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Be Like Beyoncé: Be Assertive

By Zaire Johnson

September 30, 2016

Assertiveness stands in a murky middle between aggressiveness and passiveness. Assertiveness can be characterized as the ability to speak up for yourself, or others, in a manner that is both positive and effective.

This definitely does not come easy to everyone, something that I and many other people struggle with! The following ways to help with your assertiveness will feel difficult and uncomfortable at first, but they will pay off in the end.

Start small and look for ways to sharpen your skills!

There are a number of interactions in our life that we let slide because we don’t want to be a fuss.

Want your coffee with low-fat milk? Ask. Want to buy a blouse, but a button is broken? Ask to see another.

Little conversations like these where you ask for your needs to be met may take a great deal of courage. But they build up your ability to assert yourself in different situations.

Embrace the “I” pronoun!

“I feel [emotion] because [x,y,z]” statements are the golden ticket when engaging in most types of confrontational conversations. Phrases like, “You never…” or “You haven’t..” can cause the other party to completely tune out of your conversation.

By using “I” statements you show that you’re taking responsibility for your feelings and concentrating on the actions and not the person. For example, “You never clean the dishes” communicates a different meaning compared to,  “I get frustrated when the dishes aren’t cleaned.”

The person you’re talking to understands how the action makes you feel and it’s communicated that you aren’t trying to personally attack them. Argument avoided! (Hopefully!)

Fake it consciously!

It can not be understated how easily faking assertiveness, can lead to being assertive. The flip-side to that advice is to be conscious of your surroundings.

Most of human communication is in the form of body language. So stand-up straight, but don’t cross your arms. Be direct, but stay calm.

Understand the differences between yourself and the person you’re communicating with. 90% of confrontational conversations happen because of miscommunication, oversights, and simple mistakes.

Do keep that in mind when communicating an issue, or problem, with someone. There’s a fine, but clear, line between aggressive confrontation and an assertive conversation.

Be honest!

Simple, yet underrated. From the beginning of a project, or interaction, honesty can help avoid a lot of future frustrations. If you’re honest in all of your interactions, when an incident happen, solutions can happen quicker! When in a more confrontational conversation, honesty is the best policy. If the person who you’re talking to knows that you’re being genuine, they will respect you more and be more open to your conversation.

Zaire Johnson will graduate in 2019 from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A Computer Systems Engineering and Mechanical Engineering major, Zaire dreams of serving as the Secretary of State.

 

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5 Reasons to Consider Pursuing an MBA-Dual Degree Combination

By Danni Ondraskova

September 29, 2016

Most of the time, people considering graduate school consider a handful of potential degrees at most before narrowing it down to a final one. Of all the dozens of times I have spoken to those nearing the end of their college years, only a handful have expressed interest in pursuing a dual degree program (although many have expressed a desire to get an MA before getting a Ph.D. or some other sequential combination).

I’m going to give you some insights on why you should consider pursuing a dual degree, with one of those degrees likely being in the area of business, economics, finance, or some tangentially related field.

Globalization

It is a cliche at this point to say that the world is the most interconnected it’s ever been in human history, but it’s a true one. Despite the obvious caveats of globalization happening unevenly in different regions and borders and distances still preventing labor from moving easily, it is easier to pack up and start a career abroad than any other point in the past.

That being said, globalization is a double-edged sword that can have an unpredictable impact on countries’ individual economies and markets. It’s also easier for foreigners to compete in other markets. Getting a dual degree can give you more flexibility to move to better markets in bad times and join hotter markets in good ones.

Prior and/or unexplored passions

If you’re like me, you may be a double major with strong passions in multiple fields that can’t be adequately addressed with one graduate degree.

If there’s a subject you enjoyed a lot over a class, summer internship, immersive experience, or on your own that you would love to further explore, then a second degree may be for you.

An increased ability to enhance performance in certain jobs

There are examples of highly intersectional jobs in which earning a dual degree will help you stay ahead of the pack while shaving a few years off your graduate studies. Many business jobs like Mergers and Acquisitions Associate and Counsel have elements of law and business and would be compatible with a JD/MBA.

It would also be easier from you to flit between public service, corporate law firm, or big bank if you’re trying to find the best fit for you and want a good experience.

