Victor Mullins, associate dean of the undergraduate program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, recently asked Nandini Choudhary ’18 to discuss how the SMITH JOURNEY has helped her find her passion and provided the opportunities to pursue it. Nandini is majoring in finance and minoring in Asian American Studies.
What does the SMITH JOURNEY entail? Involvement with colleagues, professors, professionals, clubs and organizations here at the Smith School, across campus and in the outside “real” world of business. Here is what students are challenged to do in each of their four years at Smith:
Freshmen: “Build Your Brand” through the SmithStart program.
Sophomores: “Pioneer Your Path” to success by focusing on an overall academic and career strategy.
Juniors: “Command Your Career” to ensure that you are well positioned for your professional journey.
Seniors: “Embrace Your Experience” with an arsenal of tools, knowledge, and networks, so that you are able to embrace your experience and celebrate your success.
Dean Mullins: What is important to you? What motivates you? What is your passion? Why?
Nandini: Leaving a positive mark on my community, as well as the individuals within it, is a driving factor in my life. I am motivated by the achievements of the people I surround myself with, and I strive to enact impactful changes inspired by what I learn. I am passionate about creating a community where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed, in addition to learning as much as I can about this vastly diverse world we live in, even just within Smith. I believe that there is always something new to learn from others, and I try to engage with my peers and professors as much as possible to gain new knowledge, no matter how big or small, every single day. And, of course, I am highly passionate about finance and have been since my first day at Smith, and am always looking to learn something new in the field.
Dean Mullins: When and how were you able to identify this passion?
Nandini: I joined Smith as an incoming freshman and fell in love with the school and the people. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to study finance, and thus I didn’t face many of the common struggles of having to discover which area of study interested me or having to change major’s midway through the year. This allowed me to have a lot of time to explore the various interests I had both inside and outside of Smith. During my freshman year, I was greatly involved with the Smith School Women’s Business Society. Helping plan the Future Women in Business Conference was a defining experience for me that semester. The following semester, I joined the board of the Diversity Empowerment Council, which is where I truly had the chance to learn about my community and the issues impacting it, as well as having the ability to do something about it and bringing awareness to the very important fact that diversity is not only skin deep. Having meaningful conversations with friends and teachers about their experiences at Smith and life, in general, taught me lessons that no textbook could have, and it worked to further my passion of absorbing as much knowledge as I could within my four years at Smith.
Dean Mullins: How have you been able to connect your passion with coursework, involvements and/or activities?
Nandini: Since freshman year, I have tried my best to stay involved with my community through various organizations within Smith as well as simply attend events whenever I can. There is so much to learn around our school every day, and I quickly learned that financial knowledge wasn’t simply limited to what was in my textbooks. The experience of hearing seasoned professions talk about their time in the financial industry is eye-opening and helps connect what we learn in class to the real world. I loved hearing such talks and got very interested in TED Talks, which led to me being nominated to give a Terp Talk, UMD’s version of a student-led TED talk, by a professor during my freshman year. It sparked my interest, and I later joined the board of TEDxUMD, which has helped me connect with passionate speakers, some of whom have been professors within Smith.
Dean Mullins: What are the highlights of your Smith Journey thus far?
Nandini: The highlights of my Smith Journey thus far have been my time on the Diversity Empowerment Council (DEC) as well as my time in the Global Consulting Fellows (GCF) Program. I joined DEC as a freshman, and it really helped in building my brand and propelling me along a path of success as I learned from fellow peers who were older in both age and experiences. GFC defined my junior year and helped me understand the wonders, but also the constraints, of international business, which was always an area of interest for me. It was also my first foray into consulting with a real company, and since financial consulting has been another one of the career options in my mind, it was very rewarding to be given such a chance as an undergraduate student.
Dean Mullins: What advice would you give to your fellow Smith peers and community?
Nandini: Stay involved and stay active within your communities. I had great experiences with all the boards I had been on, but those experiences were elevated whenever I stepped out of my comfort zone. For example, I applied for the Kelley School of Business National Diversity Case Competition during my time on DEC board along with some other members and ended up as a top five finalist at my first large-scale case competition. There is a lot to learn within Smith, but there is a whole world out there waiting to be explored, and Smith brings a lot of those experiences to our doorsteps. All you have to do is reach out and take advantage of all those opportunities.
Dean Mullins: Why are you passionate about the Smith School?
Nandini: Smith has given me every chance possible to fulfill my dreams over the past three years. As I get ready to graduate this spring, I know that I have an arsenal of resources and a plethora of faculty that I can rely on. While I used to hesitate before asking for help in the past, I soon got over my fears once I realized that all my peers were in the same boat as me and that the professors I had the fortune of having were always willing to make time for me. I am passionate about Smith because I have never experienced such a great sense of community elsewhere, and Smith helped mold me into the person I have become during these very integral years of life. By this time next year, I will be a Smith alumna but will never forget the friendships, mentorships and experiences that this school gave me the privilege of having.
Find out more about the Smith Undergraduate Program at www.rhsmith.umd.edu/undergrad.