I am a big believer in exposing college students to real-world experience. Throughout my college courses I was lucky enough to have two amazing professors that followed this belief: Ann Huser and Hart Singh.
I met Ann Huser my fall semester sophomore year when I enrolled in the “Principles of Marketing” class. This class opened my eyes to marketing and helped me decide to declare my major. Professor Huser worked for several large companies including General Foods (now Kraft Foods). Every class she would explain how what we were learning in our textbooks related to real-world experience.
The senior seminar class I took with her was one of the top 2 courses I enrolled in. We worked with Ciao Bella Gelato (with whom I also interned) to come up with a retail brand extension and campaign. When we had it all planned out, we then presented it to their Director of Marketing and Director of Sales. We learned about Ciao Bella’s competitors by visiting high end stores like Whole Foods, analyzed current market share data, and she taught us how to create a report the same way she created reports for Jell-o.
Professor Huser wasn’t just a teacher though. She became our advisor as the five of us (Mike, Sarah, Krystal, Kathryn and I) started the Marketing Mix - FDU’s first ever marketing club. We planned monthly speaking and networking events, recruited members, and wrote our own constitution. During my sophomore year, I was comfortable being a founding member and doing what was asked of me.
However, after my conversation with Ray, Nat and Sarah about my leadership potential, I had a whole new outlook on this club and my ability. Since our club was just established a little over a year earlier, several of our e-board members concluded that our current President would remain President and we would not hold elections. As an e-board member with a whole new outlook on how we could make this club even better, I couldn’t let this happen.
Instead of sending a very frustrated email to Professor Huser at 12am, I slept on it and emailed her that morning asking her to call me. That decision alone, impacted the next 6 months of my life. I discussed with her over the phone the ideas I had for the club, my leadership ability to get us there, and how we need to give other members (including myself) a chance to run for President. To this day, I know that if I emailed her rather than calmly and professionally talked to her on the phone I wouldn’t have had the same outcome. Long story, short, she agreed, organized a proper election for all e-board positions and I started my “campaigning.” Needless to say, I gave one of the best speeches of my life and became the first officially elected President for the Marketing Mix.
The second step towards student leadership was taken.
My other professor, Hart Singh, taught in the Entrepreneurship program. He was a successful entrepreneur himself creating innovative software solutions for Intuit, Quickbooks, and launching new technologies to help municipal government. Every class he ran felt like a start-up.
However, I remember the first day of his class senior year: the room was filled 15-20 seniors in the business program. Professor Singh’s aggressive syllabus and required readings alone scared off 2-3 students. He had high expectations of his students: create a business model, write and present a thorough business plan, and keep up with the weekly readings and writings. Sure enough another 3-5 students dropped out. I am so glad I decided to stay in his class because I still go back to the things he taught us everyday.
- He helped us create working cash flow models in excel (that I still use today)
- Critiqued our business plans with a fine tooth-comb.
- Stopped us in the middle of our presentations and made us start over if we used a filler, were unsure of ourselves or lost the audience.
Given the new leadership skills I was learning, and my new outlook on life, this class resonated with me on a much different level. I saw myself as a leader now, so I could envision myself as an entrepreneur one day. That’s the beauty of college. The work we do outside the classroom sets our students up for success inside the classroom.
How they inspired me:
If it wasn’t for both Professor Huser and Professor Singh I wouldn’t have grown to love marketing and entrepreneurship. Even though I didn’t go the traditional corporate marketing route, the skills I learned in their classes have been utilized every day.
What they taught me:
They taught me to challenge the expectations that people set for me, and always try to push beyond them. They also taught me how to set ambitious expectations for myself and gave me the tools to reach them as long as I am willing to put in the work.
1. If you’re passionate like me, there will be days when you want to fire off that email out of frustration. That’s ok! But, if you have something meaningful to say, hold off on sending an email. Pick up the phone or better yet, meet with the person face to face. You’ll be surprised by how positive the outcome can be.
2. When the bar has been set high, hustle. Work hard to set the bar even higher for the next person.