You got sizeable grants

If your college or university, family company, government, or nonprofit already gave you some kind of sizeable grant for a graduate school program for another degree, consider pursuing a dual degree. Graduate school is expensive and it can be hard to adjust to after working full-time for a few years, so you might want to complete it as early after college or university as possible in one go.

You got into a great business or economics-related school

Most of the top MBA institutions have multiple dual-degree programs. For example, Harvard Business School has joint degree programs with Harvard Law School, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Medical School, and Harvard School of Dental Medicine. The University of Pennsylvania and New York University have accelerated application processes for people applying to dual degree programs.

Schools can also partner with each other—New York University’s JD program has dual degree partnerships with Harvard University and Princeton University.

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

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Know Thy Career: Uncover Your Personality Type

By Hafsah Lakhany

September 28, 2016

We live in an age that celebrates and embraces the old adage “follow your heart,” on a more widespread, and occupational level than ever before.  On the other hand, we also live in an era that remains characterized by an unprecedented level of rapid, erratic change. 

Ultimately, a great deal of irony lies in the fact that many of us, from our early, formative years are societally expected to possess concrete visions of exactly what careers we feel destined to pursue in a world so multifaceted and rapidly evolving, that we feel reluctant about wholly committing ourselves to any one discipline or set of disciplines with certainty. 

Last summer, after meeting with many relatives during our annual family reunion, my own personal dreams of pursuing a career in the exciting world of management consulting upon graduation, were met with a chorus of furrowed brows, and an overwhelming slew of well-intentioned, but uneasily digested advice.  During one second of my family reunion, I enjoyed the sunshine and rhubarb pie, and without any warning, in the next moment I began reevaluating all of my life choices. 

In the midst of my own personal occupational crisis, I came to the realization that in order to narrow down my list of hypothetical career paths, introspectively assessing myself emerged as a crucial starting point.  After taking multiple versions of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Assessment, and garnering virtually the same results every single time, I came to understand that I possess an ENFP (Extraversion, Intuition, Feeling, Perception) personality type which indicates that I thrive in team environments, remain project oriented, and verbally inclined. Individuals with my personality type typically thrive in careers in writing, law, entrepreneurship or consulting, which conveniently enough, resonate with my interests.

Although I would by no means recommend relying on one assessment, or merely only looking at your score or results without exploring similar results to your own that might also resonate with your interests/capabilities, I highly recommend employing forms of self assessment such as the MBTI to achieve a comprehensive and insightful understanding of yourself to more effectively and successfully engage in the exciting process of career exploration. 

Quite often, even if you don’t land on a specific career path when using such indicators, you can employ self assessments to eliminate potential career paths and inch closer to your ultimate goal. 

Ultimately, garnering experience emerges as the best way to truly get a sense of which careers resonate with you, so try your best to utilize indicators as springboards for launching the inspiring process of career exploration and adding tremendous value to the world around you. 

Here are some fantastic resources for personality trait assessments as recommended by Richard Bolles, in his renowned book, What Color is Your Parachute?:

Working out Your Myers-Briggs Type

The 16 Personality Types

What is Your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?

Hafsah Lakhany will graduate in 2019 from the University of California at Irvine with a major in business administration. After college, Hafsah plans on going into consulting, health care management, and career development coaching/consulting.

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What To Ask Yourself When Choosing a Study Abroad Program

By Emily Almaraz

September 27, 2016

There has never been a doubt in my mind that I would study abroad in college. It’s always been a matter of when and where. But with everything that college is – academics, organizations, grocery shopping, and every other possible responsibility you have as a student and now adult – it’s hard to find the mental energy to sit down and choose a program.

If the study abroad fair has once again came and gone and you still haven’t found the right study abroad or don’t think you’ll be doing one (yet), there’s more than enough time.

Start With The Right Question

As you may have already found out, almost everyone loves and gushes about their study abroad. For some it’s their first time out of the country, and even when it isn’t, it’s always ‘life-changing.’ You might have guessed this: there is no right study abroad program, only the right one for you. And getting it right will require some conversations with yourself—mostly just asking lots and lots of good questions.

For starters: What do you intend to get out of this?

