Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Future Leadership of the Kelley School of Business

Seven years ago I thought the highest thing I would achieve would be a world-famous actor in cinema, battling aliens or wrestling dinosaurs. Five years ago I thought my highest achievement would be becoming an old man walking gently through the summer camp I helped build and grow with my own hands, smiling as my walking cane sunk into the soft earth. Three years ago I assumed I’d be spending my career marketing the museum I had come to call “home” to the world – a beautiful, historic place to live and work.

When the idea came to me to get my MBA, the devil on my shoulder told me “no way,” that such an aspiration was beyond my abilities. I studied so hard back stage while I was acting as Harry Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” for the GMAT, and polished my stories for my application papers to try and portray who I was and aspired to become – through tales of my family, marathons and my love for education in science and history. When I received my acceptance from one of the top ranked MBA colleges, I was humbled and in awe. I never thought I could achieve so much.

And now in just six weeks I will assume the role of Vice President for Marketing and Communications for the students of Kelley, a business graduate school ranking of #15 in the nation. Again I am humbled and thankful for my lifelong teachers, and in awe of the fortune that is bestowed on me.

In August, it came to our class’ attention that there would be an election for the next MBAA leadership board – one president and seven vice presidents made up of students. You can read more about the MBAA here; but in short, the MBAA is an organization of eight primary leadership offices and 52 committees that provide direction for the class and link the needs and concerns of the MBA class to the faculty, career services, admissions staff and the world.

I’ve always sought out leadership opportunities – with a passion for education, I get incredible personal gratification out of empowering others with the tools to achieve their dreams – it’s a summer camp counselor thing. In considering whether to run for MBAA office, I kept saying to myself:

“If you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll still hit the stars. More so, if you never even launch, you’ll never know how high you could’ve flown.”

I decided to organize a slate (the term for eight people campaigning for MBAA leadership). I began carefully watching my classmates in everything they did and how they behaved, and what the “word on the street” was about peer’s performance. As time went on, I collected seven individuals who had shown clear examples of passion, the love of leadership, strong intelligence, and who had expressed to me in casual conversation a love for making the school the best place it could be – and empowering our classmates with success.

It was so exciting, and a whirlwind of politics, education and most importantly – listening – began. Our team, Kelley 3D, met with faculty, peers and staff to learn everything we could, hear the needs of the school, and identify what we could do. Although I organized our team and set the initial direction, I stepped to the position of VP of marketing and communications from president, since that is where my history lies and the individual we unanimously decided to be president would be the best person for the job – he had a knack for making people feel comfortable enough to share their concerns and their ideas, and he knew a great number more of our peers than I did. I still hold by that choice, and he will be our incredibly empathetic and strategic leader.

There’s enough details to fill a book, but I just remembered that this is a blog entry. So let’s keep it simple – last Tuesday, we were voted in by our class to become the next MBAA leadership, starting in January. We had competed in total against four other excellently-qualified slates; but in the end, only three slates actually ran. We were told in private five minutes before the big announcement, and I was not the only one in our team to be unable to speak, choked with emotion. Cheers, hugs and strong handshakes with big grins went around the circle. It was incredibly humbling and heart-lifting – to think how much work we had put in, how much sincere care and thought had been given, that our class elected us to look to for guidance in the year to come.

There is a great deal of work ahead of us. My position alone averages 15 extra hours a week – but this is a responsibility we asked for, and that we’ll take with conviction and honor. My point of telling you all of this is this:

You can be so much more than you think. You need to take on opportunities that are scary, sometimes downright terrifying, and stand up, be who you are in every authentic way, and do your best to win it. The Kelley School of Business will give you every single tool you need to succeed; and you will, you just need to take that first step in applying and come see what we’re all about. The classes of 2011 and 2012 will be here to shake your hand.

Come shoot for the stars.

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