Miya Carmichael/Pipe Dream Photographer A professional speaks about the culture of her company and its work environment at a panel hosted by Ascend and The Bert Mitchell Minority Management Organization in Old Union Hall on Monday.

In an effort to start a conversation about diversity in the professional world, Binghamton University’s chapter of Ascend hosted its annual “Diversity Panel” on Monday evening.

According to its website, Ascend is an organization that aims to enhance the presence of Pan Asian and Pacific Islander leaders in finance, accounting and related business fields. BU’s chapter invited speakers from a number of top professional firms such as Deloitte, KPMG, Grant Thornton, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP and Ernst & Young (EY) to speak about their experiences as minorities in the professional world and how diversity is seen in it. The panel delved into the intricacies of diversity in the workplace and how race and culture have played a role in professionals’ individual points of view in their work life.

Madeleine Zhang, a member of Ascend and a senior double-majoring in psychology and accounting, said she believes discussions on diversity have intrinsic value to students hoping to enter these professional fields.

“We think that it is important for students to hear about professionals that are currently in the workforce,” Zhang said. “It’s something we don’t really think about on a day-to-day basis, so having an event that is just for this and naming it ‘Diversity Panel’ will encourage people to talk about it and start conversations.”

The panel, which was mostly populated by BU alumni, emphasized the idea of inclusion in the workforce and how companies today are making a greater push toward a more diverse future.

Jessica Eng, ‘12, an assurance manager at EY, said she sees herself in a unique position as both a BU alumna and Ascend alumna, and as such wanted to provide her insight on the professional world to those entering the workforce.

“I was really happy to come back and talk about my experience because I think it really helped me during my college experience,” Eng said. “I think it’s important that these conversations are had about diversity so people can see what it’s like on the other side, network and hear about other people’s experiences too.”

The panel allowed students and other attendees to ask the panelists questions pertaining to their experiences and to ask for advice as they prepare to enter the workforce themselves. After the formal discussion, attendees were able to ask further questions related directly to the panelists and network with recruiters.

Daeyun Jo, a junior majoring in accounting, the experience could be incredibly important to his future goals.

“I wanted to network with professionals from the Big Four and other big accounting firms so I really wanted to get to know them and ask them the questions that I have,” Jo said. “It’s a really good opportunity for us to network with professionals who will end up hiring you in the end.”

From the event, students like Cindy Zhou, a senior majoring in accounting, were able to better understand the intricacies diversity and inclusion can play in the professional world and how those intricacies can enhance success in the workforce.

“I thought it was really great,” Zhou said. “When I listened to the different professionals’ experiences, I realized what diversity is at work and how I can bring my whole self to work. How even as an intern or as someone who has just started working, I can bring my own value to the team.”