Drake Shafer, BSBA 2023, grew up in Glasford, population 834, near Peoria, Illinois, and attended high school with 50 graduating seniors. With his mom’s encouragement, he became the first in his family to go to college and the first student from his high school in generations to attend a top-20 university.
“Something felt different when I toured WashU,” said Shafer, who visited more than a dozen campuses. “Instead of trying to see myself fitting into the campus and student life, I immediately felt at home.”
Shafer enrolled at Olin School of Business, but he felt behind as soon as he started. Some classmates had business experience, and some had parents with successful business careers. Fortunately, he said, “many of the professors in the Olin Business School that I’ve had aim to help every student succeed academically and professionally, no matter their background.”
Scholarship support made it possible for Shafer to attend the university. It “has given me the opportunity to solely focus on my education and the experience of being a learner, something I’ll never find the words to completely express my gratitude for,” he said. “More privileged and higher-income students can’t begin to think about the implications and struggles that come along with being from a lower-income background.”
Last fall, the university launched Make Way: Our Student Initiative, a fundraising effort to increase financial resources for undergraduate scholarships, graduates scholarships and fellowships, and a best-in-class student experience. Through Make Way, WashU aims to increase access and opportunity for students at every level of need.
A chance to delve into the student experience
In his second year, Shafer was chosen to participate in the inaugural class of the Chancellor’s Career Fellowship program. The program provides career-oriented opportunities for first-year or sophomore students from low-income and first-generation backgrounds. The skills Shafer gained helped him land his first internship, and the university provided a stipend to help offset housing costs during the experience.
Now in his senior year at Olin, Shafer has delved deeply into the student experience. He’s majoring in marketing, operations and supply chain management, and he’s minoring in the business of entertainment. He participated in the student-owned consulting firm Bear Studios. He opened Gallery 314, a retail store on campus. And he completed a global management internship at Anheuser-Busch.
“Thanks to my Olin experience, I now feel just as capable as my classmates to take on a high-caliber career.”
After graduation, Shafer will head to Chicago to join the Kraft Heinz Company’s trainee program.
He said he hopes his collegiate success will lead to a fulfilling career and enable him to give back to those who supported his journey—especially the WashU community and his family.
“WashU has helped me learn how to take on—and succeed in—multiple roles. I’ll keep these experiences with me for the rest of my life.”