For some it may be learn a new language, in which case, an immersion program in your target language’s country would make sense. For others it’s less clear. Maybe you want a couple of things. It’s okay to not to know.

I’ve realized that asking questions – especially when feeling overwhelmed – makes all the difference. Answering questions is less daunting than evaluating your program options one by one and eliminating from there. Below I’ve listed some basic questions by category that have most useful to me. They are far from exhaustive – in fact, these are only here to get you started. Figuring out which study abroad program is right for you is a matter of getting to know yourself first.

Type of Program

If you’ve ever been to a study abroad fair, you’ll know that there is an entire market for study abroad programs, which means you’ll have more options that you’ll know what do with. So before shopping around, I’d go in with the answer to these questions in my back pocket:

  • Do I want to enroll with a foreign university (as opposed to through my college)?
  • Do I want a program designed for American students?
  • Do I want a program that’s designed for both American and the host country’s students?

Academics

When speaking with your parents about studying abroad, a large part of your informal presentation will focus on the academic merit of the trip. Yes, you’ll be exposed to new cultures and grow as a person, but you also want them to know that you’ve thought about the semester hours – and what requirements your trip out of the country fulfills for your major. What to ask:

  • Do I want to take classes that complete my major’s requirements?
  • Do I want to take courses in English? Or in my host country’s language?
  • Do I want to take this as an opportunity to learn a new language?
  • Do I want to become fluent in the language I’m already studying?

Social Life

The idea of where you’re going to live, eat, workout – and who you’ll be doing all of these things with is just as important as what you’ll be studying in the classroom. What to ask:

  • Do I want to live and study in a “college town” or in a big city?
  • Do I want to live with other American students, with students from the host country, or with a host family?
  • Do I want to live on campus or can I commute?

Financials

For many of us, this is the biggest obstacle. The conversation about where the money will come from to fund your trip will involve a parent and it might not be fun. It’s hard to talk about money, especially when you believe the return on investment of a study abroad is too much to pass up. No matter how many times you tell your parents “it’s an investment!”—it still fair game to get into details of the financials. At the very least, to know you’re getting the best possible deal on your study abroad. What to ask:

  • How much can I afford to spend?
  • How much do I care about the popularity of the host country I’m interested in?
  • Is there better financial aid for a less popular program/country?
  • What will it cost for a summer study abroad versus a semester one versus a Maymester?
  • What will the cost of living in ‘X’ country compare to ‘Y’?
  • What will it cost for local transportation (bus vs. train vs. taxi vs. streetcar vs. subway)?
  • What will it cost to travel to nearby cities or countries? Is this important to me?

If You’re Still Feeling Overwhelmed

Go to your study abroad office

And request a meeting if at all possible. Having someone face to face can sometimes be more helpful than on-your-own internet research. A study abroad advisor will most likely know what programs are popular, which aren’t, and the reasons for both. They might be able to suggest resources you had no idea existed - like an obscure scholarship they just found out about or direct you to the professor who leads a faculty-led program that would be a good fit for you.

Talk to students who’ve done a study abroad program you’re interested in

Maybe you’re a freshman or sophomore who doesn’t have many friends who’ve done study abroads. Or you don’t think it’s worth the money and are thinking that you’ll have time after graduation to take that trip to France. Perhaps you’ve done the math that, yes, it is significantly cheaper to go on your own. Wherever you are on the planning process, talk to people who’ve been there. And come armed with good questions because their thought process is likely to be useful as you decide between programs. Fair warning: their excitement about their study abroad will be contagious.

Keep your parents in the loop

Because they probably have a million questions. Parents always ask the questions you wouldn’t think to. Safety might not be on your mind but it’ll be the first thing on theirs. Most importantly, parents live vicariously through their children, so it’s fun and maybe even our duty to keep them involved.

Hopefully these sets of questions are the starting point you needed to start researching programs. It can’t be overstated that self-reflection is the biggest favor you can do yourself when making any big decisions, including finding the right study abroad program.

Emily Almaraz will graduate in 2018 from The University of Texas at Austin. Emily is an art history major and wants to design dream spaces. Her favorite program is the Forté College Leadership Conference.

