Year Four: The Senior Perspective

Wearing my coveted semi-professional SBE t-shirt

My alarm rings. It’s 5:50am, or so the red glare from my clock across the room brightly pronounces. Quickly turning off the annoying alarm, I lie back in bed and for a few minutes listen to the sound of rain outside my window. In some weird rhythmic fashion that only the rain hitting the roof of my 1940’s house could create I’m eased awake. Walking to the kitchen I’m greeted by the warming smell of coffee brewing. A consequential desire to grab that first cup of the day overwhelms me. The first sip is a reminder of the fact that I am in Seattle, and maybe more importantly, up. By the second sip I am reminded that something is entirely different about today. The rain is a new addition, yes -it was 80 degrees and sunny out yesterday after all- but then again I do live in Seattle. I believe the books piled next to my backpack were the root cause of this unrest. It’s not the fact that I had to sell the rights to my first-born in order to buy this quarter’s books, nor is it that today is my first day back at SPU; it’s that this is my last ‘first day’ at SPU. I pause and think, “A Senior? Where did all that time go?”

As I take a shower and get ready for work downtown, I slip into a nostalgic state. Thinking back to autumn of my freshman and sophomore years I start to see flashes of still vivid memories. Moving into the dorms and meeting so many people that I hardly could remember my own roommate’s name. The endless hours my floor and I spent practicing (or lack thereof) for our campus FUSION skit. Making friends learn the hard way that “Roomies” is something you never go on. Sleepily standing in the Gwinn  line on a Sunday morning, just waiting for that second delicious artery-filling omelet, and, in all truth, the value of a good night’s sleep.

Accordingly, as I suit-up for my internship, I remember that a year ago today I was studying in China. The humidity, the thick smoggy air, and the lack of Mexican/Italian food; all things I definitely don’t miss about my stay there. However, the chance to explore the world and be apart from the comfortable life I grew so accustomed to here in Seattle is something I definitely do miss. There has been nothing more important in my undergraduate experience, and personal development thus far that even scratches the surface of what studying abroad for those 3 months did for me.

Climbing Mt. Huashan in Xi'an, China

Looking at myself in the mirror tightening my tie, I recall being inducted as an official student of the SBE at the New Majors Dessert. Looking sharper than I usually do (or at least I like to think so) a part of Dean Van Duzer’s speech pops back into my head, “I want you to be the secret agents of the business world…” “Why would I think of that?” I guess I’m suited up like I imagine a secret agent would be, but really what does that message mean to me, and why does it matter today? In the background of my thoughts I hear the distinct sound of the toaster; I pause to munch on the warm buttered toast. I’m quickly drawn back as I read the motto written on my oh-so-semi-formal SBE shirt lying on the couch. It reads, “Another Way of Doing Business.” It’s the meaning behind this motto that makes necessary the Dean’s stated “secret agent” approach to future careers in business.

As I recollect on this motto, I am reminded that at the end of my interview process with Northwestern Mutual, the recruiter and directors one by one contacted me to evaluate my presentation and inform of their decision on my employment. Their unanimous decision was a motivating yes; for they each congratulated me not only on my presenting skills, business etiquette/dress, but “because your energy is contagious, you have a drive and ethical professionalism about you that is rare among students.” The key word here is obviously “ethical professionalism,” something that a large, influential, Fortune 500 company like Northwestern Mutual, desires in its employees. You reading this may be wondering, “Well why does this ethical professionalism matter so much today?” As I’m sure you know, us recent and soon to be graduates will enter the work-force in an uncertain period of history. With such nation-wide unemployment statistics hovering around 9-10%, some of the questions floating in my head include, “Will I be qualified, or experienced enough for my potential employers?  Or more importantly, will there be job opportunities for me out of school?”  Personally reassured by my knowledge and proven “ethical professionalism,” I feel more at ease. If it really is this professionalism in students that successful companies like Northwestern Mutual are looking for in their employees, then my fellow SBE graduates and I are beneficially set apart. For our ingrained ethical outlook to work sets us apart from our peers graduating elsewhere.

My abilities as a successful presenter, intern, and possible employee are directly correlated to the principles I embraced and was taught by the SBE faculty and staff. But more importantly, my perspective and approach to work and the business world has been shaped. Ethics has become an essential part of not only my perspective, but it is the reason behind my success in developing myself into a more advantageous and qualified suspect to future employers. More importantly though, it has been rooted in my viewpoint on how the world needs to transform, and how businesses should be run.

As I head back into the kitchen and pour my next cup of coffee I recollect on all these vivid memories, signs of autumn, and the start of another school year. I find myself asking “Am I ready for this year?” The answer is undoubtedly yes, but it differs from years past. I pause in my routine to check my phone, which glowing green, tells me 6:35am, triggering my mental “go-time” approach to the day. In truth, I figure that’s also the perspective I’m taking on life this autumn. I’m no longer focusing on the triviality of dorm life, or on the grades I’ll receive, or on the roomies dates I purposefully won’t go on; but to the future, to what I have yet to learn, and what life in this recession, in this debt-afflicted economy, in this jobless crazed world I’m soon about to enter will be like.

