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UC Grad Takes Business Degree to Senegal for Two Years with the Peace Corps

Spanning the globe, from Cincinnati to Paris to Beijing — this Lindner Honors-PLUS alumna plans to use her business skills for social justice.

Date: 8/31/2008
By: Wendy Beckman
Phone: (513) 556-1826
Photos By: Dottie Stover, photojournalist
Jessica's outreach is spanning the globe.

Jessica Young graduated from the College of Business (CoB) at the University of Cincinnati (UC) in 2007 after making use of a large number of UC’s global opportunities. She participated in the mandatory Lindner Honors-PLUS global trip and followed that by a six-month co-op in Paris. She later went to China for another study abroad experience. And now after getting a taste of the world she is going to take another large bite with two years in Africa for a stint with the Peace Corps in the country of Senegal. But before she makes a change in the world, she already made a mark on the University of Cincinnati.

Jessica came to UC from Notre Dame Academy in Northern Kentucky.

“My mother works for the Medical and Cellular Physiology Department at UC,” says Jessica. “She heard about the Honors-PLUS program and encouraged me to apply.”

Jessica’s mother graduated from DAAP with a degree in fashion design. After working in fashion as a buyer and traveling all over the country, she had two children (who both came to UC).

“After having children, she switched routes and decided to pursue a career path at UC.  She had the foresight to plan early on for two children in college,” says Jessica, laughing. When Jessica looked at UC, she found the Carl Lindner Honors-PLUS program very appealing, applied and was accepted.

Jessica with then-doctoral student Mark Schenkel and the E-Center/SBI display Jessica created for a Service Learning Fair. Schenkel is now an assistant professor at Belmont University. (Submitted photo)
Jessica with then-doctoral student Mark Schenkel and the E-Center/SBI display Jessica created for a service learning fair. Schenkel is now an assistant professor at Belmont University. (Submitted photo)

“Jessica served as the very first intern in the Center for Entrepreneurship Education & Research the summer of her freshman year as a Carl H. Lindner Honors-PLUS student,” says Charles Matthews, executive director of UC’s Center for Entrepreneurship Education & Research in the College of Business. “Quite simply, the E-Center would not be as far along as it is without her. She virtually single-handedly produced the E-Center's first annual report. I literally pointed to a stack of articles, photos and who-knows-what that had been gathering on the corner of my desk in the hopes that it would somehow magically transform itself into a slick, organized, high-impact report. Realizing that wasn't going to happen, I assigned it to Jessica who did such a fantastic job on it that I abandoned plans for a limited distribution and had UC Printing Services print 2,000 copies.”

Matthews says her annual report remains the benchmark for subsequent interns and co-ops working on later reports. He recalls with awe how she displayed an incredible willingness and aptitude to learn new applications, improving the E-Center Web site, keeping the office organized, and improving the E-Center operations.

“When we took on the conceptualization, formulation and implementation of the Spirit of Enterprise Business Plan Competition, she designed the logo that we still use today,” Matthews adds.

Lane Valeyo, left, helped organize the early Entrepreneurship Recognition Banquets along with Jessica, seen here again with Mark Schenkel.
Lane Valeyo, left, helped organize the early Entrepreneurship Recognition Banquets along with Jessica, seen here again with Mark Schenkel. (Submitted photo)

Before retiring from her position as CoB Director of International Programs, Susan Sadlier also had the pleasure of working with Jessica while she was a freshman.

“I have been profoundly impressed by her development over the years into a globally competent, socially responsible young woman,” says Sadlier. She noted that Jessica was one of the few students she had encountered who used her multiple education-abroad experiences to re-evaluate her personal goals and career plans.

“As part of the Lindner Honors-PLUS program, Jessica was required to spend a month abroad with her peers from the program, immersing herself in different cultures in Europe, taking classes in a partner institution, and visiting companies and cultural sites,” Sadlier says.

Jessica decided as a result of that experience to challenge herself further by interning in Paris for six months through the Lindner Honors-PLUS program, thus improving her French language skills and demonstrating her independence.

“In Paris, I worked for Ballou Public Relations, an agency co-founded by two American women to provide international public relations for technology and biotechnology companies,” Jessica says. “I was able to work with French and US clients representing very innovative technologies, while working in a multicultural and fast-paced environment. It was a great experience!”

Jessica’s international co-op was only the second in Paris for a CoB student. So, as the old song goes, “How you gonna keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?” You don’t. After returning from France, Jessica headed to Atlanta to co-op with Delta Airlines, which proved to be “a big eye-opener,” she says. “I received phenomenal opportunities there from working on an advertising campaign in France to traveling the world on the weekends. It helped me discover how much I love travel and cultural immersion.”

Jessica completed her international business integral in China in the summer of 2007. She and a group of CoB seniors interacted with Chinese students, visited famous sights, attended classes and toured companies.

“I did the international business study abroad to get an international business minor,” Jessica says. “I took classes at three universities while visiting Beijing, Guangzhou and Chengdu.”

She enjoyed watching the Olympics in Beijing this summer, knowing that she had been there. “We were able to see the preparation for the Olympics when we were passing through last year. It was incredible to see new buildings going up literally overnight.”