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Presence Will Help You Get an Internship

By Siyu Wu

September 13, 2016

Interviewing season has arrived, which means every internship or job-seeking individual is doing preparation of some kind to show their best self during an interview. Commonly, this preparation is focused solely on developing one’s technical knowledge and company know-how. But as Amy Cuddy suggests in her book Presence, sometimes what you know is less important than how you present what you know. So to land that ideal internship or job? Read Amy Cuddy’s book. But if you don’t have time for that, go watch Amy Cuddy’s TED talk and check out these top takeaways from her book that can help you better your personal presence during an interview, and on the job.

What is “presence”?

“Presence stems from believing in and trusting yourself - your real, honest feelings, values, and abilities. That’s important, because if you don’t trust yourself, how can others trust you? … We all face daunting moments that must be met with poise if we want to feel good about ourselves and make progress in our lives. Presence gives us the power to rise to these moments.” - Amy Cuddy, Presence

In other words, presence is how you stay attuned to yourself and to comfortably express yourself in the best way. It manifests as a sense of genuine confidence without arrogance, and occurs when your different elements of self are aligned.

Why does “presence” matter?

Lakshmi Balachandra, then a Boston College doctoral student, conducted research on venture capitalist pitches. She found that the pitches that received investment money were not necessarily those with the most well-thought out ideas, but rather those presented with the most confidence, comfort level, and passionate enthusiasm. In other words, they exuded a sense of presence.

This presence can take you far during an interview, and even in meetings or projects while on the job. Believing in your own story and showing that self-confidence gives your counterpart - be it the interviewer, a supervisor, or some colleagues - reason to believe in you, and to choose you. 

How do I get “presence”?

It may seem that some people naturally have a wonderful presence, but fear not - developing a sense of presence is possible for anyone. Amy Cuddy outlines many strategies for achieving a better presence, and it all boils down to a few key lessons to keep in mind before an interview or major event:

  • Fake it until you become it. Research suggests that the physical action of smiling can actually make you feel better. Similarly, starting out with a bit of false confidence can actually result in the real thing. 
  • Use self affirmation. Before walking into the interview room, remind yourself of your personal core values - what matters most to you and who you are. This helps reduce anxiety about social rejection and increases openness to others, putting you in a better mindset for the interview.
  • Listen, don’t preach. Many people talk as a defense mechanism, when in fact staying quiet and listening can result in many benefits. Actively listening is an opportunity to gain trust, acquire information, and see others as individuals and allies rather than stereotypes. Rather than pushing an unauthentic self with talking too much, allow your presence, unexplained and unembellished, to speak for itself.
  • Try power posing. Nonverbal cues play a huge role in creating one’s presence and impression on others. Those who feel more confident and powerful will often stand taller, have larger movements, and make more confident. So before heading in for an interview or big meeting, give yourself some time to adopt expansive, open postures (like a starfish or superwoman pose). This can help you exude a stronger presence and boost your confidence level!

At the end of the day, however, presence does not work alone. If you do not have the knowledge to back up your power poses, even the most confident and expansive gestures won’t communicate a genuine sense of presence to win over your audience. But, once you do have the interview basics down, be sure to try a power pose or two before your next interview to up your game.

Siyu Wu is from Colorado and attends Princeton University, pursuing a degree in Economics and certificates in Finance and East Asian Studies. Siyu will graduate in 2018. She hopes to synthesize her interest in China and East Asia with her passion for finance to eventually work in a career related to international finance and Asian capital markets.

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Five Ways to Prepare Your Internship Application Gameplan

By Danni Ondraskova

September 12, 2016

Set up your fantasy roster.

Many of us have been in a situation in which we are passionate about a sport and create a fantasy team that draws from players all around the league. Because you likely have a variety of settings or jobs you can envision yourself working in, don’t be afraid to compile a list of different kinds of places as long as you are passionate about them.

Develop a set of dream internship rankings based on a set of criteria that’s most important to you. The criteria can include whether and how much the internships pay, location, prestige of the institution, and closeness to your previous work, passions, and career aspirations. You may also attend an institution or be affiliated with a scholarship you could earn based on where you work or what field you enter, so don’t forget to take that into account. You may have already used a similar kind of system when deciding which colleges to apply to.

