Emily Redfield and Cecile Zhu are this year’s winners of the election for President and Executive Vice President of the Owen Student Government Association (OSGA). We sat down with them for a Q&A.
Can you tell us little bit about yourselves and your background prior to Owen?
Emily: I spent the last four years at Frito-Lay, PepsiCo in Plano, Texas, specifically in marketing and consumer insights. Prior to that, I was at Indiana University, with dual majors in marketing and international business and dual minors in music and psychology. I got married two years ago to my high school and college sweetheart.
Cecile: I’m from China. Before I came here, I worked in the health care industry for five years. I worked for Pfizer in a project management role for four years. After a few years, I moved to a biotech company as a global marketing supervisor. I also took two years off between my two jobs to travel around the world.
What made you decide to pursue an MBA?
Emily: Part of the reason that I came to business school was to get a broader set of functional skills beyond just marketing. I’ve really enjoyed pushing myself in some of the classes that I didn’t know if I was going to be good at or didn’t even realize I would like. I want to become more of a general manager, with the long-term goal of becoming a senior leader.
I don’t think about getting my first job after business school, I think of getting my MBA as securing myself for the long term. I think that to be a very successful senior leader in a company, regardless of industry, I’ve found that thinking beyond your function is really important. I think that putting the time in now will pay dividends in the next 10, 20 years of my career.
Cecile: After I worked in finance, I realized that I wanted to be a global leader, so I think the best way is to have a global experience (by getting my MBA internationally). I wanted to get a degree that not only would develop my communication skills, but that also would help further my career development. I thought an MBA program would be a really great way to help me realize my career aspirations.
What made you all choose Vanderbilt Business over other schools?
Cecile: I made several calls to different schools, and Vanderbilt was the one where I felt the (best connection). Everyone was really helpful, and they try to help you understand what the school looks like. That made a difference to me. It’s not only saying you have close-knit relationships, but you actually feel like you are part of that community.
Emily: I’ve always known I wanted to get my MBA. Indiana University is a massive school, and it was a great experience, but I knew for graduate school that I wanted it to be a tight community. Everyone says that because of the culture here, you walk down the halls and know everybody. And lo and behold, the first week of classes, it turned out to be true. The proximity to professors was also a huge pull for me. The culture not just in the school, but in the whole city as well, has been great.
Did either of you have any student government experience before this?
Cecile: In undergrad, I was the VP of the PR department. I helped get sponsorships from different companies for school activities. We also helped organize the most important events at our school. We also co-hosted a lot of events with other schools in Beijing. I felt really accomplished helping the student body address their concerns and getting more funds for their events. I really enjoy doing that.
Emily: I didn’t have student government experience before. I had leadership roles in college; I was the communications officer for my sorority. Getting my MBA, one of my objectives was to not miss any opportunities and push myself to the limit. I didn’t want to miss this as opportunity to further my own development, and also give back to the school.
What made you want to run for OSGA?
Emily: We were both senators before, and being involved on the ground floor in those meetings was very exciting. I liked the community aspect and getting to work with people beyond my concentration or friend group. I also liked that idea of trying to build a legacy and being a behind-the-scenes influence.
Cecile: I was very engaged in OSGA when I was a senator, (but as Executive VP) you have to think about things on a higher level. How can you make sure the community as a whole can grow as much as possible? That’s what I’m very passionate about, and it was a big reason why I wanted to run for OSGA.
In your own words, what’s the purpose of OSGA?
Emily: We are very much the liaison between students and the administration. Since the students change year to year and administration stays the same, we can try to be the continuity on the student side. I also think of us as a megaphone for students. When there are student successes or needs or wants, we’re the ones who can amplify that to the administration to try to influence and inspire change.
Cecile: I totally agree with her. I think it’s about being a bridge between everything. We’re the people who can take initiative to build that bridge (between students and faculty and staff). We’re the people who are willing to voice the concerns of the student body, and we really want to help them address those concerns.
When there are student successes or needs or wants, we’re the ones who can amplify that to the administration to try to influence and inspire change. -Emily Redfield
What platform did you run on?
Emily: I can give you the whole spiel (laughs). We frame this around “your culture,” and we have three key pillars of our platform. The first is your time, understanding that our time in business school is fleeting. It’s hard to believe that we’re almost halfway done. Really making the most of the time for students and making things more efficient (is important to us). The second pillar was around your pride, helping to encourage the culture on a day-to-day basis, even through the swag you wear. We want to re-instill that culture through your own individual pride of the school. The final pillar was your family and encouraging cross-class collaboration: (between) first years and second years, as well as the one-year programs. We really want to help people feel like they’re at home and encourage students to share their backgrounds so we can all learn from each other.
What’s your favorite part of being at Owen so far?
Cecile: I’m an ambassador for Humans of Owen. I interviewed two of my classmates. I was already close with them, but after I interviewed them, I really feel like I learned so much about their stories and I made such a connection with them. I want to do it in the future as much as possible.
Emily: It’s crazy, because I’ve only known them for four or five months, but I feel like I’ve made lifelong friends at this point, and not just from a business perspective. It’s amazing to meet all these that I’d never have connected with if I hadn’t come to Vanderbilt.
What would you tell prospective students about Owen?
Cecile: I would love to tell international students that Vanderbilt is a really great program. It’s a really close community. I have visited other schools with really big programs, and I think that’s a really overwhelming experience for international students. But here, you literally know everyone. Whenever I run into problems, they’re always happy to help me. The second thing is that you here to have a greater chance to take on leadership positions. I think that’s something that will really make a difference to your career in the future and help you grow as a leader.
Emily: The faculty is amazing. I’ve had such a great experience with some of the professors here, just having one-on-one time that I never had in my undergrad. Having professors reach out to you to get involved in independent studies or different projects, and really listening and caring to your opinion, is pretty incredible. Given the class size, you do get to know all the students, so you can really make an impact if that’s something that you want to do. Throughout recruiting, I cannot tell you how everyone has been cheering each other on. It’s been so overwhelmingly positive, juxtaposed to other programs. That was something I’d heard about, but seeing that culture firsthand has been really exciting.