Broader Horizons

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Each semester our Fellows go through a design-thinking Capstone Challenge where they create and present a solution to a major question—this semester’s was “How might we decrease the debt load for first-generation students?” The winning cohort receives the opportunity to visit a local employer, and this spring’s Rutgers University – Newark cohort was recently able to tour Prudential and learn from a group of its employees. 

By Deep Patel, Rutgers University – Newark Braven FellowCapstone Hackathon

At the beginning of this year, I decided to focus on my professional development. Willing to explore areas of my life that I had yet to set foot in, I planned to take on any opportunity that I came across. My understanding was that in order to grow, you had to step into the unknown. One night, I saw an email inviting me to become a Braven Fellow and I figured, “Why not?” I did not know it at the time, but it was exactly what I was hoping for.

Looking back, it now feels like a blur. Only a week ago, my cohort and I were standing at the foot of the Prudential building staring at its planted live wall. We had just recorded our presentation for the Chancellor of Rutgers-Newark, Nancy Cantor, and the College Affordability Study Commission and were off to meet professionals in Capstone Presentationone of the most highly respected and established companies in the world. We were here, because we had created the winning solution to the student debt crisis at Braven’s Hackathon and Capstone, all within an astonishing 8-hour limit. The only thing I could think about was the efforts it took us to get this far. Fortunately, I had a group of talented and exceptional peers who all played their parts in making the task at hand a bit less strenuous.

As we entered the tower, we were encased by its Spanish rock walls and acoustic wooden ceiling. A calm and soothing atmosphere seemed to dampen the footsteps of some of its 3,000 employees strolling in on an early Friday morning. The East and West walls of the building’s atrium were glassed, complementing its internal structure with the breadth of Newark’s financial district and the rays of sunlight combining aspects of both the artificial and the natural.

We met with some of Prudential’s esteemed employees, all of whom had a positive attitude and an enlivening spirit. From one employee who told us about the campus’s eco-friendly architecture to an actuary and an engineer—both of whom were enthusiastic and passionate about their careers. One thing that was consistent across everyone we met at Prudential was that they were all down-to-earth. It was relieving being able to talk to established professionals as if we already knew each other. Their approachability and the nature of our interactions left me feeling more comfortable speaking to professionals whether it be in a work environment or a networking event.

Concluding our tour, the main lesson that stuck with me was that each and every person we met reinforced the idea that life finds a way for those who are passionate about what they choose to do. Regardless of your major and past setbacks, keep working towards the goals you are aiming for. You are only defined by what you have done and the efforts you have placed into attaining those goals. The words on a diploma are only a steady rock’s edge when climbing your mountains of success. Life will always present challenges but whatever your goals are, keep climbing toward them. Broader horizons await you at the top.

Cohort visit to Prudential