January 29, 2018

Student Report: My Favorite Semester by Lauren Nelson

Lauren Nelson is a candidate in Weatherhead's MBA program.

It has finally set in that this is my last semester at Weatherhead, and a mix of emotions have surfaced! I’m excited, energized and a bit sad at the same time.This semester is by far my favorite already, and I’ll tell you why:

Reason #1: Tanzania
A big fan of studying abroad since undergrad, I have to admit that I was skeptical of what we could learn and the impact we could possibly make while traveling for only 10 days in Tanzania during our Social Entrepreneurship course led by Dan Lacks of the Case School of Engineering and Weatherhead's Michael Goldberg, expert on entrepreneurship in transitioning economies. However, boy was I pleasantly surprised! The trip began with a touristy safari where I got to see animals in their natural habitat in a way that I would never have imagined. When we proceeded to the “course” part of the trip, thanks to Goldberg’s expert networking skills we were connected with high-achieving high-energy entrepreneurs from the bustling fintech space to shared mobility to e-commerce. I can’t say enough about how interesting I found the payment revolution there--companies like MPesa are working to bring mobile payments to citizens who are “unbanked,” having huge implications for their earning potential. We got to see our professor in his element, energizing the crowd with the message that they too could be a mecca of innovation and gave paths for tapping into the entrepreneurial potential of transitioning economies. 

In contrast, we also got to experience the remote island of Tumbatu just a few kilometers from Zanzibar, for a solar panel installation in the village of Junguwe led by chemical engineering professor Dan Lacks. It was the first time I met anyone who didn’t know who Obama was or what the United States meant. And yet, I was able to teach some Tumbatu children tic-tac-toe and “the line game” and have a bunch of fun. The experience taught me how truly everyone has capacity to be an entrepreneur, and that entrepreneurship is a vehicle for change. 

We got to bond with the mother of the home where we installed solar panels in Tumbatu.

My teammates along with the founders of the e-commerce startup who we'll be consulting for this semester.

Reason #2: Academics! (Nerdy, I know...)
I am also OBSESSED with my classes this semester. After two weeks so many of my questions have been answered in both my Entrepreneurial Finance and my Negotiations courses. Questions like: What the heck is Series A? What is venture capital? How do you value a startup? How do I negotiate my salary (super important for the next reason)? 

Reason #3: I have a job!
This week I accepted a position as a User Centered Designer for post-graduation at Goodyear in their Global Innovation Group. Now I get to eat, sleep, breathe the future of mobility. How cool is that?! OK, maybe it’s just me… 

Reason #4: My own STARTUP! 
Spring semester of second year is awesome because everyone is required to be a part of a startup. This is particularly exciting because I get to put everything I’ve learned in semester 1 of AMES, and in Economics of Technical Entrepreneurship and Innovation that I took last semester with Scott Shane. I can’t tell you too much, because, well, it’s just a baby startup right now but I will get back to you with more information in the coming weeks and months as it matures! You might just want to be our first customer… 

All in all, this semester is really different because I can finally see the future, and why I worked so hard to get to this point. The relationships that I’ve developed with classmates, Design Club members and Design For America Project Team members will be everlasting. I’m so excited to see the fruits of the growing momentum of Design at Weatherhead and hope to stay engaged as an alumna. We’re not there yet, though! There are still over three months to go. I will savor every last moment.

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