VP of Talent and DEI, OppLoans

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 Vice President of Talent & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) at OppLoans, a fintech company that provides financial inclusion to the middle income, credit-challenges consumer through the best available products and unwavering commitment to our customers. 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. Previous to OppLoans, Michelle worked at Sprout Social, which provides a suite of powerful social media management tools and in college persistence at OneGoal and Posse Chicago. 

Michelle is an Alumna of the Surge Fellowship, recognized as a 2018 AdWeek Rising Brand Star, Chicago Scholars 35 under 35 Honoree, serves as a Board Chair of Degrees of Change, is a past President of the Chicago Public Library Foundation’s Associate Board, Founder and Co-Lead of The Brave Space, a collaborative for those leading DEI or are interested in developing DEI strategies at their respective company or 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.