This April I had the opportunity to take an all-expense-paid trip to sunny Los Angeles, where I represented Mount Holyoke at the International Business Ethics and Sustainability Case Competition (IBESCC). To think an international relations major would become so involved with business and entrepreneurship is probably surprising, but that is exactly what Mount Holyoke allowed me to do — reach and stretch outside of my comfort zone in order to expand my horizons.
The summer after my sophomore year, I received an email from the College introducing a new minor: Entrepreneurship, Organizations and Society (EOS). I had recently declared my major in international relations and was in search of a minor. Receiving this email felt like fate. I emailed the professor who oversaw the minor and said that I was interested in taking the intro course. Since the fall of my sophomore year, I have taken almost every class that the EOS minor offers and have loved every moment. The classes, with their varied topics and discussions, pushed me to think outside of the theoretical academia that often defines traditional liberal arts courses. Instead, I was introduced to the high-stakes world of entrepreneurship, where I learned practical lessons about the economic realities associated with starting a business.
I was eager to apply my practical education to the real world, so on a whim I decided to participate in MHC’s annual Pitch Competition. I knew nothing about the competition and had no idea how to write a pitch, but I did know that I had done theater and was a decent speaker. I wrote a 90-second pitch, memorized it, and as the Friday of the competition drew closer, very nearly decided not to participate. However, an hour before the competition I told myself that I had to do it. Otherwise, what was the point of all those classes? I gave my pitch and so did the other participants. Everybody was amazing. When the results were announced, I wasn’t really expecting anything. I didn’t even know what the prize was or what coming in first place would entail.
After winning the MHC Pitch competition (and receiving a five-hundred-dollar award!), I represented MHC at the Grinspoon Conference the following April. I competed with participants from 16 other colleges from throughout New England and received the first prize.
This year, I represented MHC once again — this time on a global platform at the IBESCC. My team — which consisted of two juniors, Romina Gupta and Kate Meacham, and me — had been selected through our Business Ethics class to represent MHC. With the help of our professor, Thomas White, we had three weeks to pour in all our energies into preparing for the competition. We were grateful to the McCulloch Center for funding our trip, and we wanted to reciprocate MHC’s investment in us by giving 100 percent at this event. Mount Holyoke had a winning track record at the IBESCC, and we wanted to keep that up.
This year’s competition focused primarily on sustainability in the business sector and was made up of three components: a 25-minute presentation with a 20-minute question-and-answer round, a 10-minute presentation without visual aids and a 90-second pitch. Originally, we had planned to focus our presentation on the high cost of prescription drugs. During our research, however, we discovered the practice of direct-to-consumer advertising in the pharmaceutical industry and realized that this was a topic we needed to delve into.
Once we had decided on our final topic and researched it to its core, we felt ready for the competition. We were nervous, but we knew that we had given it our best shot. I was still unable to believe that I was getting the chance to go to LA, and I don’t think I completely understood the enormity of the opportunity until our plane landed. It was warm and sunny as we exited the airport, and our hotel’s location on Venice Beach made it possible for us to get in some sightseeing. We spent the day preparing for the components of the next two days and gave a worthy performance.
At the awards ceremony on Friday evening, we felt like the whole trip and competition had been an opportunity of a lifetime, regardless of the outcome. We had met teams from Navarre, Spain, and Melbourne, Australia, and graduate students, too. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience. We were still very grateful, though, when we received first and second place in two of the three components.
Thanks to Professor Thomas White’s commitment to providing Mount Holyoke students with ample exposure to incredible learning experiences and to the McCulloch Center, we were able to truly explore our potential.