In Their Own Words

Despite handling demanding courses and intensive team projects, Owen students eagerly take charge of a variety of student organizations and activities. Is it worth it?

From the Summer 2014 edition of Vanderbilt Business

Vanderbilt Business asked five of this year’s MBA graduates what they learned about leadership—and themselves—because they took key roles in student organizations.

Paul Whitmire
Paul Whitmire, MBA’14

“I don’t know if this is a good thing or not, but I’ve often been called relentless. That’s a quality that showed up as part of the Leadership Development program. I think in the past it could have been a negative, but I’ve learned to use it in a productive way. For example, I think people would say I was relentless in asking them to vote for the Project Pyramid video in a contest sponsored by Johnson & Johnson last year. But it paid off. We won second place and $5,000.”—Rachel Taplinger, MBA’14, president of Project Pyramid, 2013-2014

If I could share three things, it would be

  1. People pleasing isn’t worth it: One of the best leadership lessons I learned was to tell the difference between the squeaky wheels and the people who provide solid advice. It’s important to be able to distinguish between the two, and to build relationships with both.
  2. It takes a team: Much of what OSGA has accomplished this past year would not have been possible without my incredible EVP Marley Baer or our dedicated team of workers. Having this strong foundation of people who shared our vision and knew what steps we wanted to take to get there really made the leadership process easy and allowed us to do some incredible things.
  3. Take blame, give credit: One of the best lessons I learned this past year was to take blame for failures, and give credit to your team when you found success. It sure makes things a lot easier, and helps build your network when people know you as a humble leader who gives credit for successes, but takes the blame when failures happen.—Paul Whitmire, MBA’14, president of Owen Student Government Association, 2013-14

Carolyn Griffin

“Listening is a skill that is easy to do, but most often omitted from conversations. As a leader, it is very important to spend extra time consciously listening to those you are leading.”—Carolyn Griffin, MBA’14, president of the Owen Black Students Association, 2013–2014

Megan Eberhard and Kristen O'Neill

“I learned most about leadership by simply stepping up to co-lead the health care conference and actually doing it! Sometimes you need to be willing to take risks, then dive in and start trying. Owen—and the conference in particular—provided the perfect opportunity to develop my leadership skills in a low-risk environment.”—Megan Eberhard, MBA’14, co-president, Vanderbilt Health Care Conference, 2013

“The conference was a great opportunity to develop confidence as a leader, and I am hoping to find a full-time position that allows me to take on similar levels of responsibility and ownership over various projects. I also discovered a fondness for working across functional teams. As a result, I have been focusing my job search on positions within a startup environment, hoping that a fast-growing company will provide me with both the variety in job functions and increased opportunities to step up and demonstrate my abilities.”—Kristen O’Neill, MBA’14, co-president, Vanderbilt Health Care Conference, 2013