Renée (Reynolds) Campbell ’95 is a Vice President at JPMorgan Chase, where she leads governance and budgeting for the JPMorgan Chase Foundation. Previously, she was an analyst and portfolio manager investing in global equities. She received a Fulbright scholarship to study the impact of the dual recognition of democratic and traditional leadership in local government on young voters in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She is a graduate of Manhattan Country School, Bronx Science and Yale University and formerly served on the MCS Board of Trustees. Recently married, Renee is also the new mom of triplets: Ava-Belle, Micah and Chloe.
I recently had an opportunity to speak with Renee about her MCS experience and how that has influenced and impacted life after MCS, her concerns as a parent and her work in the financial services industry.
Q: How did your MCS experience and education impact your life after MCS? A: I arrived here from Jamaica shortly before enrolling so MCS is where I learned to be an American. It was where I learned about things like peanut butter and apple pie but it was also where I learned about American history. It shaped how I learned about what America was and the juxtaposition with what has actually happened and how the country has struggled to live up to its ideals. I think that experience really impacted how this immigrant became part of America. That became the thread that went through all of my academic history. In high school and college I was still looking at ‘What is democracy’ and ‘How do people participate in democracy?’ At MCS, I can remember many moments that we were encouraged to use our voices as young people. I think my lifelong interest in looking at how democracy functions and studying other democracies all stems from coming into the U.S., into a setting that was very focused on democracy, agency and how people have a role in shaping the world that they live in.
Q: Were there particular experiences, pieces of curriculum that you remember as a student that resonated with you?
A:Junius’ 6th grade year was really intense but great. The 7th grade autobiography process on the 5th floor did wonders in terms of preparing me for self-reflection and thinking through the threads of your life at such an early age. It was a great set up for high school applications and later college applications. But also just to think for yourself about what bits of your experience connect to who you are and who you are becoming was powerful. One of the things that I clearly remember is arguing the Plessy v. Ferguson case and being upset that the good guys lost because it wasn’t a consistent argument. That really hit me with the weight of the work of advancing democracy and advancing civil rights. I realized that it’s hard work and you have to do it right because the stakes are high. It taught me that we can’t just assume that because the moral right is on your side that everything will work out right.
Q: From your perspective today, what do you think is most valuable about MCS mission/ program?
A: A school that produces students who take an equity lens to everything is incredibly valuable. There are so many places we are seeing inequity and injustice. Putting out well-informed active, engaged citizens into the world who will go out and find whatever area of life interests them but then take an equity lens to that is critical given what we’re experiencing not just in America but globally. I’m excited at the prospect of putting out more global citizens who will land wherever they are and implement agency and a focus on justice. That makes me feel incredibly encouraged because I see how essential it is. From my perspective as a new mom preparing to educate my kids and reading about the different outcomes and different experiences of children of color as early as preschool I think creating an environment where everyone’s nurtured is incredibly important and one of the most valuable things MCS provides. I value that MCS is still a place that is intentional and purposeful in creating that environment…I look at the New York Times graphic that shows that no matter where you raise black boys in America or how you raise them and what resources you’ve given them, you almost can’t stop systemic racism from effecting their lives. That terrifies me as a mother. I think about MCS as an educational model that we need to replicate and figure out how we can leverage it in more environments.
Q: In terms of the work you do now, is there any particular way(s) that MCS prepared you for that?
A: That brings me back to what I was saying about the equity lens to the work…One of the most rewarding and also the toughest part of being a young woman of color investor is being acutely aware of how different my perspective is and how it informs the ways I look at my work and influences the way I look at my industry. My MCS education taught me to think about different perspectives. Now in my work I have to think about how we get more diverse voices into the industry and what does it take to keep them there? Being able to do the math and the calculations to show what I think an investment will yield financially is one thing… that can be learned anywhere. But the thing that’s harder to teach is the different perspective you bring to the story. Being able to be a voice in the room that says, “Maybe you should look at this differently from another perspective…” That’s the value! Making sure those diverse voices are there and that when they are there, we actually hear them is something that MCS ingrained in me. It’s the two-part approach I’ve taken to my professional career and into my work at JP Morgan Chase where we want to make sure that people are not just in the room but when they speak, others listen. That for me is where my work is headed now. All of my attention now is on access. The firm is looking at access in thinking about its products, how we address what research is showing re: glaring differences in the ways that minorities and women are able to access financial services. I always thought I would focus on the actual practice of democracy. It’s funny to me now that I work in the financial services industry. But now that I am here, it has allowed me to make something that was not intended to work for people of color work. I believe we need to change the idea of mainstream America to include communities of color and low and moderate income folks at a time when we’re seeing economic inequality expand across the country and the world. I want to take a different approach to how we have made both the concepts and the products available to people because it’s not sustainable. It’s not equitable. It’s not just. I think that it comes down to the basic questions you are encouraged to ask yourself at MCS…Is this the way this should be done? Is it right? Putting that moral compass in my work is what I ended up doing. Financial justice. That’s where I have found myself in many ways due to my MCS education and its progressive approach which I’m actively applying to the work I’m doing here.