If you are lost about exactly where to apply, read the next point; consult your trusted friends, families, and mentors; and look at the LinkedIn accounts or resumes of people whose career trajectories you would like to emulate. Don’t forget that the path to success is wider than most acknowledge and that even careers with a narrow path to entry will accept candidates from different backgrounds if they can demonstrate they have the skills and passion to make it.

Hedge your bets, but don’t be afraid to dream big.

Unlike colleges, you don’t have to pay to submit applications or test scores for most internships, so the primary costs associated with each one are the time you spend researching and on your application. Like when you applied to college, you want to mentally categorize your places into three categories: reaches, match, and safety. Just as Ivy League and other prestigious institutions should be viewed as reaches, so too should any institutions with low acceptance rates, high admissions standards, or don’t accept too many students from your school who apply. If your profile matches that of the marginal intern working at the place you’re applying, you’re a match. If people from your school with worse credentials have been accepted, then it’s probably a safety.

I’ll let you be the judge of how many places to apply to, but I advise every candidate to apply to at least one safety and match in the field they are passionate about. Other than that, don’t be afraid to apply to a reach if you have a compelling application (there is often a strong qualitative element at work here). My caveat would be that you should not apply to anywhere you are ineligible for because of your class year, especially in more established large programs. 

If it’s not documented, it is unverifiable!

Once you decide where to apply, create a document (I use Google Docs or Microsoft Word) with all the timelines, application requirements, internship and company descriptions for each place. Jot down important deadlines in your calendar. Keep everything up to date!

Next, comb through your resume and cover letter. Make sure you have documents and use references who can corroborate your information. Many well-intending people in high positions have lost their careers and reputations overnight because of an embellishment. Present yourself in your best light, not someone else’s.

Time everything well.

Consider how long each application will likely take and tie that to your academic schedule and other commitments. You may also want to spend more time researching on your top choices. You should spend the most time on these applications, but don’t cut corners with your matches and safeties.

Always take the interview seriously.

Video and phone interviews are the most popular way of screening candidates who aren’t local, although you may be asked to physically interview at the company in a future round. No matter what form your interview occurs in, take it as seriously as you would a physical interview. My most successful phone interviews for highly competitive opportunities took place outside of my college room on campus and with me wearing a suit. Physical environment and clothing leave a powerful psychological imprint on your ability to act professionally, so figure out what works best for you and stick to it. Finally, don’t forget that your interviewer can be your ally and advocate, so give them plenty to work with!

Danni Ondraskova will graduate in 2018 from Wellesley College. Danni plans on earning a dual degree in law and business and dreams of working for JP Morgan’s Global Investment Management division.

 

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How To Maximize Your LinkedIn Potential

By Zaire Johnson

September 8, 2016

Facebook. Updated.

Twitter. Checked.

Instagram. Scrolled.

But… LinkedIn?

Even for the most technologically advanced generation, LinkedIn is still a mystery. Understandably so, but recruiters, your boss, your boss’s boss, and your future boss, are all on LinkedIn. You should be too!

A LinkedIn profile can be broken into 4 main categories: profile picture, profile summary, headline, and your lists.

1. Profile picture: When you are searched on LinkedIn your profile picture is the first and one of the few things seen. Using a professional headshot is a safe bet. Guaranteed to portray you in a professional manner.

If you are unable to take headshots, don’t fret! Generally shots that show just your shoulders and face are appropriate to use as a LinkedIn profile picture. You should be the only person in the picture and the picture’s center focus.

2. Headline: Your headline is the other aspect of your profile shown when searched. Your default headline is usually the name and description of your most current professional work position. Your headline doesn’t necessarily need to be flashy, but people do choose to create their own.

Headlines are a way to communicate your basic background in a short sentence. If your resume objective is short enough, it may be used as a headline.

3. Profile summary: This is one of your first full impressions to whomever is viewing your profile. It does seem like a daunting task, but it can be broken down into smaller pieces!

