Ashby Business Scholars Network Across the Nation


Katie Kim

Oberlin’s Ashby Business Scholars pose at Morgan Stanley, a financial services company, in New York City.

Students in the Ashby Business Scholars Program visited Cleveland, New York City, and San Francisco over Winter Term to learn more about career building, navigating the job market, and making connections with alumni while touring several companies, including Facebook and Google.

The Ashby Business Scholars program, previously known as the Oberlin Business Scholars program, was established in 2003 by Bela Szigethy, and Stewart Kohl, both OC ’77, co-CEOs of the Riverside Company, a national private equity firm. It was envisioned as a potential opportunity for Oberlin students to get exposure to the world of business and economics. Every year, the program enrolls 12 of its strongest applicants in a seven-week course during the second module of first semester. Students learn the fundamentals of business and finance and are paired up with a professional development coach to help guide them through the program.

Before the Scholars embarked on their trip, they spent a week on campus preparing to dive into the fast-paced professional world.

“Before we left, we had a week of professional development on campus which was probably the most helpful, thing that I’ve done for my career so far,” said College sophomore Jasmine Mitchell. “I feel like that was the most tangible thing for me to transfer over to my career in the future. ”

This year, the 12 Scholars began their trip by spending two days in Cleveland, where they visited several companies, including Union Home Mortgage, Key Bank, and the Riverside Company. Many distinguished alumni took time to speak to the students, including the founder of Elizabeth Park Capital Management in Cleveland, Fred Cummings, OC ’89, who spoke about his own journey overcoming obstacles and starting a successful small business.

“Supporters of Oberlin invite us to their companies and do panels or one-on-one roundtables with us,” said Assistant Director of Career Readiness and Professional Development Sylvia Rios, one of the organizers of the trip. “So, we get to meet people that work in these fields and they tell us what they do. They tell us more about the industry as a whole and more about their own positions.”

The group then traveled to San Francisco, where they had the opportunity to tour tech giants like Facebook and Google and to meet alumni working at these companies. The Scholars also had a unique opportunity to meet former Oberlin Business Scholars at a networking dinner where they got advice on transitioning from Oberlin into the business world.

The Scholars’ next stop was New York City, where they toured diverse businesses like Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, McKinsey, and BBDO Worldwide.

“One of the highlights was just being able to see all the different types of businesses that are out there,” Mitchell said. “Being able to know that there are Obies that are in very upper-level positions is a really easy connection for me to make. And being able to talk to them and know that I’m able to get to that position from having that connection to Oberlin and being able to use that, if not for a job but as a connection to move to the next step in my career, was really fulfilling and a great opportunity.”

As an East Asian Studies and Law and Society double major, Mitchell hopes that her participation in the program will encourage students with varying interests to get involved next year. “It doesn’t matter what your major is,” she explained. “I got just as much out of it as someone who’s an economics major.”

Katie Kim, a College sophomore in the program, found the experience rewarding but at times challenging. “The program was very intense. It was from seven in the morning to 8 p.m. sometimes,” said Kim. Despite the long hours, she felt the trip was valuable. “In terms of my personal experience, I really enjoyed it because all these alums showed me that they really want to help us through our Oberlin connection. Also, I just got very close to the other Business Scholars.”

Rios was satisfied with the outcome of the trip. “The Scholars had a blast,” she said. “They really got a lot out of this.”

The Ashby Business Scholars program represents a new type of opportunity for Obies of any major who are interested in business and finance and want to establish career connections. For students interested in becoming an Ashby Business Scholar, the deadline to apply is April 8. The program is primarily intended for second-year students but is open to students of other years as well.