R. Jon MacDonald '03
"The flexibility and desire to allow students to do what they believe is best for them has paid off in more ways than I can count and led to lifelong entrepreneur endeavors."
During the Summer of 2001 I was fortunate enough to participate in the Oberlin-in-Europe Euro Summer School program which stoked an entrepreneurship fire that formed the basis for two defining moments in my life.
As part of the Oberlin-in-Europe program we studied several companies, how they started, what pain or need they were solving, how they marketed to their customers, and how they functioned behind the scenes. We often referred to the program as a "pre-MBA". This included several tours, from a regional headquarters for IKEA to the European Union's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. Learning about what made companies thrive in an ever changing environment like that of the newly formed EU, set me on a path of knowing that the only challenge I was going to be happy tackling every day for the rest of my life was to run my own business.
Throughout my first two years at Oberlin I was sure I was going to take advantage of the dot com boom happening on the West coast and become a computer programmer. But while in Europe I caught the bug for entrepreneurship and realized that what excited me more was not the programming challenges, but rather the business challenges of those technology companies.
As soon as I returned to campus for classes in the Fall, I decided I needed to alter the educational path I was on. I asked the chair of the computer science program and the chair of the art department to meet with me simultaneously. And I convinced the two departments to work together for the first time ever, allowing me to earn a degree that positioned me to make a second defining decision: starting a business.
In 2008, after working for three start-ups and fast growing companies to learn from the inside, I took the leap and started a company called The Good - a conversion optimization agency. And as a lifelong learner and entrepreneur, it was the best decision I could have made.
I often look back on the key decisions I made in my time at Oberlin - joining the Oberlin-in-Europe program and pressing two department chairs who had never crossed paths to find a way to work together - and consider how the vast majority of higher education institutions would have never allowed for the approach I took. But the flexibility and desire to allow students to do what they believe is best for them has paid off in more ways than I can count and led to lifelong entrepreneur endeavors.
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