When Adrienne Rose first stepped onto the campus at the University of Michigan, she says she wasn’t one to handle stress. Stress made her feel overwhelmed and caused her to dwell on all the pressure and tasks instead of doing the things that needed to be done. But over the years, the Business Administration major at the Ross School of Business has adapted through challenging experiences throughout her time as an undergrad and became the commencement speaker for her graduating class.
“The more often I was exposed to stressful situations, the better I was able to navigate them,” Rose tells Poets&Quants. “I started making to-do lists and prioritizing my tasks, improving my efficiency and enabling myself to use that stress as motivation. Right now, I’m feeling bittersweet. I’m sad to have graduated because I am ending what has been the most extraordinary chapter of my life so far.”
Rose grew up in Mainline, a suburb outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her parents, an older sister, and a family dog. She says her parents have always been loving and supportive and encouraged her to follow her passions.
We spoke with her to find out a little more about her journey and what lies ahead after graduating from one of the world’s best undergraduate business schools.
What was high school like and how did it influence you?
I went to Lower Merion High School (in Ardmore, Pennsylvania). My biggest takeaway from high school was learning the benefits of being an active contributor to my environment. I realized how much more intriguing my classes became the more I engaged in the conversation. I became a student government officer, speaking with administration weekly to help improve practices and share my insights. The more involved I got both inside and outside of the classroom, the more I enjoyed school.
This mindset pushed me to become an active contributor on the UMich campus as well. I continued to engage in conversations in the classroom, speaking up constantly in my 80-person lectures the same as I had done in my 20-person high school classes. I sought out ways to contribute outside the classroom, joining clubs such as TAMID where I work on a team to consult for Israeli startup companies. Becoming an active contributor in the UMich environment is what has enabled me to have such a fulfilling college experience.
Why did you choose UMich?
I’ve wanted to attend UMich forever. My Dad went there for graduate school and my sister followed suit, so by the time I was applying for colleges I knew I wanted to be a Wolverine.
Despite knowing I wanted to go to UMich, I never would have expected to be a commencement speaker. In my commencement speech I actually said, ‘If you had told me four years ago that I would be giving a graduation speech in front of thousands, I would possibly laugh but probably faint.’
What did you want to be when you first arrived at UMich and how has that changed?
I knew I wanted to study business because I had started my own business in high school, “ShoeU” (shopshoeu.com). However, I didn’t know what area of business I wanted to focus on.
While recruiting for a summer internship Junior year, I literally recruited for consulting, marketing, and finance roles because I am interested in all of those fields. Eventually, I accepted a position as a finance analyst at American Express, where I will be returning full-time in August. I’m still not sure what I want to “be” but as of now I am trying to learn as much as I can, and I think Amex provides the perfect environment to do so.
One of the best hard skills I’ve acquired is my presentation skills. The Ross curriculum involves an incredible number of presentations, typically at least one per class. Due to this constant exposure to presenting, I became very comfortable making slide decks and public speaking. This ability to summarize findings in a concise and logical way, and to confidently and articulately share those findings with an audience is a skill that I know will prove valuable in my future.
The best soft skill I’ve acquired is how to work in a team. The Ross curriculum places a huge emphasis on group projects, and the compositions of these groups are always assigned in a way that promotes diversity among team members. At first, I was frustrated that I could never pick my own teammates and work with my friends, however, I have grown to really see the value in this system. I have learned to work with people who are very different from myself, and how to facilitate a cooperative environment where we are able to leverage each team members’ strengths and perspectives. I know that any endeavor I pursue in my future will involve collaboration and cooperation, therefore this skill will be extremely useful.
What has been some of your best memories at UMich?
My best memories are enjoying Ann Arbor with the incredible friends I’ve made at UMich. The thing that I have found most important to my personal health is ensuring that I am allotting time to spend with my friends. My friends give me energy, support, and happiness, so even when I am drowning in work I prioritize spending time with them.
Whether we were ordering cheesy bread to the library during a late night study session, doing a bar crawl at our favorite local spots, or roaming through the streets of Florence while studying abroad, my friends have made all of our time together so special and fun. It is truly the people that make UMich such an extraordinary school, and all of my best times involve spending time with fellow Wolverines.
Was there a time at Ross School of Business where you were challenged by disappointment?
A big moment of disappointment for me was when I realized Ross did not offer Florence, Italy, as a possible destination in their study abroad program. I had been dreaming of studying abroad in Florence, and I was extremely disappointed that I could not study there while receiving Ross credits. It was possible to study abroad and not go through Ross, however, I was recommended against it by almost everyone I spoke with.
Despite feeling unsupported in the decision, I made the choice to follow my dream and study in Florence where I would only receive seven general credits. Once this decision was made, I worked diligently on crafting a plan to ensure I would fit in all of my Ross credits before graduating. This meant my senior year would be loaded with challenging business courses, something that many seniors are able to avoid.
This experience showed me the importance of prioritizing what is important to you and finding a way to make those things happen, even if it may be difficult.
What among all that is happening in the world right now is most important and close to your heart and how do you follow it closely?
An issue that is extremely important to me is the ongoing and growing anti-Semitism in America and the world right now. According to the Anti-Defamation League, 2018 had the third highest number of recorded attacks against Jews since the 1970s.
Sadly, news about the uptake in anti-Semitism in America isn’t something I have to dig through national newspapers or my Twitter feed for. That’s because it’s something happening right before eyes, on my very campus. At the same university which — ironically — purports itself as a safe place for all students somehow allows hatred toward Jews to grow in plain sight.
Just this past academic year at the University of Michigan, two professors rescinded their offers to write a letter of recommendation for a study abroad program after learning the program was in Israel. Furthermore, a speaker projected a slide comparing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler — who murdered six million Jews — with the caption “Guilty of Genocide” in a required lecture.
What I witnessed at UMich this year mirrors the textbook examples of the anti-Semitism that swept universities in Eastern Europe in the early 1930s before the Holocaust. If we do nothing, history will repeat itself.
What is a belief you live and work by and why?
My golden rule to live and work by is “you are your own brand, so build a brand you’re proud of.”
The way you behave and present yourself become the defining pillars of your brand. You must always be cognizant of your actions such as how you treat others, approach challenges, handle defeats and also handle successes. Any poor behavior can tarnish your brand, and that leads to a reputation that is difficult to overcome.
On the other hand, when you are able to cultivate a brand that is genuine, dependable and valuable, people will want to buy into your brand.