As I finish my MBA education at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, a few things come to mind about the journey that brought me to Baltimore in the first place and lessons I learned along the way.
I grew up in Romania when it was still a socialist country with rationed food and a constant suspicion of the “system.” However, I also saw people support and encourage each other despite the circumstances. At the time, traveling outside the country was difficult and I had a constant wonder of how people in other countries lived and a long list of places I wanted to see.
So, several years ago I visited the US with $50 in my pocket and a backpack, determined to see the Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon and travel in a Greyhound bus. And I did just that. Then, I decided to follow the American dream and further my education in this country and enrolled at University of Maryland Baltimore County to study science and Spanish. All the while, my friends were telling me I should study business based on my interests. Business? All I knew about it was that businesspeople knock on your door and sell you something you most likely don’t want. However, one day I attended an information session at Johns Hopkins Carey Business School and heard Mary Somers, at the time Associate Director of Admissions, introduce Carey as a place where business is taught with humanity in mind. I told myself, this is something I would definitely like to do! I want to wake up in the morning and know I am going to make a difference in someone’s life.
I started like all of you, with my business knowledge as a shapeless ball of clay, but with great promise and few tools to succeed. And through the classes I took, the experiences that I shared with my classmates, I am here today full of curiosity and innovative spirit beyond the technical knowledge and competencies gained. Like many of you, I have made sacrifices: lived far away from my family, missed many important moments in their lives, learned another language, culture and customs, took care of sick parents, and juggled a full-time job and school at the same time.
Additionally, I got to explore further what was meant by business with humanity in mind. In Leadership Ethics with Professor Thompson we talked about the importance of a moral compass as we engage in building a business, its purpose, and its impact on society. The point came up again in the Experiential Leadership Seminar in Italy when we were having a debrief with our instructor Mike Doyle as to why we joined the class, what were our expectations, and what was important to us about our school. I realized then that my teammates had joined Carey for the same reasons I did, which is to be part of a school that fosters a humanistic approach to business. There we were in beautiful Italy, enjoying delicious food, a small but diverse sample of the Carey student body, and we were all in agreement—ethics is one of the most important courses in our curriculum. During my MBA studies, I have learned from you, my classmates, as much as I learned from my classes.
Another important lesson learned during my time at Carey was coming up with innovative ways to solve a problem and having the tools to follow them through to completion. Along with another classmate, Tomas Cabral, I started a student organization to help provide more programs services and opportunities for flex and online students, called Carey Connect, the first one of its kind in Carey history. We created networking and career development opportunities for all Carey students and for students from all Johns Hopkins graduate programs. At the beginning of the year we planned activities for the academic year, proposed a budget, gained support from major stakeholders at school, and articulated a mission and organizational goals. Basically, we started a small non-profit business with the purpose to serve our classmates, all with the skills learned in our classes. Some of our most successful events were collaborations with the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association and the Hopkins Biotech Network including Hidden Figures movie and discussion: the contributions of women in STEM disciplines in the 60’s and now and Inspiring Women Panel: leadership lessons from women in science, entrepreneurship, and consulting.
Today, our professors, advisers, and Carey staff are certifying that we have completed all the graduation requirements and we can now step into the world and achieve anything we want to. We are the sculptors of our destiny and we now have this precious gift, a work of art, no longer just simple clay. Don’t put it in a cabinet for safe keeping. Use it, be intentional with this gift, be innovative, build something and share with others, inspire them and help them achieve more than what they themselves think they can do.
At the start of my MBA program, Dean Ferrari said we won’t know where this degree takes us and that scared me, but I now realize it is a beautiful thing! The possibilities are endless. I hope you will join me in boldly going forth into the unknown where we will be “leaders who will grow economies and societies, and exemplary citizens,” following the Carey Business School mission.