Written by: 
Nancy Kolsti
Photography by: 
Ahna Hubnik
E

lliotte Dunlap ('97) knows how to motivate people. In his first semester at UNT in 1992, he noticed the campus didn't have a dedicated space with staff to promote the success and inclusion of students from cultural and ethnic minority groups.

Passionate to effect change, Dunlap, together with some of his Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brothers and a few other students, wrote a proposal to create a Multicultural Center. They petitioned and led marches for students, faculty and staff to show their support of the proposal.

When Dunlap and 11 other student leaders met with then UNT Chancellor and President Alfred F. Hurley, Dunlap says he learned a lesson he'll never forget.

"After Dr. Hurley listened to our suggestions, he offered us ice cream and brought in folders containing our transcripts. To those struggling in their classes he said, 'UNT is excellent and will support its students, but are these students excellent and supporting UNT?'" says Dunlap, now a senior partner solution sales executive at Microsoft Corp. in Las Colinas. "I thought that was a great insight, and to this day, I make sure my brand symbolizes excellence. He taught me my No. 1 rule -- inspect what you expect."

The mass communication studies major committed to studying two hours each day in the library, worked on his time management skills and made sure the proposed Multicultural Center received continued attention. In 1995, the center -- which Dunlap originally sketched as thoughts on a napkin -- opened on the fourth floor of what was then the University Union, under Hurley's leadership.

"It's a great honor to be part of a movement that was ahead of its time," Dunlap says. "I had imagined the Multicultural Center as a place for students like me to find support, and seeing its contributions to UNT's gender, race, lifestyle and religious groups and all the students served today is far beyond my wildest dreams. Anyone can come to UNT and fit in."

The center now is part of UNT's larger Office of Diversity and Inclusion and its initiatives. More than 1,500 students walk through its doors on the third floor of the new University Union each month.

After graduation and a brief stint selling and financing cars, the persistent Dunlap landed a job with Viastar Services and then accepted a sales job with IBM. During his nearly 12 years there and seven with Microsoft, he has won top leadership and sales awards.

And his commitment to serving UNT hasn't stopped. In 2016, he joined fraternity brother Andre Lewis ('95) and UNT parent Shondrick Hill to start A Few Good Men, a professional mentorship program for diverse students on campus. The group's focus is getting the students internships and preparing them to compete in the business world.

"Experience has taught us that internships are key to job placement after graduation," says Dunlap, adding that the students have already been connected to paid internships totaling $70,000.

Dunlap received the Outstanding Alumni Service Award last fall. He says we all can do much more.

"I want to eliminate students' doubts and let them know lots of people will help them," he says. "It's up to them to seek and ask for help."

Elliotte Dunlap ('97)
Dallas, Texas


Living on campus:
I lived in Bruce Hall and learned how to adjust to being around those who were not like me, people with different colors of skin, lifestyles, backgrounds and religions. It was so eye opening. The Bruce jams and the cafeteria were the best.

Family ties and a surprise:
My mom Kitty, who passed away, and my mom Sherry have been major influences in my life and career. And my father, Leonard ('71), is one of the top defensive football players to have played at North Texas, was a first-round draft choice of the Baltimore Colts and is in the UNT Athletic Hall of Fame. When I was choosing a college, I visited my high school counselor's office and looked at a shelf with 50 college viewbooks. I saw a book that was green and had Eagles on it. It was UNT's and I took it. When I came home I said, "I'm going to UNT," and my dad said, "That's where I went. The name changed." I had no idea it was the same school.

Secrets to success:
Self awareness, curiosity, networking and leadership agility all are very important. Remember your network is your net worth. It's important to have people in your corner who will help you, pray for you and take a chance on you.

A Few Good Men
During monthly meetings, students receive guidance on how to mentally prepare for leadership and secure internships that may lead to job offers. They are required to dress professionally, and they network with speakers and get assistance in resume writing and interviewing practice. I learn from co-founders Shondrick Hill and Andre Lewis in every interaction and every day. We also have a supporting cast of professional men who volunteer their time, conversation and ear, and we have invited IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Wells Fargo representatives and other entrepreneurs to speak with the young men and women of the group. Yes, women! I was so excited that they were interested in joining. We will help everyone.

Dreams for the Multicultural Center
Programming sponsored by the Multicultural Center was never part of my proposal. I was just looking for a resource place where students could go if they needed help, and a place where they could be vulnerable. It's exciting to see that, today, the Multicultural Center collaborates with many UNT academic programs and departments. They sponsor programs and activities for members of ethnic and racial minority groups, as well as students with disabilities and different sexual orientations, and the interfaith community.

Lessons learned
I use what I learned in my communication studies classes almost every day. When you're in sales, knowing about nonverbal communication is very helpful. When you walk into a room to give a presentation, it's important to know how to gauge energy and who doesn't really want to be there so you can adapt to engage people. I learned in my debate course how to make a good argument but also how to be collaborative and listen to the other people. How you listen and what you say truly matters.

Secret to success
First, self awareness, being a curious learner, networking and leadership agility are all very important to be successful. Remember your network is your net worth. It's important to have people in your corner who will help you, pray for you and take a chance on you. Second, have the insight to prepare and realize your personal 15 minutes of fame. Everyone gets this -- you just have to show excellence and take advantage of the opportunities available to you. Third, identify and elect a personal board of directors. These are your go-to people who will help keep you on the right path. Lastly, be intentional about your goals, people in your circle and what you want to accomplish.

On digital transformation
In my job as a senior partner solution sales executive, I'm charged with making and managing the relationships among Microsoft, its technology partners and its enterprise customers. We all work together to promote digital transformation for everyone to learn and achieve more. Every day I wake up wanting to be sure I'm empowering enterprises to do more through engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations and transforming products.

Rewards of job
I get a chance to work with some of the most diverse thinkers with different skill sets. They come from all backgrounds of life from across the world, and they all have an entrepreneurial mindset and are innovative. I get to learn, exchange ideas and use my core competencies every day.

Favorite book
One of my favorite books is The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. As a kid I didn't get it, but as I've gotten older I realize that the tree gave the boy everything he needed to be happy as he grew into an old man -- and he still wanted more until there was no more tree. It always makes me think of those who have prayed for me and poured into my success and how I can reciprocate. I think about my moms and the unconditional love they have given to me, and now I have to give it all back.

From conducting research to assisting patients, UNT alumni are finding ways to attack one of the world's greatest enemies.
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