Winning Essay by Keaira W., Millsaps College

A true pioneer for firsts is how I would delineate Cynthia “Cynt” Marshall. Her endeavor and resolve spearheaded her to be the first African-American cheerleader at the University of California, Berkeley, the first in her family to graduate from college, the first African-American head of the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, and finally the first African-American female CEO of a NBA team. However, she conveyed, “I shouldn’t be the first of anything in 2018.” In college, she pursued a degree in business administration with a focus on organizational behavior and human resources. From working at AT&T as the senior vice president of human resources and chief diversity officer for the national corporation, she was contacted by Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks NBA team owner, for help in light of a story released about an extreme misogynistic workplace within the corporation.

She dove right into a sports world where implementing women into work positions had an ambience of a check-list mentality. With her new found position as the CEO of the Dallas Mavericks, she commenced with a hundred-day plan to form a “free, safe, inclusive, and diverse” workplace for everyone not only for women. “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance” is how Cynthia described her envision of an improving and prospering workplace. With all her accomplishments, she has prevailed through the adversity including beating stage three colon cancer at the age of fifty-one.

Mrs. Marshall provides a model in the sports world that I can admire, as I pursue a position as a sports medicine doctor. Her role in the sports world is defined, and she inspires me that not only is there a place for women in sports but there is also a place for African-American women. She explained that she was “doing it for the sisterhood.” She is expanding the idea of who can hold certain positions, all the while working to develop ways to continue to diversify and include everyone. She provides me with an inspiration to pursue position in the sports world with hopes that there will be multiple opportunities available when the time comes. It takes her being the first for me to be the thousandth. She recalled telling her father, “one day I’m going to be the president of something” in response to his negative comment.

With the path she made, I will hope to follow and be what she represents for me to someone else. I do not have to be the first, but I want to be an example. After accepting the role as CEO, she received a call from Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, and quoted him as saying, “thanks for serving.” He respected her decision to want to help with something that was moral testing especially when she did not have to. I think that’s the sign of a person who wants change, and I am honored she is making the change in the place I want to be one day.


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