Michelle Y. Bess, J’07, has spent the past decade creating opportunities for the next generation of leaders and diversifying Chicago’s technology industry. This year’s recipient of the Alumni Professional Achievement Award, Bess has created and led DEI programs at Sprout Social and OppFi, a leading financial technology platform that powers banks to help everyday consumers gain access to credit, where she currently serves as SVP of People.
Michelle Y. Bess is a premier connector striving to connect people of color to opportunities in order to create the most diverse cohort of leadership the City of Chicago has ever seen. She believes doing this will aid in solving some of the greatest challenges facing the city. After doing work in the college access and persistence movement, Michelle witnessed the impact having a diverse leadership and employee base had on student outcomes; how it prompted important discussions on race, class, and privilege leading to questioning the status quo, and identifying unique solutions for success, which Bess hopes to bring to industries outside of education. Bess is currently the Senior Vice President of People at OppFi, a Financial Services company that empowers everyday consumers to rebuild financial health through facilitating credit access, enabling savings, and building wealth. In this role, she focuses on creating systems, processes, and procedures to ensure an equitable company where individuals from all backgrounds are seen, validated, and able to succeed. Prior to OppFi, Michelle worked at Sprout Social, which provides a suite of powerful social media management tools, and in college persistence at OneGoal and Posse Chicago. Bess is an alumna of the Surge Fellowship, was awarded the 2022 Act Six Legacy Award for extraordinary service to Degrees of Change, was recognized as a 2018 AdWeek Rising Brand Star, Chicago Scholars 35 under 35 Honoree, served as a Board Director of Degrees of Change, is the past President of the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Associate Board, Founder and Co-Lead of The Brave Space, for those leading DEI or are interested in developing DEI strategies at their organization. She attended Whitworth University as a recipient of the Act Six Full-Ride Leadership Scholarship, earned a B.A. in biology, and completed Georgetown University’s Executive Certificate in Strategic Diversity & Inclusion Management. Bess is a native of Washington State and now resides on the South Side of Chicago in the Kenwood neighborhood.