Reflections on the Wharton Undergraduate Experience

For one senior, the stories written in personal journals reveal the depth of his four-year journey—on campus and beyond.

(Illustration: Michael Driver)

 

At the corner of my desk is one of my journals—a small leather notebook that has survived the journey from my freshman year to my senior year. It has been a subtle reminder to remain both reflective and focused. But in this past year, it adopted a new significance, gathering together the many experiences that defined my undergraduate education. A few months back, I reached for it. It was a little worn-out but still readable. Although I journal consistently, I rarely return to read what I write; I simply take comfort that the information is there and enjoy the writing process itself. But the true value of those journals lies in those moments when I go back and explore those pages.

The workshops I’ve taken reinforced that so many limitations can be overcome with knowledge and a willingness to learn. 

At the end of my sophomore year, I read the journal and was struck by a story from my freshman spring semester. Wharton had offered a workshop that coached students on extemporaneous speaking. Public speaking was very dear to me. My heart raced each time I lifted my voice—not for joy, but rather because I heard my choppy words stumble out like an irregular drumbeat. I hated my stutter, but I loved to speak in public and had resolved never to let go of an opportunity out of fear. I added this workshop to my schedule. For the next six weeks, my peer group of seven undergraduates was coached by Jonathan Laifer WG16, the Wharton MBA and Omnicom Fellow we were paired with. He refined my presentation style by helping me improve my cadence, remove filler words, and utilize strategic pauses. Speech after speech, I was challenged, but the excitement was never lost. Our cohort built our confidence and improved our rhetoric, and we formed great relationships as a result. It was the first workshop I took at Wharton. Since then, I have enjoyed many more, including others on SQL, Python, and personal finance. All of them reinforced that so many limitations can be overcome with knowledge and a willingness to learn.

Several pages over, there’s another story that I remember distinctly. At the end of my fall semester sophomore year, I was elected the vice president of corporate development for the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association. This organization taught me so much, and I enjoyed contributing to this student tradition. BWUA felt like a high-growth startup: I raised capital for our group, marketed several events, and led career treks to New York to meet with our sponsors and the alumni base. Simultaneously, I took courses to build on my work, including some on organizational behavior, finance, and operations. It was inspiring to see how much can be accomplished by a student-run club. My academics taught me business, and BWUA provided the opportunity to apply the knowledge.

When I had filled my first journal, I purchased a second and eventually a third. Now, in my final semester, I take another look—reading page by page, reliving the experiences I’ve accumulated. Over the past four years, I’ve traveled to San Francisco, Israel (twice), Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, mainland China, and Hong Kong—each for my first time. In my maiden trip to Israel, I celebrated my first college birthday abroad while studying the country’s high-tech sector. In Malaysia, a visit to a paper mill offered lessons in sustainable manufacturing. In San Francisco, I met with extraordinary Wharton alumni, executives, and investors working in technology. Through these trips, I saw business in practice; each one connected to my courses on operations and tech and informed me about the role of policy, globalization, and finance in shaping entrepreneurial ventures. The opportunity to engage with industry harked back to the reason I had applied to Wharton: I desired a global business education gained through the combination of academic and experiential learning.

As I read through the hundreds of pages that I’ve filled, this steady theme rings true. I feel a sense of pride, because I learned by doing and took full advantage of the opportunities Wharton provided. Those books are more than a diary—they’re measures of how much I’ve grown in just four years here. I will continue writing to stay reflective and focused, but also to ensure that my actions are meaningful. I am sure that even beyond graduation, I will have many more stories to put on paper.

 


Adedotun R. Adejare W19 is a senior from Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, concentrating in finance and business analytics. He served as president of the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association and as a contributing writer for Wharton International Business Review. He will be completing his master’s degree at Tsinghua University as a Schwarzman Scholar.

 

 

Published as “Paging Wharton” in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of Wharton Magazine.

 

 

 

 

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