood before a standing-room-only crowd of more than 200 students, staff, faculty, and institutional leadership to share ways they can contribute to a more equitable world through strategic, data-driven service work.
"It's so important, now more than ever, to have a systems approach to solving problems," Ankoma said as she led the audience through best practices for developing a purpose and vision; engaging stakeholders; and assessing the impact of service projects to ensure long-term results.
During her lecture, Ankoma shared two compelling case studies from her own career in service. The first, the Sankofa Initiative (“go back and fetch it” in the Twi language of Ghana), highlighted the transformative power of community-informed service work. Through this program, Ankoma and her team empowered residents in the West End of Providence — Ankoma’s neighborhood of more than 40 years — to transform vacant lots into community gardens and housing with communal spaces, including a commercial kitchen. The work fostered a sense of ownership and pride that resulted in tangible improvements in food security, housing, career opportunities, and overall well-being.
The second case study unpacked Princes 2 Kings, a nonprofit with a mission to uplift young men of color and improve graduation rates in the city of Providence. Through mentorship, education, and community engagement, Princes 2 Kings broke down barriers and opened doors of opportunity for its high school-aged participants.
“We can do well by doing good."
Following Ankoma’s lecture, Dean Madan Annavarjula, Ph.D., described the College of Business’s longstanding commitment to social impact — a differentiator among business school competitors, he said. New this fall and led by the College of Arts and Sciences, the university also adopted a general education curriculum rooted in the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which offer a blueprint to a better and more sustainable future for all.
“Social impact forms the bedrock of the education we’d like to impart,” said Annavarjula. “We can do well by doing good.”
Annavarjula also credited Professor of Management Eileen Kwesiga, Ph.D., and other leaders across the institution for their role in hosting Ankoma on campus and fostering productive discussions on inclusivity and belonging, a major pillar of the university’s Vision 2030 strategic plan.
As the evening lecture concluded and the sun began to set on the Grand Hall, several students lingered to learn more about Ankoma and her work.
“This was an amazing presentation and so motivating,” commented Janelle Gamboa ’25, who studies Management Leadership and Innovation and took detailed notes throughout Ankoma’s speech. “It made me feel like I can make a change in the world and showed the steps I can take to do that.”