The Oberlin Stories Project

On lessons learned during the Business Scholars program

Maddy Dunn ’16

“If I stayed true to myself and focused on my strengths, I could make my own version of business.”

Maddy with the other Business Scholars.

“We would like you all to introduce yourselves, tell us what business means to you, and explain why you are participating in the Oberlin Business Scholars Program.”

My stomach churned with anxiety. I looked around the table at the other ten faces, hoping that some one else would be sharing my feeling of panic. Everybody seemed to be keeping it together. My mind began to race. “Wait, why am I here again? I know nothing about business. How was I even accepted? I have no idea what to say. I was hoping that this program could tell me what business is. Can I say that? No, Maddy, don’t do that.” I sat in my chair feeling unprepared, every type-A’s worst nightmare. After several people went, I gained a small amount of courage and pushed my chair back. As soon as I saw someone else make the same move, I immediately slid my chair back to the table. “Please, go ahead,” I hurriedly begged. Everybody laughed.

The first week of the Business Scholars program required a series of similar introductions as well as an orientation to business terminology, dinning, and appearance. Throughout that week, I had felt like a child in their mother’s high heels: desperately wanting to fit myself into something that seemed too big for me. It was not until the end of the week that everything changed.

Our final assignment of that week was to explain why being a business scholar was important to us. We were supposed to deliver our speech in front of the room while being filmed. This was to help us practice speaking in front of large audiences. The night before, I was in charge of finishing another assignment. The hours slipped by as I worked, and before I knew it, it was late at night and I had not really thought about what I was going to say. I had to go with the first thing that came to mind. It was personal and about my family, but I had no time to overthink it. I jotted down a couple of notes and went to bed.

The next day, I sat excitedly in my seat. I wanted to go up. For the first time that entire week I was talking about something genuine and true to myself. It was not explicitly about business, but had everything to do with why I was there. My name was called and I walked to the front of the room. I forgot about being nervous or wishing that someone else was in my place and just talked. I finished my speech by looking at the program director, Richard, and thanking him for the opportunity. The whole room went silent. “Wow,” Richard remarked. As I walked back to my seat, I felt a tap on my leg. “That was amazing!” another scholar whispered.

From that point on, I realized that I did not have to fit myself into what I believed business to be. If I stayed true to myself and focused on my strengths, I could make my own version of business. The Business Scholars program did the obvious thing of teaching me terminology and about the business industry itself. More importantly, the directors and the scholars helped me understand that, no matter the circumstance, you should never try to be anything but yourself. That is what I believe to be the essence of Oberlin: a community filled with amazing mentors and peers helping each other grow into the best versions of themselves.