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The wait and grueling hours of study and fulfillment of academic requirements will soon be over. I meet the prospect of graduating from this University with a degree in Business Finance with mixed feelings. First, there is relief that all the hours that I have put in order to achieve this stepping stone into the world of business have finally paid off. Second, there is pride that I was able to accomplish so much not only academically but also for my own personal development within the duration of my course in the University. Third, there is also the fear that I feel comes naturally to every graduate as he steps out of a familiar environment and into an unfamiliar one. I know, along with every graduate this year, that the real world of work will be much tougher than the academe. However, I am confident that with my strong background in liberal education and in my field of specialization, I will be able to see my goals to fruition.
There are three primary goals in my life at this particular time which emphasize on family, personal, and social responsibilities. My first goal is to lead a successful career as a businessman as I fulfill the family responsibility of managing the family business. Having come from a traditional Eastern family, I am expected to take over the reins of the business which my ancestors have labored to establish in order to secure the needs of the family. When I graduate, I will apprentice under my father until I have enough experience to personally run the palm oil business that my family owns. In my culture, family always comes first. This is my way of honoring all the sacrifices that my parents have done for me in order to provide me with a decent life and an excellent education. As my parents advance in age, it is the responsibility of the children to take care of them in their retirement. This is why my first major goal at this point in my life is to immediately apply all that I have learned to support my family and sustain our livelihood. My second goal is of a personal nature. Eventually, I want to pursue a graduate degree in order to enhance my knowledge in business management. Obtaining a master's degree in business administration in the near future will be of great help to me professionally. On a personal level, I recognize that learning does not end and must be pursued continually. In addition to performing the responsibilities that one's family expects of you, one should also consider one's personal growth and development as a major goal. My third goal relates to social responsibility in relation to business as a profession. During several classes I attended, I learned and appreciated the responsibility for businesses to make a positive impact to the community. I consider it an obligation especially for businesses rooted in the environment, like the oil business. I had often considered setting up a scholarship fund for qualified yet disadvantaged children in my community. There are many who are deprived of the basic needs in life such as education that need assistance from those who can provide it for them. I do not believe that the impact of my education should translate into making the most gain for the benefit of the family business I will soon manage. Rather, as Wood (1999) stated, the social responsibility of businesses includes the identification and evaluation of business outcomes not exclusive of financial profitability or a company's well-being but by principles such as ethics and social desirability. I believe that ethical conduct of business and profitability are not mutually exclusive. Ethics and social responsibility boost business while at the same time contributing positively to the society in general.
I recognize of course, that the world is undergoing several social, economic and political upheavals. The recent global crises and the prominent scandals involving global corporations Enron and AIG have had several implications for the world of business. Political disputes all over the world - the Israeli-Palestine conflict, terrorism, the nuclear threat posed by Iran and North Korea, and the petroleum wars - affect lives and businesses around the world. Peace remains elusive. Without peace, the prospect of economic and social development becomes even dimmer. Moreover, the problem of climate change also presents several implications for businesses including the business that I will soon lead. Erratic weather patterns lead to drought, torrential rains, landslides, storms and plant disease which will impact the palm oil business negatively. My hopes for the world within the next five decades are many. First, I look forward to a more sustainable and greener world. Because of my involvement in the palm oil industry, I feel that I can do my share in bringing this about. In the palm oil business, the environment is always a primary concern. Palm oil companies are constantly pressured by environmental groups to reduce their environmental impact, which I think is only fitting since the industry itself relies on sustainable environments to make their businesses grow. I believe that palm oil businesses should strive to implement strategies that would make palm cultivation work harmoniously and not negatively with the environment. Aside from preservation and reforestation efforts, there should also be clear directions in research and development to come up with ways for sustainable palm oil cultivation and to develop environmentally-friendly fuel. The palm oil industry currently presents an alternative to ozone-harmful petroleum energy with biodiesel and oleo-chemicals. It is important that these efforts are carried on for the benefit of a greener world. Second, I also hope for a more socially responsible business sector. One of the most striking realizations I had while in college is the judgment that most businesses operate with profit as the only goal. Several industries around the globe have left devastated environments, deforested lands, and polluted waters. Moreover, corruption and malice also hound the corporate sector following the recent spate of scandals involving the top honchos of financial corporations. I feel that providing an example to other business leaders and business owners on functioning ethically in the conduct of one's business will be significant. In this manner, I feel I can someday contribute to creating a more socially responsible business sector. However desirous I am to see this hope realized, I recognize that most businessmen refuse to take the ethical perspective. I believe that the perception of many in the business sector is that profit is the primary aim, the social responsibility goals are merely optional.
I believe that not being able to shape future business leaders to become more socially sensitive is a shortcoming of modern day education. Education in the classroom has failed to translate into men and women who care about the world and who are capable of looking at things from a larger perspective. This is one of the main reasons I am grateful that my college education has become an empowering experience for me. In the past, I used to be apathetic to the events that shape and reshape the world. My interest has only been self-preservation and self-advancement. The day I stepped into the university, I resolved that I will do everything I can to excel and make my family proud of me. However, the lessons and courses I have taken have forced me to re-evaluate my own goals and perspectives in life. As C.S. Lewis stated, the liberating character of education transforms a student from "an unregenerate little bundle of appetites" toward "the good man and the good citizen" (qtd. in Dunn 1). As I graduate, I hope to become that man C.S. Lewis was referring to. A college education has done so much in gearing me towards that direction.
