Jarvis Sam EMBA’22: Embracing Authenticity

Throughout his career and during his time at Brown, Jarvis Sam (he/him/his) has been on a journey of self-discovery. But in his pursuit of finding his authentic self — there is no finish line.

As a Houston, Texas native, Jarvis Sam's upbringing — one that bridged two worlds of city and country — deeply shaped his identity. If you ask him about his background and who he is, don’t expect a standard biography. Instead, Sam will talk about the values instilled in him from a young age like justice, freedom, equity, community, family, the sanctity for identity and the ownership of it. He’ll tell you teachers are the unsung heroes of everything (shoutout to Ms. Hill and Professor Worth). And he might talk about his family’s long history of participating in speech and debate, the skill he credits for his career success. 

As an undergraduate at Rice University, Sam jumped at the opportunity to study just about every subject he could. He started with history, picked up public policy, then rounded the bases with sports management. 

Now, as Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at Nike, Sam leads the DEI practice area at the company where he leverages historical understandings in the sports industry to lead change. On paper, his education and career has come full circle. His resume includes the likes of big tech companies, such as Snapchat and Google. But only from a glance at his long hair, braids colored in every shade of the rainbow, does one recognize his greatest strength as a leader — his authenticity. But for Sam, discovering his authentic self first took putting on a face that was not his own.

It was in that moment, I realized my authenticity is actually the biggest value add that I provide in any room and any space that I’m in.

Jarvis Sam EMBA'22
Jarvis Sam headshot

Learning to play the game.

At the start of his career, Sam remembers not seeing Black or queer men that looked like him in positions of authority. He constantly questioned whether he could bring the essence of Black culture and queer identity into the workplace. As he advanced in various roles, he observed a singular perspective unfolding — one that many marginalized communities like women, people of color and sexual minorities experience at work. “You start to believe a narrative that the only way to be successful is to assimilate.” Sam analogizes, “You must learn the rules of a game to which you played no part in crafting, and then jump into the game.” 

Exhausted, Jarvis came to a realization. “When I finally began to understand the culture to which I wanted to be a part of, I no longer had to think about this construct of assimilation. I could be myself.” He elaborates, “It was in that moment, I realized my authenticity is actually the biggest value add that I provide in any room and any space that I’m in. As leaders, what we represent has limitless potential. From how we look, to how we dress, to what we say, to our actions and behaviors, it's meaningful to people. I know that me owning the full essence of my identity as a Black, queer man is purposeful to so many.”