NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The 2023 graduating class at Dillard University will have the honor of being sent out into the world with the inspiring words of the CEO and President of a well-known black-owned magazine, on their hearts.

The HBCU’s President  Rochelle Ford announced that the President and CEO of ESSENCE Ventures, Caroline Wanga, was selected to deliver’s this year’s commencement speech. ESSENCE Ventures is a portfolio of brands aimed at activating a boundary-less Black economic ecosystem.

Wanga began her career at Essence in 2020 as chief growth officer after making a move from being chief culture, diversity, and inclusion officer at Target Corporation. Being labeled a “self-proclaimed cultural architect with a passion for constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing organizational culture” Wanga is known to thrive while inspiring in innovative environments.

Caroline Wanga is a graduate of the HBCU Texas College, where she gained a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration along with an honorary doctorate. She has earned titles of Top Executive in Corporate Diversity by Black Enterprise and has been recognized by Savoy as one of the Most Powerful Women in Corporate America all while being a member of the Executive Leadership Council, the American Airlines Community Council, and the McDonald’s Multicultural Marketing Advisory Council. 

All of her accolades, including previously serving as, a former member of the Talladega College Board of Trustees, on the Intersectionality, Culture, and Diversity Advisory Board for Twitter, and as co-chair of the Retail Industry Leaders Association Diversity & Inclusion Initiative, are what makes the ideal candidate for commencement speaker.

“Wanga is an excellent voice for students to hear from as they graduate, as the next generation of leaders. While being a young mother, she graduated and then worked her way up from several entry-level positions to become one of the most influential, powerful thought leaders. With nearly 70% of our student population being Black women, I’m confident that she will share encouraging words that will inspire both men and women to be great contributors to society,” said Dillard University President Rochelle L. Ford.

President Ford ensures that the crowd will enjoy her “real talk” to graduates as she offers her unmitigated perspective and hopes to deliver her famous quote:

“Who you are is who you are. If you cannot be who you are where you are, you change where you are not who you are.”

President & CEO Caroline Wanga

The commencement ceremony will be held on Saturday, May 13 where faculty and staff will award Wanga with her second honorary doctorate degree.

Stay updated with the latest news, weather, and sports by downloading the WGNO app on the Apple or Google Play store and subscribing to the WGNO newsletter.