First, a college education has developed my ability to think independently. Because of the diverse lessons that I have learned inside the classroom, from the humanities, philosophy, political science, and economics, I have become someone who can think for himself. Before, I used to form no opinions about most things or issues. Yet, a college education has made me more opinionated and relatively free from the confines of traditional or conventional thinking. Second, it has made me more critical of the opinions of others as well. The tendency for students or children is to rely on the wisdom of those who are more experienced than they are. As I learned more and endeavoured to educate myself on issues that impact me as a citizen, I found that I no longer cling to what my parents or peers say and think. The more empowered my mind has become, the more I can express myself. Third, a college education has also led me to appreciate diversity in various forms. The empowerment that comes from education allows us to view the world from a wider lens. By learning about different cultures, theories, and contexts, I have become more engaged to the study of history and culture. I admit that, being of Eastern descent, I carry with me several prejudices and preconceived notions about people, events, and issues. The more I learned, however, the more I realized that I was wrong in most of these beliefs. I have also developed the skill to put things into the proper context and judge with an open and critical mind.
A college education has also helped me understand the world better. It has opened my eyes to a diverse set of philosophies and explanations of phenomena that I have never even dared to know about. Before I started college, many things remained mysterious or dazzling to me. For instance, I failed to understand why Islamic extremism exists and why people would do outrageous acts such as suicide bombing. I also could not appreciate why there are feminist movements around the world and why reproductive rights is such a huge issue. Because these topics were discussed in class, my eyes were opened for the first time. Although I admit that taking it all in posed a great difficulty, the important thing was, unlike in the past where I was blind to such issues or phenomena, I have now learned an explanation for them.
I enjoyed most of the assigned readings and also spent time reading books that were of a personal interest to me. Perhaps the most memorable book and philosopher I greatly appreciate and find inspirational is Nobel Prize laureate Bertrand Russell and his books, including his autobiographies. I admire his brilliance and his genuine concern for the human race, with this quote from The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell:
Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair. â€¦ This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me (Russell 3-4).
Russell's endless fascination with the human spirit is something I wish for myself. With all my experiences in college, I feel the need to build on that knowledge more and more. In the past, I could consider myself a passive learner. Mostly, I take in whatever is being taught but never really make an effort to understand or appreciate it. I also consider myself a lazy reader, considering it a burden to bury myself in a few pages of books and analyze its contents. My forte has always been in numbers and mathematics. My life in college has changed the way I take in knowledge. When I majored in finance, I was able to appreciate how numbers and mathematic computations are being applied in business. This made me more interested and more committed to my specialization. Moreover, I have found myself engaging others when discussing social issues and expressing my opinion when I have something to say. These improvements with myself and my methods of learning I can attribute to the liberal education provided to me and the inspiration I derived from the books and philosophers I have read.
A liberal education creates the well-rounded individual. This is what it means to me. Liberal education works under the premise that the ultimate goal man is to become "fully human." To be fully human requires not only that men can be able to think but to translate this thinking into the performance of our duties as members of society. Hence, liberal education does not limit itself to the singular task of training individuals for the workforce. While equipping people with the skills they need for future employment, liberal education, according to C.S. Lewis (1999), "preserves civilization by producing reasonable men and responsible citizens" (p. 18). This is after all, what sets us apart from the animals. Men should act not only out of the need for self-preservation and needs satisfaction, they should be able to be free from basic appetites and use their mind to judge what is right and wrong for them and for society.
Before, I failed to appreciate why I need to take courses in political science or sociology or philosophy - subjects which I felt were irrelevant to my major in business finance. I realized later on that an education with a strong background in liberal arts provides a more comprehensive view of the world and completes the partial perspective provided by one field of specialization. If I focused on one area of knowledge, my view of the world is incomplete. My capacity to think critically, judge, and act upon that judgment would be limited because I lack the information need to make wiser decisions. Hence, I began to look at my major as only one piece of the puzzle and that knowledge requires several pieces to be patched together. Several of these pieces could only be completed with general knowledge provided by a liberal arts education. Liberal arts provides well-rounded education by giving students a diverse body of knowledge and the critical thinking, analytic and examination skills to put these ideas into their proper context and make sense out of them. Definitely, the liberal arts courses I took had a liberating effect on me. As I earlier stated, I used to look at the world in mere numbers and mathematics. I cared less for what was happening around me - in the social and political environment. As a result, I had several biases and prejudices which were a reflection of my poor background in general knowledge. In this manner, education as a whole has become not only necessary, but meaningful to my future profession and to my personal life.
After I graduate from college, I intend to pursue a master's degree in order to become a financial analyst. I expect to read several books in finance and business administration. Along with these required books, I also intend to read on ethics, philosophy and the environment to help me achieve the three major goals I have set for myself as I graduate from college. I want to be a good businessman not only in terms of the profitability and productivity of my business but because of how ethically sound I conduct my business.
My personal mission statement in one sentence is: To become fully human and being a positive force in society by living with honesty, compassion, and responsibility. In the professional sense, I want to be able to lead the family business with efficiency and profitability while adhering to the ethical standards and principles required of socially responsible businesses. I want to contribute, in my capacity as a future businessman and financial analyst, to a greener and more sustainable Earth by promoting environmental-friendly policies and researches. Moreover, I want to set an example for the business sector in doing business responsibly.