Let me ask you this question: What words spring to mind when people think of business? Chances are, many would pick words with negative connotations — careless and corrupt, selfish and stuffy. And business leaders? You can bet most picture some suit-sporting, fast-talking, risk-taking, money-grubbing, hard-partying, Mercedes-driving clichés out of Liar’s Poker.
If you polled the Class of 2018 — the business majors, at least — you’d come away with a very different image. Among the next generation of aspiring spreadsheet ninjas, strategy savants, and empire builders, business fosters a larger mission; it is a means to boost access and reduce inequality. For inspiration, this year’s graduates are seeking champions — vision-driven, community-forming, convention-shattering, integrity-minded, obstacle-hurdling, globally-attuned champions who offer a blueprint for a better tomorrow.
INTEREST STARTS IN THE FAMILY
Many found such champions early in their lives. Yash Gupta’s business career started when he was two years old. Back then, his parents emigrated from India to the United States so their children could enjoy the opportunities that they missed. Fast forward 20 years and Gupta has capitalized on them. He has acted in commercials, served as USC’s class president, interned with the NBA, and landed a dream job with the Boston Consulting Group. More than opportunity, his parents’ example gave him something more profound: a calling.
“I was inspired by their vision to take their lives in their own hands and create their own path, something that I think business allows for,” he explains. “I saw how much my parents struggled to create a comfortable life for my brother and I. In my opinion, pursuing business gives me the opportunity to positively impact not only my own life, but to inspire and help countless more individuals around the world.”
Before majoring in business administration at the University of Richmond, Haley Preschutti learned business the traditional way — by working in her family’s cheerleader camp business. Over time, she handled everything from clothing sales to camp operations — and it taught her the sales and service lessons she needed to move into investment banking. “I grew up knowing nothing different [than business],” she explains. “My father has always told me that with a business degree, I could do anything, pursue any dream I wanted, so it always felt like that was the right path to pursue.”
MOTHERS ACT AS ROLE MODELS
Sara Miller even found a way to use her passions to bring commercial value. A talented tennis player in high school, she started tutoring younger players as a side hustle — an experience that sparked her interest in running her own business. “I loved helping other kids improve their skills and have fun,” says the Washington University in St. Louis grad. “When I began thinking about college, business seemed like a natural extension of my already-developing entrepreneurial interests.”
An early exposure to business is just one reason why this year’s Best & Brightest found their home in the business school. As part of choosing the 2018 class, we asked the Best & Brightest to share who or what carried the greater influence in majoring in business. For many, that path began with their parents.
Some class members gravitated to their mothers. That was the case for Boston University’s Ana Sofia Brown, whose mother was a pioneering programmer who now heads operations technology at a Fortune 500 firm. Similarly, Madeleine Roglich’s mother served as her professional role model. Roglich would even shadow her mother at work to learn the market’s fundamentals. However, her influence stretched far beyond Roglich’s embrace of business.
“My mom has worked in finance for as long as I can remember,” Roglich notes. “She would come home from work and explain to my brother and me the day’s events that impacted the economy. She encouraged us to start investing money at a young age and even taught us about the time-value of money and retirement funds before either of us had an ounce of money to our names – you could say she brainwashed us!”
So much so that Roglich is actually following in her brother’s footsteps — a 2015 graduate of Cornell’s Dyson School.
GRANDFATHER INTRODUCES NOTRE DAME GRAD TO SENIOR LEADERS AT HIS COMPANY
Mothers weren’t the only examples that the Best & Brightest followed. Michael John Poorten had always been struck by how happy his father was. Turns out, his role as a health care executive — and the “positive impact he was having on the community” — played a big part in that. Evie Owens’ father even spotted her business potential early on — and worked to develop it.
“I’ve always looked up to him as a successful businessman and wanted to pursue a similar career path,” recalls the Georgia Tech grad. “He has always been a leader in all of the jobs he’s held, and I’ve seen how his co-workers and bosses alike admire his work, his ingenuity, and his ability to work with all different types of people. His charismatic personality has served him well in the business world, and he has talked to me about business topics since I was young, which I’ve always found interesting. He knew that I love interacting and working with a lot of different people, and solving complex problems, so he encouraged me to pursue business.”
Extended family members also served as sources of know-how and inspiration. In high school, Asher Enciso would accompany his grandfather on business trips to New York City. When Enciso was wrestling with his major at Notre Dame, his grandfather introduced him to senior members of his company — ultimately cementing his decision to major in accounting. Villanova’s Susana Lacouture had a front row seat to the c-suite growing up too — her grandfather was the CEO of a tuna cannery in Colombia. Here, she absorbed the importance of culture and charity in growing an organization.
“I watched him build this company from the ground up. What impacted me the most was the social responsibility embedded in the company. The company employed 500 women, mostly single mothers from very poor areas in Colombia. It consistently gave to the community through scholarships and supporting foundations. Moreover, everyone who worked in the company felt like one big extended family. My grandfather’s efforts showed me what a powerful positive force a business could be.”