Let’s cut to the chase. Nowadays, business majors do some pretty cool stuff. The degree as a whole has moved beyond finance, accounting, and consulting. Students are more than number crunchers. More often than not, business undergrads are creative, passionate, socially justice-oriented, athletic, talented, and intelligent future change makers. Each year, we have the opportunity to report on and feature students who are pursuing especially unique passions and internships. This year was no different, so we decided to honor a few that stood out.
Not only do our favorite business majors cover the spectrum in interests, they also do so in age. From 19 to 81, and from an olympic ice skater to young entrepreneurs to cryptocurrency experts, this year’s list comes with a myriad of skills and talents. Above all, the changing tide of business majors could be summed up by the importance in which Carl Sagan wrote about gaining wisdom above power.
““If we continue to accumulate only power and not wisdom, we will surely destroy ourselves,” the scientist and poet wrote in A Pale Blue Dot. “Our very existence in that distant time requires that we will have changed our institutions and ourselves. How can I dare to guess about humans in the far future? It is, I think, only a matter of natural selection. If we become even slightly more violent, shortsighted, ignorant, and selfish than we are now, almost certainly we will have no future.”
Climbing takes a unique combination of athleticism, focus, and thoughtfulness. Kai Lightner, a 19-year-old freshman at Babson College outside of Boston has been doing it for nearly half his life. And he has been winning competitions from the get-go. At age 10, Lightner made is debut into the sport of climbing by winning the National Youth Sport Championship. At 14, he claimed first in the International Federation of Sport Climbing Youth World Championship. And now he’s gearing up for the next summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020 when competitive climbing will officially be an olympic sport.
According to Lightner’s mother, Constance, the young man was thought to have ADHD as a child. Instead of heeding the advice of physicians and having Kai officially diagnosed and then medicated, Constance provided a strict routine in which Kai would adhere. Instead of meds, Kai discovered an indoor climbing wall in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina. And instead of struggles many children with ADHD can have, Kai found success on the wall. Now, Lightner is balancing being a freshman at an elite business school while training like an olympic athlete.
“I train five days a week, with two different coaches, in the morning and in the evenings,” Lightner, told Poets&Quants For Undergrads earlier this month. “I love the fact that Babson’s culture is so focused on being interactive, hands-on, and experiential, and it does make things a little challenging when I have to be in school to do all that, but it’s why I chose Babson.”
Johnny Walsh, a sophomore at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business is the perfect example of breaking from the traditional mold. A finance major, Walsh ditched his passion for investment management — and the suits, hours worked, and stress that often comes with it — for at least a summer in the form of an internship at Harley Davidson’s Milwaukee headquarters. Instead of ties and jackets, Walsh donned jeans and t-shirts as a financial management intern in the office of the CIO.
Walsh, who also has an interest in business analytics, spent his 11-week paid summer internship working alongside the Global Information Systems team to develop process automation and offer strategy support. Because of Harley Davidson’s collaborative environment and being from a brand-name B-school like Indiana Kelley, Walsh says he was able to immediately begin work on team and individual-products. One of his first projects allowed him to test his Excel chops and lessons from a Business Analytics course at Kelley to create a robotics process automation.
“The COO, Michelle Kumbier, came and spoke to us the first day,” Walsh told us last summer. “That was really cool to get her take on the company and what we’ll be apart of. The second day, there were a lot more speakers. They talked to us about the dealer network and how it relates to the motor company. Creative services spoke about changing our marketing plan for the future. Then we had engineers come in. There are motorcycles placed all throughout and the opportunity to see and learn about them — especially for us who have never ridden — was really great.”