-Thomas Essenpreis

So you chose SPU. Now what?

My name is Matt Mitchell, and in one week I will be graduating with a Business Administration degree with a concentration in International Business. I reflect upon my time at Seattle Pacific University, with the hope that my experience may give you some insight into various aspects of selecting and pursuing a major at Seattle Pacific.

Freshman Year: Business Intended

I came to SPU with the intention of becoming a business major. Banking ran in the family, and because it was all that I knew, I accepted it as a very realistic career path for myself. My first two business classes at SPU were Macroeconomics and Business Statistics. Both of these were required classes for the business major, and the material for both classes went right over my head. This was especially the case for Business Statistics. I had limited math knowledge, and the class consisted of a rigorous survey of various statistical tools that could be used in business. While the information was potentially useful, I couldn’t have been more disinterested than I was. My grades in these two classes reflected my attitude towards the subject material. Because of these two less than ideal experiences with the business school, I decided to switch majors.

Sophomore Year: Decidedly Undecided

With the intended Business major behind me, I pursued various other callings. I thought of fields such as music, theology, and psychology. Music was the one that most interested me. I was very involved in music performance in high school and music has been my passion for as long as I can remember. Being a year behind, I discovered that I wouldn’t be able to graduate in four years with a music major unless I took summer courses. This did not interest me. On top of that, I was constantly reminded how limited the job market is for musicians and music teachers – the two most viable occupations for those with a music degree. I decided to fill my schedule with general requirements for graduating from the university, and eventually I came crawling back to the business major. I was motivated to return to business with the thought that when I graduated I would be able to work in any number of fields, and even perhaps be affiliated with music some day. Spring quarter of my sophomore year was when things turned around. I took two business courses: Legal Environment of Business and Financial Accounting. Both of these turned out to be very rewarding experiences. I had wonderful professors who clearly knew the material and how to pass their knowledge on to students effectively. I did well in both of the classes, and started to feel more secure in my decision to pursue business again.

Junior Year: Back to Business

My junior year of college was packed with business classes. I was taking up to eighteen credits each quarter to make up for lost time. I was enjoying most of my business classes, and excelled in many of them. I started working in the School of Business and Economics at the beginning of spring quarter as an assistant to the undergraduate coordinator. There, I learned the ins and outs of the business school, familiarized myself with the faculty, and was able to help students who were as confused and frustrated as I had once been.

Senior Year: China, the Seattle Opera, and the Road to Graduation

I studied abroad in China fall quarter of my senior year with the SPU Business Abroad (SPUBA) program. I spent three months studying in Chongqing, and was able to visit eight other major cities while in China. We stayed in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi ‘an, Lijiang, and Chengdu to name a few of the major cities. Through this experience I gained the realization of how different cultures interact, and more specifically, how business is transacted in different economic contexts. When I returned, I continued taking business classes at SPU, worked in the business school, and was an intern for the Seattle Opera. I was able to combine my interest in music with my business knowledge, and work for a really unique company in Seattle. I am now in my last quarter at SPU, and the end is in sight. I literally have one more week of college and then I am finished. I anxiously await the time when I will have no papers, no exams, no pop quizzes, and no required reading.

To Get the Most Out of Your College Experience…

Study abroad in a foreign country. Make connections with faculty. Pursue an internship that interests you. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. I am extremely confident that my education from SPU will take me far in the business world, and I appreciate the entire faculty that has encouraged and assisted me in developing my knowledge and values.

What does it mean to study and do business as a Christian?

It’s tempting to think that this question isn’t asked very often by business students. But the truth is, whether or not you attend a Christian business school, that as you learn the economics of supply and demand, how to read and write financial statements and the ins and outs of business strategy, the question will come up. As you ponder and anticipate what your life’s work will be, you will begin to wonder what that work’s value is to your faith.

The field of business is often seen as notoriously secular, self-interested, profit-above-people-driven and hostile to the Christian faith; and sometimes rightly so. But business is not outside of God’s concern, authority and power. The business field has the power and opportunity to create and provide the products that enable humanity to thrive; this is the creative and meaningful work of businesspeople. There are often tensions and ethical dilemmas to negotiate, but it is important for Christians to do this. I believe that Christians in business have as much responsibility to show that their faith can positively impact their work at the entry and middle levels of the corporate ladder as those at the higher levels who are typically seen as having all the power.

So what does it mean to study business as a Christian? It means that you undertake an important and often difficult call. It’s a call to bring the transformative power of our faith in the Triune God into an area that, despite its secularization and even animosity toward the faith, is of substantial importance to God. In short, I believe that Christian businesspeople are bringing the Christian faith to the “front lines” of an area that it can be the least visible and most needed in. Part of the significance of the journey and discernment process is the value of working through the tensions presented to all business people, and watching God work through those tensions and in your life and community. To shamelessly plug the School of Business and Economics at SPU, I think one thing that helps in this process of discernment is being surrounded by business faculty and other students who also think critically and carefully about this question as we all live it out together.

 

 

 

Raygan Baker, ’11

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