The classmates of Brinda Gupta, MBA ’20, chose her to deliver the student speech at their graduation recognition ceremony this year. This is the speech she delivered.
Thank you to all family and friends watching this in support of our graduating class today. And thank you to the university and school administration, faculty, and staff who have tirelessly worked to make the Olin experience truly incredible and transformative for us.
Although this is not how any of us expected our program to end, our gratitude for all of you is so steadfast—during such chaotic and unprecedented times, one thing that has truly remained constant is the support and love you have provided to our class and to the greater Olin community.
And personally, a special thank you to my parents and sister, and those who made St. Louis feel like home to me: the Reichold, Weiss and Harkins families.
Most importantly though today, thank you to my fellow classmates for an unforgettable two years. I feel so deeply humbled and honored to represent our class today. I can’t believe how fast this all flew by! Congratulations!
Back to the beginning
Let’s go back to the fall of 2018. We’d just started the program. We were still figuring out how to best work with our core teams, or determining the effort needed to “high pass” a class (and honestly, determining whether that effort was even worth it).
It was a little messy and awkward—but I expected things in the classroom to feel that way in the beginning. What I didn’t expect is how we’d all come together to stretch new muscles outside of the classroom—and how that would transform our experience as a community of learners.
The fall of 2018, this time of awkwardness and insecurity, coincided with one of my favorite times of year and a tradition which I grew up with: the Indian holiday of Diwali.
I was so ecstatic to see how wonderfully WashU embraces this unique holiday—from Dean Taylor dressing in full Indian attire to our administration fully supporting the Olin India Club leadership to host a Diwali event on campus.
This high-energy, on-campus event allows the WashU community to learn more about the Indian culture… through dancing! In a time when we barely knew each other and had so much school work, our class came together to learn Indian dance—something entirely new.
Learning to dance—together
We did not know each other, and we were a uniquely diverse group: Our entire class includes students from countries all over the globe, parents, veterans, nearly 1/2 women and so much more.
This was shown during Diwali: People who signed up to perform were actually unfamiliar with the Indian culture. And, I don’t think my classmates knew what they were signing up for!
We were going to be in full costume and learning choreography that includes a blend of both powerful and graceful steps, jumping with each other in unison and choreographed gestures.
We would transform our classrooms into practice dance studios by pushing tables against the walls, following the lead of choreographers and trusting each other. Our practices were messy: accidentally hitting or pushing each other, forgetting steps, having people come in and out at different times because of our busy schedules…
We couldn’t figure out how to control a classroom’s temperatures, so there were times when we would just run outside in the middle of practices (even in the pouring rain) for a breath fresh air. We only could practice in the real stage and auditorium once.
But the final show day—a sold-out event, bright lights, music, excellent food, made it all worth it. It didn’t matter how perfect we were on stage. What mattered was that we made it there.
These expansive experiences showed me how people stepped out of routine and out of their comfort zones. It showed me how sharp, funny, and beautiful our class is when are together. And this wasn’t just when we were performing for Diwali.
Our entire class is so nimble and willing to absorb new experiences. One of my best friends Lael led a consulting team all the way in Madagascar. Students self-designed courses in Scandinavia, South Korea, and Japan. People who worked in the corporate sector their entire life stepped up to help local nonprofits in need.
And, more recently, we managed to rush from our beds to the couch in the morning to get to class in record speeds. These meaningful experiences paired with our classroom learning set the tone for the rest of my MBA experience.
I am so proud and privileged to be part of the Class of 2020. We are now entering a world that looks much more different from when we entered the program. But I can’t imagine a more resilient class to take on this challenge.
Similar to our Diwali dance practices, it’s the time for us to make space for generosity and nimbleness as we navigate a new world. While we are starting different roles spanning from nonprofit management to overseeing global supply chains, we will all have such a great impact on leaving the world a better place.
The world is calling us now to jump on stage again.
And I’m so excited to see everyone’s path, your own dance routine and continue learning from each and every one of you.