Saturday, October 31, 2009

Planning Ahead

I am so blessed. Today during the Academic Preview Day I helped host for prospective freshmen, I had the opportunity to meet and discuss my studies with Jose Gonzalez, an interdisciplinary Entrepreneurship and International Business professor at Belmont.


After the academic session I went up and introduced myself and started to ask some questions about his background, research interests, and current projects. I was delighted to hear that we have a lot of the same interests, and he seems like a really level-headed, intuitive guy. I'm excited now that I'm signed up for his ETP 3700 class next semester.

I told him about my plans to recruit Dr. Schenkel as my tutor for my thesis, and my dilemma at trying to find a topic that I am genuinely interested in but that would also be an appropriate thesis research question and would satisfy Dr. Schenkel's requirement of the topic being something that he has relative expertise in.

I seem to stumble about this subject, not realizing that I've had a pretty clear idea all along of what I want to research. I just haven't let myself accept it because I'm not confident yet in my knowledge of business and I was afraid that I would be rejected or thought to be ridiculous. It's rather immature, but this resistance on my part was completely subconscious until today. I was so intent on living up to the expectations of Dr. Schenkel, on maintaining my good standing in his eyes, that I wouldn't allow myself to express my genuine "uneducated" goals and understanding of the entrepreneurial discipline. It's really a big step - and an important one - that I recognize this shortcoming, because developing and sharing new ideas is the foundation of entrepreneurship. Having identified this weakness (all in a matter of 30 seconds), I decided on the spot to share an idea I've been thinking on for a while with Mr. Gonzalez in hopes of gaining his perspective on the matter. This is more or less what I said:

  • Since the Iron Curtain fell in 1991, a generation - my generation - of Russians has grown up in an economic environment very different from any since the advent of communism in 1917. My questions are: What new opportunities and resources are available to 16 to 25 year old aspiring entrepreneurs? How (by what method) do they recognize these opportunities? Which industries are most attractive to young people, and why?
  • Although the current economic climate in Russia is more conducive to entrepreneurship now than it has been in recent years, and even with indicators pointing to an upward climb toward a freer, more capitalistic market, entrepreneurs still face red tape when it comes to government regulations. What specific challenges do they face in this area? What other challenges do young Russian entrepreneurs face?
  • In short: What opportunities, resources, and challenges are young Russian entrepreneurs dealing with today?

As I explained this, a huge grin started to form on Mr. Gonzalez' face. He instantly replied: "I think this is a brilliant idea, a fantastic research question."

In that instant it was as if a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. My thoughts and ideas had been validated by someone I respect - an expert in the field. His welcoming response immediately boosted my confidence by a few notches. I realized later this evening how many ideas I've had that I've never bothered to write down or attempted to remember in any other way; I've just never thought highly enough of them or thought that they were worth anything.

I left that meeting thinking, It's amazing how a few kind words can have such drastic implications on another's hopes, goals, dreams, and ultimately, their future. Today that person was me.

My plan all along has been to solidify my research questions before leaving to Russia, as I want to take advantage of my extended study abroad to gain experience conducting research that will be useful to me in my thesis writing once I return to Belmont. As of Thursday, that plan seemed to be rapidly deteriorating before my eyes. I was suddenly faced with making this big decision in a matter of 8 days in order to even secure my tutor of choice...one that I will work with closely for the next three years.

This is possibly one of the most fast-paced, interesting, exciting, and engaging few months of my life so far, and I have been nervous all week about the prospect of devoting several hours of research to this subject, who's return will be much more long-term than the coursework due in the coming week. I'm relieved to have finally verbalized my research interests and I'm excited to present my proposal to a few prospective tutors.

Tonight I'm celebrating the joy of learning and growing in an institution in pursuit of excellence and alongside truly encouraging mentors.


"Man makes his plans, but the Lord directs his path." Proverbs 16:9

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