Photo of Julia Steyn ’96

Professional Background

  • Currently serves as vice president, General Motors Urban Mobility and Maven, where she and her team spearhead the business and believe in a world made better by sharing and removing the barriers to car sharing’s acceptance, adoption, and integration.
  • Joined General Motors in 2012 as vice president, Corporate Development and Global Mergers and Acquisitions, where she managed a diverse portfolio of GM’s global automotive and third-party partnerships as well as mergers and acquisitions.
  • Prior to joining General Motors, Steyn held key positions with Alcoa’s Corporate Development group, Goldman Sachs at A.T. Kearney.


What elements of your personal and professional life would be helpful to you in your service as a trustee?

As a concert pianist and economist, both disciplines require focus, creativity, and an ability to anticipate “what’s next.” Professionally, my current role as vice president, GM Urban Mobility and Maven requires me to understand the business in context with the behaviors, socioeconomic trends, and environmental factors shaping the next-gen economy. Coupled with proven leadership, my personal and professional skills would complement the board of trustees well.

What do you spend your time working on and thinking about?

In my current role at General Motors, we are leading the industry as GM rethinks our business to accelerate the new economy. Envisioning the future requires tremendous creativity and insight. We as a society are preparing for jobs, business models, and ways of thinking which have yet to be invented. My time is best spent focusing on encouraging and amplifying innovation.

What else do you want your fellow alumni to know about you as they consider how they will vote?

It would be my privilege to support and protect the progressive ideals, dedication to excellence, and commitment to creativity Oberlin embodies. My current role gives me unique insight into what the future of work, creativity, and innovation demand. That spirit, focus, and perspective will help Oberlin secure a solid future as an institution that unlocks one’s potential to change the world.

What attracted you to Oberlin?

As a Russian immigrant, being able to pursue both of my passions—piano and economics—concurrently was simply a dream come true. Developing my skills as a performer and artist at the same time I was growing through exposure to liberal arts provided an exemplary and unique educational opportunity. It was through this blend of both worlds at Oberlin that I was able to realize my full potential as a student and professional.

What about Oberlin resonates with you today?

My Oberlin experience enabled me to harness core liberal arts tenets of inclusivity and diversity of thought which has allowed me to stay nimble and iterative in the business world. In my experience, a liberal arts education allows for flexibility in curriculum as well as empowering one to choose their own path. Oberlin emphasized being true to, and standing up for, oneself. I feel my liberal arts background gave me the freedom to learn who I am and forced me to always be honest with myself. I employ this philosophy every day.

Tell us of one specific instance in which you wished to understand someone with different values from yours. What happened?

Embracing diversity of thought and seeking multiple points of view remain central to the liberal arts philosophy I learned from Oberlin. When early in my career and new to a global management consulting firm, I was led by a very demanding and intimidating person. Rather than cower when this executive approached, I stood tall and sought him out as a mentor. Instead of distancing his viewpoint, I sought to learn and understand his perspective. Through that relationship, he taught me a tremendous amount regarding his approach to business. My skills evolved as a result. I did not shy away as others did and thus developed a strong mentoring relationship with someone whose advice and insights guide me today.

Service on the Oberlin College Board of Trustees represents a significant commitment of time and effort. What draws you to this service?

As a leader in the “New Economy,” it is evident that a liberal arts education provides one a tremendous advantage. Problem solving, innovation, and collaboration are key factors to success in next-gen jobs. Creativity is the new currency. Given my hands-on experience shaping new business models, jobs and products, I am invested in ensuring Oberlin has a competitive advantage so that we may fulfil Oberlin’s promise: To provide a supportive and robust environment which supports the fundamental belief that “One person can change the world.” Oberlin was where I came to embrace my full potential. I am eager to give back to the institution that gave so much to me.

Share an Oberlin experience that shaped who you are today.

Oberlin is where I embraced philosophies inherent in liberal arts—to seek divergent viewpoints, understand what motivates people and, above all, remain inclusive. Blending the discipline of conservancy work with the boundless opportunities provided by liberal arts provided me a distinct advantage in the business world. From macroeconomics to piano performance, my unique approach to leadership is firmly rooted by my experiences at Oberlin.

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