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Building Connection

October 27, 2022 Erica Hulse
Luke Whitehead, Alum

Issues surrounding diversity and inclusion impacted Spring 2021 Online MBA cohort graduate Luke Whitehead (he/him) from an early age. Currently a Diversity and Inclusion Business Partner for Brown-Forman, Whitehead grew up in San Francisco. Born to a white mother and black father, he noted, “…interracial couples weren’t very popular back then, but luckily for me, their love was unbreakable.” Whitehead eventually followed in his father, Eddie Whitehead’s footsteps, earning his undergraduate degree in communications at the University of Louisville while playing basketball for the university. Upon graduation, Whitehead went on to play basketball professionally. While briefly signed by the Golden State Warriors, he played most of his career internationally, noting that he played in Australia, Germany, the Philippines, and South Korea.

In search of a greater purpose, Whitehead retired from professional basketball in 2010 and created Mixed Nation, sharing that his non-profit organization serves as “a multicultural brand and movement with over 500,000 followers worldwide.” During this time, he continued to pursue his education to support his D&I efforts, earning a Diversity and Inclusion professional certification from Cornell University, which allowed him to work with several Fortune 500 companies.

As Whitehead considered the next stage of his academic journey, the opportunity for academic flexibility along with strong familial ties to the university led him to the decision to pursue his MBA online at UofL.

Whitehead’s familial connection to UofL runs deep, with roots in Cardinal basketball that began with his father. Recalling that legacy, he explained that “My father actually broke the color barrier at UofL in 1962 by being one of the first African Americans to ever play at the university,” so it was no surprise that he decided to continue the tradition of earning his degree at the university by pursuing his MBA here as well. “As a proud UofL alumni and…unofficial ambassador for the men’s basketball program, it was only right that I continued my educational journey at my alma mater. I was doubling down on my love for the university; the university has been good to me.”

When reflecting on his choice to pursue his MBA online, he echoed the benefits the pandemic provided for working professionals to earn their education remotely. “I thought it would be a perfect time to take advantage of Brown-Forman’s generous tuition reimbursement program and pursue my MBA from the comfort of my home. I think the pandemic had a lot of negative things that came from it, but there were also many blessings. This was one of them.”

With a commitment to building a positive work culture through continued diversity and inclusion efforts, along with a desire to provide employee flexibility and growth, it is no surprise that Whitehead chose his role at Brown-Forman and is passionate about not only what he does, but how the company supports employees as individuals. Whitehead’s experiences at Brown-Forman and the reputation the company has developed were major factors in his decision to work for the company. “Their reputation in the Louisville area is top notch [for] taking care of their employees and just being a great place to work. I had also heard great things about the company’s D&I efforts and wanted to be part of a global company that is truly dedicated to diversity and inclusion.”

Whitehead is already applying valuable insights to his work through content being taught through the OMBA program. Whitehead noted, “My MBA journey [has] enhanced my capabilities of connecting with individuals and teams from all parts of the business. From sales to marketing and finance to communications, it’s better equipped me to interact with various functions more fluently.”

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