First: Visualize who you’re talking to. Be it a potential business partner, future boss,  future landlord, etc. Know your audience. What are they looking for? How are you their perfect fit?
Second: What do you want them to know about you? It may be easier think of this in terms of your experience, or in terms of individual traits. Write your ideas down, be as explicit as possible. You may need to talk this list out with a friend, sleep on it, etc. Definitely work at your own pace, remember, there isn’t a due date!
Third: It’s okay to brag! It’s YOUR LinkedIn profile. Show who you are and what you’ve done, unabashedly. If this concept makes you nervous, research influential people in your field. Their summaries can be very helpful when writing your own.
Lastly: Your LinkedIn summary should be, at most, two paragraphs. First person pronouns are expected, but third person is fine too. Like a college essay, your summary should show your voice in a situation-appropriate manner.

4. Lists! The lists on your LinkedIn include: Experience, Projects, Education, Skills & Endorsements, Community Service, Organizations, Courses, Honors & Awards, Languages, Test Scores, Publications, Patents, and Certifications.
In no way are you expected to have an entry for each list - you’d be one very busy bee!

But they are great ways for your profile reader’s to paint a complete picture of who you are. Copying information from your resume is a great way to start adding information to your LinkedIn.

I highly suggest creating descriptions for each entry in a list! Internship and full-time job recruiters routinely do searches for candidates. By using SEO keywords or buzzwords you can increase your chances of being found by a recruiter.

LinkedIn profiles are public, so you never know who may find yours!

Zaire Johnson will graduate in 2019 from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A Computer Systems Engineering and Mechanical Engineering major, Zaire dreams of serving as the Secretary of State.

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Bringing It Back: How to Harness Your Internship Experience in the Classroom

By Jordan Perras

September 6, 2016

Hopefully you all had awesome summers whether you were working an internship, studying abroad or taking summer classes. If you did end up doing an internship, now is a great time to think about how you can bring that experience back into your academics.

I’ve found that not only do I use my academic knowledge throughout an internship, but also that I frequently call upon my internship experiences in the classroom. Here are some ways that you can use your summer of Excel files to shine in your fall classes.

Professionalism

  • Treat your professors the way you treated your manager. Utilize the same rules for emails, humor, and technology usage. Address them by “Professor” or “Dr.” in every email. Don’t use your phone in class or even have it visible on your desk. Avoid using your laptop for anything other than notes (Try productivity apps for your computer if you are tempted).
  • Think about how you dress. Many professors (business especially!) spent a lot of time in the corporate world and have a ton of contacts. You want your professors to view you in a positive manner, so try to follow their lead when it comes to dress. If he or she is wearing exercise clothes (it’s happened to me!), then leggings are totally fine. If your professor consistently shows up in a suit and tie (yup, that’s also happened to me!), then consider adopting a more casual/business casual style for class.
  • Try to get to know your professor. Hopefully, you had an awesome manager and got to chat with them about things that were outside the realm of your job. When that happens, relationships generally flourish. Make it a point to go to each of your professor’s office hours before the first midterms to get to know them, get your questions answered, and help them put a face to your name.

Current Events

  • Stay informed. What’s happening in the news is directly relevant to the day-to-day management of most companies. This means that you probably kept yourself up-to-date on the news or at least heard about it at work. Now, your class topics probably won’t change based on what’s going on in the world or the market, but staying informed will help you to contribute to class discussions and understand course concepts in a more tangible way. 

Technical Skills

  • If you were lucky enough to be exposed to new programs, think about ways that you can utilize them. When you’re learning time value of money in finance, can you do some of your homework in Excel? Can you find a way to use SPSS in your stats class? The more you work with these programs, the better you will be at using them, so be creative!

Relevant Knowledge

  • Utilize the relevant knowledge you gained and look for ways to gain a deeper understanding of certain topics. Examples from your experience are a great way to contribute to class. If you spent an internship working on the treasury team, don’t be afraid to speak up in class when your professor gets to the treasury chapter. You have practical experience in the subject, so find a way to tie it back into the theory.

Hopefully, these are some practical ways to you to use your internship experience in the classroom this semester. If there’s something you do that I missed, comment below or tweet at @fortefoundation or @perras_jordan!

Jordan Perras will graduate in 2018 from Northeastern University and she is majoring in Math and Business Administration with a concentration in Finance and a minor in Economics.  She has a wide variety of interests that include history, art and literature and plans to pursue an MBA after college. She is especially interested in the role of social entrepreneurship in sustainable business.

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