Sarah Olson’s face lights up as soon as she begins talking about her experiences at the College of Business. The senior in accounting, from Harlan, IA, is passionate about business, about the role that women play in business and helping other young women understand that a degree in business is much more than they think.
“I originally thought I would be a doctor,” she said. “When I was in high school, I thought business was boring. I thought you just sat behind a desk and crunched numbers.”
That image in her mind changed one day in high school.
“I took an accounting class and it just CLICKED,” she said with wide eyes and a big smile. “I joined the Business Professionals of America when I was in high school,” she said. That’s how much she loved it. She even competed in the organization’s accounting and interview skills national competition.
She was hooked.
“That’s what solidified it for me. I knew I wanted to be a business major,” said Olson, one of a small number of students invited to be in the ISU President’s Leadership Class during her freshman year. Each fall, 30 first-year students are selected for the class on the basis of co-curricular involvement, community and school service, and high school academic achievement. The class meets weekly at The Knoll, the president’s residence. Through formal and informal gatherings, students interact with Iowa State administrators, faculty, staff and state and local leaders. Students gain an understanding of how the university operates and exchange ideas about leadership development. They interact with guests, including political and business leaders and Iowa State alumni.
“It has been a wonderful experience to explore my own leadership,” Olson said. Her leadership development has continued throughout her college career. Olson is especially proud of her work with Collegiate Women in Business (CWIB). It’s a relatively new student organization designed to inspire, empower and advance women pursuing a career in business. The group is open to all females who have a major or minor in business.
CWIB was formed in 2014 by Olson, fellow student Sara Brandenburg, Senior Lecturer in Accounting Kayla Sander and recent alumna Sadie Hayes. Members meet regularly for panel discussions with business leaders, to enjoy networking opportunities and visit businesses in person to learn how they work.
What Olson likes most about the College of Business is the opportunity students are provided to explore all of the business majors. “There are many exploratory classes so you can find out what you really like most,” she said. “The professors here really focus on teamwork and real-life experiences. We search for solutions, but we also discover why things happen. That’s how business decisions are made.” She also appreciates the College’s efforts to encourage more women to seek a degree in business.
“I don’t think women have always been encouraged to pursue business,” Olson said. “I think it’s important to recruit women to level the playing field. You’ll get a much better end result because women and men really do think in differently but complementary ways.”