The Road to Commencement: Reflecting Back on a Key Question

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Commencement is on May 23, and so the end of my time as a student at Yale SOM is fast approaching. While I’m reminiscing, I want to share one of my favorite stories from way back when I was applying: The Class of 2016 was the first to have everyone complete a recorded video interview as part of our application. I still remember setting up my laptop that rainy evening in January 2014 at my apartment in London, putting on my suit (top and bottom, just to be on the safe side), and checking that everything worked well as I tried to prepare myself for three questions that I could not prepare for.

The first and the last questions were generic, so much so that I can’t recall them now. But the second, the one in-between, has stayed with me. Bruce DelMonico appeared on the screen and asked, “If you had 24 hours of vacation from work and unlimited resources, how would you choose to spend that day?”

Since then I have posed this question to various friends and colleagues. The responses ranged from “find a cure for cancer” and feed the world” to perhaps the more likely given our imminent graduation, “pay off all my student debt.” These answers are all fine, but they were not mine.

When I thought about how to respond, the answer was clear. There are often times I have dreamed of unlimited resources, such as when my family left everything behind to move to a new country. But the point I saw in that question was that you only have 24 hours, just one day. I chose to describe what would be the most meaningful single day to me.

My answer was that I would use the money to fly all my friends and family, all the people I care about, to where I was and spend the day with them. Perhaps there would be a big meal, some games, a party. I would spend the day with those I hold dear, because they matter to me.

Money is not what compels us to act. What persuades the mind, enriches the soul, and moves our hearts, is the effort we put in over our lifetimes, the constant journey, with all the choices we make in pursuit of our dreams. Capital is to us what tools are to a carpenter; it’s their imagination that shapes the wood.

The Class of 2016 is full of people who have achieved great things and undoubtedly will continue to do so. Still, our ambition sometimes separates us from those we love, and perhaps even takes us to a little town called New Haven for a couple of years. Days where we are surrounded by our loved ones are significant, both in their profound impact on our wellbeing and how they so often are a marker in time.

There is a magic in those moments. Together, we have created this magic over two wonderful years. We may not have unlimited wealth, but on Commencement Day, we will mark our time here with everyone we’ve shared it with, with everyone we’ve come to love. This moment will inspire us to make our visions reality.

When I’m walking up to receive my degree, I will look at the smiles of my mother, father, and sister, and be glad that Bruce DelMonico liked my answer. I will think back to that question I was posed on a rainy January evening and see the perfect day I dreamed of before my very eyes. As all the happy thoughts, feelings, and memories from my time here flood my mind in that instant, I know that I am so very thankful for every day I spent at Yale SOM.

This article can also be found on the Yale SOM student blog.

Hilde Dahmer

MBA Candidate, Class of 2016

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