For last year’s essay, we asked applicants to put themselves in a managerial position at a company and consider the following scenario:
“You must choose between two team members. Person A is a thought leader at the company, generating successful ideas that have helped propel the company financially. However, Person A is not well-liked among their peers, thanks to an obtuse personality and a strong disdain for other people. Person B is very popular at the company, consistently helping motivate the team thanks to a compassionate connection with each team member and an infectiously upbeat personality. However, all of Person B's ideas end up being unprofitable. Who would you fire? Why?”
We received inventive and out-of-the-box responses from students across the country, some of which included making all workers take an aptitude test, firing both employees, and tossing a coin to determine who stays at the company.
Claudia Applewhite, a third-year Oakwood University student drew us in with her unique ideas about the dangers of individualistic business environments and ultimately won the scholarship prize. We had a conversation with the computer networks and communications double-major, who plans to have her own multi-media production company in the future. Here’s what she had to say.
Have you ever been in a workspace with either “Person A” or “Person B? Or both? If so, what was that experience like?
I have. I have been both “Person A” and “Person B”. Moreso in my early life, I was “Person A’ because people didn't like me; I grew in a predominantly white community and I didn't have the patience to deal with everybody. I had great ideas, but I was very argumentative and that didn't help my case. I have found that your idea can be good, but it could be thirty percent better, if you present it in the right way. No one is inclined to listen to someone who talks down to you. So I would say now that I'm “Person B” with “Person A’s” skills.
In your essay response, you stated that “a healthy and supportive working environment is key to having a successful company.” You also mentioned the importance of loyalty and trust. What other values do you consider core or essential for employees and businesses to have?
When having your own business, especially when you're taking on new team members, you need to make sure that their voices are heard. What I’ve noticed is that HR [Human Resources] is not always HR, it’s CR [Company Resources].
People often go into HR to complain about serious issues, and instead of being heard, they get fired or reprimanded. I think that it is super important that each of your employees' voices is heard. Not only will it give your company more ideas, but it can help it function better in the long run.
In your essay, you suggested the idea of introducing “a collaborative brainstorming training process to the company in the scenario.” Have you thought about other such ideas or training programs that you would want to implement in your own business?
I think people need to have minority sensitivity training. It is really important for you to know about minorities and what they might be sensitive about, whether it is race-related or has to do with sexuality, gender identity, or disabilities. You don't want to discriminate against or shut out any potential employees or clients that could be extremely beneficial to your company.
People have looked over me because of my race or because of my gender, or because of my disabilities or income group. But I have an exorbitant amount of ideas that can help people and that could be very effective.
In addition to film-making, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?
So many. I have so many hobbies, but to boil them all down to one thing; what I love the most is storytelling. With storytelling, you can teach people [a large] amount of things, without them even noticing.
I like reading, watching Japanese animation, making music, singing and rapping, writing poetry, and also photography. I think capturing the world around you is important because everyone has a very different world view. So being able to share my unique perspective with others is something I like to do.
As a scholarship winner, what advice would you have for this year’s applicants? How can they stand out?
If you want to stand out, put your soul and personality into it. Choose essay scholarships that you care about and are passionate about. And even if your essay is not the most academically sound, your passion will shine through among other applicants.
I would also say to take your time writing it and to use reliable sources. It’s okay if your essay takes you a couple of weeks, even. Make sure to edit and read it out loud several times.