RPI Commencement 2017: The Importance of Creativity and Critical Thinking in Business and Management
As graduation nears, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute business students at the Lally School of Management are preparing to hit the ground running as they look to transform the world at the intersection of business and technology. Two exemplary Lally students from the graduating Class of 2017, Andrew Rainville and Michaela Darbin, are highlighted below. They represent some of the many passionate Rensselaer business students who look to find solutions for the challenges of a rapidly changing global economy, whether as innovative decision-makers in existing companies or as self-propelled entrepreneurs.
“Lally business students have access to the latest data, technology, engineering, and science resources at Rensselaer as well as software, immersive labs, and experiential learning during their academic programs,” said Thomas Begley, dean of the Lally School. “We know that outstanding students like Andrew and Michaela are a reflection of that solid foundation in business, and we wish them and the entire graduating Class of 2017 all the best as they go on to thrive in top businesses and create their own.”
The Creative Mind is an Innovative Mind – Andrew Rainville ’17
Andrew Rainville ’17, from Lincoln, Vermont, is a senior undergraduate student at Lally who is ready to make a strong impact on the world after he graduates. In May, he will earn both a Bachelor of Science in business and management and a Bachelor of Science in electronic media, arts, and communication. After graduation, he will return to Vermont to work in the family business, Maple Landmark Woodcraft. His family’s business has been making eco-friendly, educational wooden toys, games, and gifts since 1979. Rainville’s role will focus on marketing operations, product development, photo/videography, advertising, and social media.
“I came to Rensselaer because of the people here – the logical, yet innovative, way that everyone around here thinks drew me in,” said Rainville. “I have an internal passion to do something meaningful and purposeful in this world in business, and I needed the right environment to develop and grow my mindset.”
Rainville has always felt a great affinity toward being creative and its potential for social good in marketing and entrepreneurship. At Rensselaer, he has learned practical ways to implement these passions in business and also use digital media and electronic media to achieve his goals.
“Rensselaer taught me life skills – the ability to think critically and creatively, the presence of mind to deal with any situation, and the understanding of interpersonal dynamics,” said Rainville. “I am excited to use these skills as I start my career in business.”
Rainville’s leadership skills also developed outside of the classroom in many ways, especially in the Rensselaer Crew Club, where he served as team president in 2016 and rowed for all eight semesters. He found that crew pushed him beyond anything he ever thought he could do both physically and mentally. His interpersonal skills were also honed with roles in the Resident Student Association (RSA), Leadership Educators Advising Peers (LEAP), National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH), Epsilon Delta Sigma Management Honor Society (EDS), the Paul J. ’69 and Kathleen M. Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship, and also as a resident director.
Rainville has worked in the Severino Center at Lally for the past three years, which has given him an exciting view of how entrepreneurship can help today’s society. First, he has seen the remarkable journey of creating and refining a product or service to make something better; to create change. Second, he has appreciated the needed mindset and tenacity of entrepreneurs as they tap into their inspiration and drive to keep going despite roadblocks or failures.
In both his academic and extracurricular activities at Rensselaer, Rainville has learned that a strong path to innovation is achieved through engaging in diversity of thoughts and opinions. He truly believes that challenging yourself and your views leads to a deeper understanding of the world and a more collaborative society.
Rainville’s two internships helped to put this into a bigger perspective for him. At Boeing, in his internship in business operations, he found that sometimes taking a little initiative in your department or team can transform into big organizational results. At USRowing, in his internship in communications, he learned that no matter how much of an individualist you might be, teamwork will always improve and enhance business operations and outcomes. And finally, these internships taught him that the values of patience and listening are always very critical as you make good business decisions.
Rainville encourages other current students at Rensselaer to embrace all that the Institute has to offer that speaks to their creative self, as innovation can truly be generated through any experience, program, event, club, or person you meet.
Critical Thinking with Data Leads to Great Solutions – Michaela Darbin ’17
Michaela Darbin ’17, from Middletown, New Jersey, is a graduate student at Lally who learned at Rensselaer how exciting working in technology could be. In May, she will earn a Master of Science in business analytics. She already has a solid foundation in business with a Bachelor of Science in business and management from Rensselaer in 2016. After graduation, Darbin will work in the technology development rotation program at Optum (UnitedHealth Group).
“The field that I have been studying has had me excited and motivated to be a contributor to something big that is revolutionizing our world—data-driven decision-making,” said Darbin. “Rensselaer has prepared me to work toward becoming a contributing expert in my field, shown me how data can create solutions for real-world concerns, and started me on a career journey toward a high-level position of leadership.”
In her academic experiences at Rensselaer, both on and off campus, Darbin has seen that using data analytics allows for strong and informed decision-making and better customizable products and services. She notes that data can serve as a catalyst of innovative disruption that can streamline economic interactions, optimize where resources should go, and remove arbitrary decision-makers. Darbin points out that society benefits from data analytics with such efficiencies, and as a result, better resources can become available for organizations to work on social issues.
Darbin’s first information technology internship at KeyBank taught her how important standing out is in order to get leadership opportunities. While developing her technical skills at the start of her internship, she relied on her soft skills and the traits of good discipline, timeliness, and attentiveness. These behaviors gained her respect among her peers and also positioned her as a good mediator on cross-departmental teams where there were a variety of opinions and viewpoints.
“Businesses need diverse, open-minded teams to compete and find the next generation of innovative solutions,” explained Darbin. “Diverse groups—people of different ethnicities, educational levels, genders, income levels—have perspectives that cover a wider range and lead to ideas that are not possible in homogenous groups.”
Darbin’s leadership skills have been developed in a variety of ways, including serving in the Rensselaer Pride Alliance as vice president. For many semesters in this role, she served as a guide to the executive board and enjoyed being able to efficiently manage operations of the organization allowing the executive board to focus on strategy and member engagement.
Darbin says that she believes in encouraging her fellow classmates to never look down on others just because they may have some of the best opportunities in the world at Rensselaer. “It is good to remember that not everyone has the same opportunities, attitudes, or path, so we should be grateful for what we have and supportive of people who look for success in ways different from us,” Darbin said.
These dynamic Lally students and their experiences are a reflection of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The New Polytechnic emphasizes and supports collaboration across disciplines, sectors, and regions to address the great global challenges of our day, using the most advanced tools and technologies, many of which are developed at Rensselaer. Research at Rensselaer addresses some of the world’s most pressing technological challenges—from energy security and sustainable development to biotechnology and human health. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.