Lexi Jackson: COVID-19 will make history, but so will we

The classmates of Lexi Jackson, BSBA ’20, chose her to deliver the student speech at their graduation recognition ceremony this year. This is the speech she delivered.

To the Olin Business School Class of 2020, I am honored to be addressing you today from my small Missouri hometown to the corners of the universe you all call your home.

For those that may not know me, my name is Lexi Jackson, I am a double major in organization and strategic management and political science, and I feel just the way I am sure all of you feel right now: reflective. We are reflecting on our past four years and the abrupt end that we could have never expected.

We are contemplating our future plans and how they may have dramatically changed within the past few weeks.

Most of all, however, we are considering how our time at the Olin Business School has cultivated a new knowledge base, connected us to tomorrow’s leaders, and prepared us to enter this world that is more rapidly-changing than ever before.

Early memories from Olin

I remember my first day at the Olin Business School. I walked by the BSBA office only to be greeted by Dean LaRose and Dean Malter who both knew my name (even when I, admittedly, hadn’t yet learned theirs). I remember my sophomore year when Professor McLaughlin sat down with me in the Einstein Bagel’s atrium to learn about my passion for public service and non-profit work and to share some advice of his own.

I remember BSBA adviser Analisa Ortiz visiting our cohort in Chile while we were studying abroad our Junior Spring, sending her heartfelt condolences to learn about the passing of my father just a few weeks before. I remember walking around at the senior social just a few weeks before spring break, reconnecting with various former group project members, MGT 100 class members, and the people who had become to feel more like family members than peers.

These memories do not just happen at every business school. But Olin isn’t like any other business school. We are graduating from a business school that emphasizes ethical leadership above any profit-seeking motives. We are graduating from a business school that recognizes the global impact of our actions, and does not work to benefit one country alone.

We are graduating from a business school that inspires the entrepreneurial change maker in all of us—whether we are starting our own company or simply innovating an existing workplace from the inside out.

Succeeding in a post-COVID world

These are the skills we will need to succeed not only in the COVID and post-COVID worlds, but throughout our careers in the public and private sectors. As Olin graduates, we will be leaders in our companies and organizations—leaders that are not afraid to take calculated risks to produce change or to make the right decision no matter its impact on the bottom line. The type of leaders this world desperately needs.

So, class of 2020, as you watch this speech today and receive your diploma from a postal worker that you can only imagine to be Dean Taylor, I encourage you to continue the reflection that quarantine has naturally begun.

Reflect on the memories that Olin has brought you—the functional AND dysfunctional group settings, the sunsets through the Bauer Hall windows that cast a shadow on another problem set started a bit too late, the waves from professors, friends, and peers in the endless Simon hallways.

Reflect on the lessons Olin has taught you—the values-based, data-driven approach to learning and leadership that makes our community unlike any other.

And reflect on the role YOU will play in enacting change at every stage in your life and career. They say COVID-19 will make the history books, but so will we. Congratulations to the Olin Business School Class of 2020! Let’s go make history!

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