Sadlier says that Jessica’s previous international experiences, her maturity, her openness and her positive attitude made her an asset to the group.

“She was fascinated by Asia — by the economic inconsistencies and hardships she encountered as well as the dynamic for change, and began to think about a career that would take her outside of her comfort zone,” Sadlier says.

Jeri Ricketts, director of the Carl H. Lindner Honors-PLUS Program, points out that Jessica made an unusual choice for a college student, in order to participate in the trip to China.

“She graduated with 231 credit hours — when our program only requires about 200,” she says. “She delayed her graduation a quarter, even though she had completed her BBA requirements, so she could go on the international trip to China.”

Going above and beyond seems to be the norm for Jessica. She completed political science coursework in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, in addition to her CoB coursework.

“Jessica completed three concentrations in the business college,” Ricketts notes, “marketing, international business plus an individualized integral course of study ‘Global Business Ethics’ that she worked on with Howard Tolley.”

Tolley, a professor of political science in the McMicken College of Arts & Sciences, says that Jessica immediately grasped the importance of human rights activism for transnational corporations in the energy and apparel industries.

“After taking one of my upper-division political science international public law electives, Jessica, a degree candidate in business, asked me to serve as her primary adviser on a senior thesis related to corporate social responsibility,” Tolley says. “Her superior research with primary and secondary source materials on campaigns involving BP and Unocal, Nike and Reebok provides me with a model for use in advising others. She worked independently and with minimal guidance achieved a level of scholarly excellence that indicates a promising academic career. Her admirable commitment to social justice may take her in a different direction, however, and I'm delighted that she'll serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa not too far from where I served before entering graduate school.”

And Africa is where Jessica is off to now, for after a year of reflection after graduation she has decided to take a Peace Corp assignment in Senegal. Raj Mehta, director of the University Honors Program and a professor of marketing says, “I am so impressed at how she is one of the few rare students who is re-evaluating her career and personal plans through her experiences and serious reflection.”

He is not alone in his sentiments. 

Sadlier says that the fact that Jessica had pursued coursework in political science along with her business degree heightened her awareness of humanitarian issues and global affairs.
“She opted not to take the usual route after graduation in August of last year and embark on a professional career, but instead explored how she might use her business skills to help the less fortunate,” Sadlier notes. “Through an organization based in California, she was selected to go to Cambodia, and this work experience with humble, hardworking, economically disadvantaged people, was the catalyst for her decision to join the Peace Corps.”
Ricketts says that the fact that Jessica has chosen to channel her considerable talent and energy to helping others in Senegal is a testament to her character and conviction to leave a positive mark on the world.

Jessica chose the Peace Corps. Her ability to speak French put her in Senegal.
Jessica chose the Peace Corps. Her ability to speak French put her in Senegal.

“I’m so proud of her and all she has accomplished, and am eager to see how she continues to excel and lead,” she adds.

Jessica points out with humility that she didn’t really choose Senegal herself.

“The Peace Corps chose it for me,” she says. “I knew I wanted to do business development work. The fact that I spoke French got me an invitation to go to West Africa, and thus, Senegal.”

Besides French, Jessica speaks a smattering of languages — but not according to Jessica. She laughs.

“I speak only English well,” she says. “I speak French that’s very rusty, like a child. I took Khmer when I was in Cambodia — it’s certainly nothing to brag about. I even did a language exchange and practiced Mandarin before China, but it’s nothing to put on a resume. I mastered survival phrases, things like ‘I’m hungry.’”

Jessica has not made plans for when she returns from Senegal. She definitely wants to pursue her education at some point.

Jessica's 'survival' Mandarin won't be needed in Senegal, but her spirit of adventure will come in handy.

“Master’s degree, definitely, but I don’t know in what,” Jessica says. “I’ve researched joint degree programs including some that UC offers, like one concentrating on law and women’s studies.”

“I’m leaving myself open. This will be a defining experience,” she says. “I’m interested in international development work, and Peace Corps will give me a taste for what this entails. I am particularly interested in gender development and economic development as outlets to apply my business degree. Before this I was in Cambodia testing out field work to make sure I was up for two years in the Peace Corps.” She pauses and smiles.

“I’m open.”

So as she heads off to Senegal for two years, what will she take with her? What special thing is she going to pack for two years so far away?

“My iPod for sure,” she says with a laugh. “I need my music. And books — definitely books. I can get local clothes.”

“I want to pack light,” she adds.

The path from the College of Business is bright for Jessica. We hope her path brings her back to UC someday.
The path forward from the College of Business is bright for Jessica. We hope her path brings her back to UC someday.

So those are the things that she takes with her. Packing light and leaving herself open to what the future brings. But what has she left behind?

Matthews counts his blessings that he was able to have Jessica working with him one last quarter in the E-Center before leaving for Senegal.

“I will miss her being in the office, but at the same time I know she will do a fantastic job in Senegal,” he says. “She is the best and I know she will represent the University of Cincinnati with honor and distinction as she begins her Peace Corps journey.

“She is an exceptional young woman, who has seized opportunities presented to her, and has grown immeasurably during her years as a student at UC,” says Sadlier. “The Peace Corps is fortunate to have the talents, enthusiasm and selflessness of one of our UC Honors and Lindner Honors-PLUS graduates.”