The last few years, I had the incredible opportunity to get to know the most recent LHP class. This group of extraordinary young men and women will start their post-college lives and careers over a decade after I began my own. I spoke to them in Cincinnati as sophomores, hosted them in Washington, DC, as pre-juniors on their domestic trip, and most recently at my company’s office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam in March. While I don’t feel that far removed from walking in their shoes, the reality is a decade out of school can provide a lot of perspective. It's easier in hindsight to know that, right out of college, there's more than enough runway to take risks, fail, take more risks, and find the passion and confidence to do what makes you happy. Hearing their excitement, fear, ambition, uncertainty, and drive to become the best version of themselves was probably even more invigorating for me than it was for them.
As a self-proclaimed wanderer of the world, I love seeing people experience a new country and culture for the first time. In that humbling environment we are all students and watching them was a chance to relive the initial rush and adventure of culture shock all over again. Having taken more than 30 trips, Vietnam is one of my favorite places in the world. I love the people, their kindness and sincere generosity, the viscous and super sweet drip coffee, the crazy motorbike antics during the morning commute, the lime, the lemongrass, and the simultaneous simplicity, chaos, and beauty of every day.
The educational objective of my message was providing context for what it takes to build effective cross-cultural teams and business competencies. Earlier that year, I was dispatched as an expat based in Hong Kong with my wife Camie and tasked with building off-shore operations in South and Southeast Asia for Shorelight Education. In the span of three years, this scrappy start-up I helped create had gone from a dozen employees to more than 400, and $90 million in revenue. Trying to apply lessons from legendary LinkedIn co-founder and Stanford professor, Reid Hoffman, we were “blitzscaling” a global operation to capture a once in a generation market opportunity and drive internationalization at some of America’s leading universities.
It was an exhilarating time and the opportunity to share this experience with the same class, not just conceptually, but in-country with my team was too good to pass up.
Business lesson aside, when we met in Ho Chi Minh City, it was like catching up with old friends and seeing a reflection of my not so distant past. I was surprised and honored that they felt so comfortable opening up to me about the multitude of things they were wrestling with personally, emotionally, and professionally.
Candidly, it reminded me how challenging it is to be a fourth-year undergraduate. They were all in the midst of the same tough decisions I had been, choosing to open doors (and close others) which could be the jumping off point to so many varied personal and professional paths. They were filled with energy for what the future holds, thoughtful, and open about trying to understand what really drives them. They were also incredibly good to each other, an inclusive and cohesive unit who had each other's backs and wanted the best for one another. It was a reminder of how the unique chemistry of each LHP class leaves an indelible mark on who we become.
As an alum outside of the Cincinnati area, it takes more work to stay engaged. Nevertheless, to my fellow LHP alums in far flung places, don’t ever discount how much you can help just by sharing your experiences. Every student told me meeting with alums in Vietnam, Singapore, and Hong Kong was the most rewarding part of their trip. And for me, it was the most rewarding part of mine.
Lena (Tome) Schuler
I can vividly remember standing outside of the Campus Rec Center as the sun went down, week two of freshman year, and stopping dead in my tracks. I had this overwhelming thought that didn’t feel like my own, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. I had not intended on attending UC until I was accepted into Lindner Honors-PLUS, and so going into college I was a bit unsure. Unsure of what was to come, unsure as whether UC was the right fit for me or not, and (if I’m being brutally honest) unsure of what I believed and who I was.
I can still hear Jeri Ricketts saying to our eager freshman class “Don’t just go to class, go to college.” So that’s what I did. Student Government, Club Tennis, Kappa Alpha Theta, Serve Beyond Cincinnati, and The Red and Black Bash Fall Concert Team, just to name a few. And the companies I had the honor of working for on co-op; GE, Luxottica, and P&G. I was doing things I loved with people I loved and trying to figure out who I was along the way.
When it came time to make the decision if I was going to accept my full time role with P&G as an Assistant Brand Manager, I hesitated. I once again had this overwhelming thought that I needed to wait, that it wasn’t time to accept.
Towards the end of college I became more involved in Crossroads Church. I was wrestling with who God was and who He made me to to be. As I got closer to those discoveries I wanted my friends to experience what I was experiencing. That led to taking on a position with Crossroads to figure out how to encourage more college students to go on the journey of faith. I was paralyzed with fear. I wasn’t equipped for this! I mean, I really went to college, not just class. But that same overwhelming thought popped up, now I might even call it the nudging of God, that my time in Lindner Honors-PLUS had been preparing me for a moment such as this. Little did I know that in the years to follow that each experience I gained going to college was going to help current students figure out what they believed and who they were.
In 2014, as a fresh alum, I embarked on starting a church. I wanted to give my friends a place to honestly wrestle with tough questions and discover what they believed, not just gain more knowledge. It started with a few friends (many from LHP) meeting in Stratford Pavilion, then we moved to Bogart’s where we created church experiences in a bar, and ultimately led to purchasing and rehabbing Old St. George to turn a dead church into a thriving church once again. In the church I continually use my Marketing degree and co-op experiences to launch new programs, seasons, and iterations of church. All of that campus involvement and leadership training, from Greek Life to the Concert Team, came in handy when starting a church and becoming a Community Pastor.
In the last five years we have sent one hundred students on service trips to South Africa and Nicaragua. We pair students with mentors and people just ahead of them to help guide them through the trials and joys of college. We put on large productions testing new ways of presenting church where we have over a thousand people in attendance each weekend. A home away from home has been created for students in the Uptown neighborhood. At Crossroads Uptown I’ve had the honor of hiring and working with LHP students and alumni, hosting LHP freshman seminars and board meetings, and simply befriending new students each year.
I’m thankful that business school landed me a job in a church. It has been through the church that I found purpose. It has been through the church that I met my husband and have people to help me figure out how to be a new parent. It has been through the church that I have found joy. It has been through the church that I have met a God who doesn’t live in a fairytale or a book but one who knows me and has great plans for me, and I believe for you too.