School of Business Administration

Business Scholar alumnus leads in building LGBTQIA+ support

icon of a calendarJuly 9, 2021

icon of a pencilBy Emily Morris

Share this story

Business Scholar alumnus leads in building LGBTQIA+ support

A head shot of Waseem Samaan.
After becoming his most authentic self, Waseem Samaan, FIN/ACC ’10, draws on his roots to encourage pride in those around him. Photo courtesy of Waseem Samaan.

After becoming his most authentic self, Waseem Samaan, FIN/ACC ’10, draws on his roots to encourage pride in those around him.

Once enclosed in baggy navy clothes with a tidy trim, Samaan transformed from a wallflower to an infectiously proud gay Arabic man.

“Growing up, I was an immigrant, I was Arabic, I was a late bloomer… I always felt marginalized,” said Samaan, head of internal audit, Everbridge. “I didn’t have people to talk to, and now, I love to help others.”

At OU, his accounting and finance studies focused on calculations, but caring for others was always at his core.

Prioritizing his studies and seeking out leadership opportunities allowed him to balance calculations and care as a member of Global Business Scholars the Oakland Accounting Students in Information Society as well as a peer adviser in the OU School of Business.

“OU helped me be a great leader, to speak up,” Samaan said. “There’s an emphasis on academia and building leaders, and that’s how you develop influence… getting involved in different organizations and scholarships.”

Initially, Samaan leaned toward an investment banking career. Pursuing student leadership roles along with the academics involved in his double major led him to auditing instead. As an auditor, he believed he could utilize his financial knowledge as well as gain leverage to make a positive impact on the people around him.

“You have influence,” he said. “You have direct access to management at companies, and I wanted to use these resources to do good.”

A recipient of the OU’s highest honor, the Alfred G. Wilson Award, as well as several other scholarships, Samaan credits his early success to his support system of Oakland University business professors.

“Accounting [professors] were so committed to their students,” he said. “They wrote letters of recommendation for me, and they got me more involved in [student organization] roles.”

After graduating from OU, he moved west to earn a master of accounting at University of Southern California. In addition to earning his degree, he worked as a teaching and research assistant where he conducted research on LGBTQIA+ retention and recruiting at the Big 4 accounting firms.

From there, Samaan has made it a priority to weave his knowledge and experience into his professional ventures, launching LGBTQIA+ outreach organizations at 21st Century Fox (FOX Pride) and Everbridge (BridgeOut).

FOX Pride was the first organization of its kind in the company. Initially, his colleagues were leery about its success. Now the group boasts more than 1,300 members in the U.S. alone.

“Some people said, ‘Are you sure you want to start this group? This is going to jeopardize your career,” he said. “But I wanted to share [a sense of] belonging with people. I wanted people to feel comfortable in their own skin.”

After moving from Audit Manager at 21st Century Fox, where he worked for six years, to Head of Internal Audit at Everbridge, Samaan continued to spread pride by starting BridgeOut.

At both companies, he witnessed how the pride organization and events enhanced the community. Long-standing professionals came out at work for the first time, and parents with blossoming LGBTQIA+ children appreciated the support resource.

His plans going forward include expanding to create disability inclusivity resources. His goal is to offer resources to allow everyone to transform into their “true selves.”

“I’m Catholic, I’m Arabic, I’m gay and I’m in accounting,” he said. “It’s like an oxymoron, but all those parts of me are very important to me. I’m proud of each part.”

Samaan’s success demonstrates people can be proud and dynamic professionals while reflecting several defining factors. As Samaan observes, they just need an accepting space to express themselves.

“You don’t change people’s minds by fighting, you change people’s minds by educating,” Samaan said.

Share this story