Duke – Fuqua School of Business Sample Essay on Diversity
Prompt: Tell us about your personal history and family background and how they have influenced your intellectual and personal development. What unique personal qualities or life experiences might distinguish you from other applicants? How will your background, values, and non work-related activities enhance the experience of other FSB students and add to the diverse culture we strive for at Fuqua?
I proudly followed the torchbearer around the soccer stadium in Gothenburg, Sweden. “USA! USA!” I felt a tremendous sense of honor as I marched in my stars-and-stripes uniform and listened to the roar of 36,000 people cheering for us. I was the captain and center forward on a national girls’ 16-and-under soccer team, representing the United States in the Gothia Cup, the largest youth tournament in the world. As my team proudly marched through the enormous stadium during the opening ceremony, I looked up into the stands and saw my parents frantically waving and cheering.
“Light the fire within” is the Olympic torch relay motto. Yet it does more than simply encapsulating the spirit of the games — it perfectly describes how my family shaped who I am today. The torch was first passed to my father by my grandfather, who with daring spirit and foresight led my family to Palestine (now Israel). The extended family that remained in Poland was tragically murdered along with countless other Jews in Auschwitz. My grandfather later made my father’s impossible dream of becoming a doctor possible through great sacrifices, financial and otherwise. As there were no medical schools in Israel at that time, my father learned German and enrolled in the University of Zurich in Switzerland. After graduating, he immigrated to the United States.
My mother lit her own fire within. She is one of five siblings born in Indiana to an Irish-Catholic truck driver and a second-generation Lithuanian mother. She was determined to build a different life for herself, so she struggled and paid her own way through Indiana University. She was the only member of her family to go to college, and upon graduation, she moved to Chicago to become a teacher.
After my younger sister was born, my mother and father moved from Chicago to Lake Forest, Illinois. My parents believed that the suburban setting, the excellent school system, and the close-knit community would help provide the idyllic childhood they always hoped to offer their family. At first my family faced certain challenges because of our background. For example, we were one of only two Jewish families in a town filled with Catholics and Protestants who had lived there for many generations. But because of the foundation of values my parents had instilled in me, I learned to overcome such obstacles with equanimity. Even today, although my world and the problems I face have changed a great deal, I still utilize the basic principles they taught and attribute my confidence and sense of balance to their support.
My parents put a strong emphasis on education, hard work, and ethics. My mother taught me to read when I was two and a half years old, and I was the only child in nursery school who could already write and perform basic arithmetic functions. After I started middle school, she embarked on an extremely successful career in real estate, yet if my sister and I wanted to have spending money, we were required to have jobs. I babysat, worked in local shops, and waited tables throughout high school and college. Many children have it much worse than I did, and I certainly would not complain about the jobs I held. In fact, I am fortunate to have begun learning responsibility from a young age. As a professional now, I still feel a deep sense of respect for hard work whenever I see it, regardless of its nature. Moreover, this understanding puts me in a better position to cooperate with all levels of personnel in a company, or more generally with people from all different backgrounds.
My parents succeeded in their wish to give us a great childhood. I grew up with a loving and supportive family, was involved in a myriad of activities, and enjoyed many accomplishments at our local high school. One of my proudest days — and my parents’ — was the day I found out I was accepted to Penn. I came home to find a blue and red “P” banner taped onto the front of our house. It was a victory for all of us. They had succeeded in passing the torch on to me, just as they had to my brother and my sister. Given all the determination and courage that preceded me and made my opportunities possible, I try to approach every moment and aspect of my life with the same kind passion and dedication. Now I plan to carry my family’s flame of perseverance into the next stage of my life — business school.
Building on the childhood that my parents created for me, I have had, of course, to take responsibility for my own life. What I have to offer the Fuqua community comes from the wide range of experiences to which I have dedicated myself. For example, my work experiences have spanned industries and employed a broad range of skills: my television, technology, sales, product management, and Silicon Valley boom and bust experiences have shaped the professional I am today. But the details of my work cannot account completely for what I have to offer as an individual. I am from a multicultural family and therefore have had the opportunity to travel extensively in Europe and the Middle East. Since I stayed with relatives, I was able to experience local cultures more directly than a typical tourist might. I’ve lived in the Northeast, in the Midwest, and on the West Coast. I am married to an extremely talented architect and have gained significant exposure to his particular industry. I have had experience as a Division I athlete and have brought the principles of teamwork to my business career.
I have many other varied interests, ranging from the intellectual (language study, chess) to the athletic (completing a triathlon, skiing) to the artistic (creative writing, photography) to the spiritual (yoga, religious study) to the altruistic (community service, tutoring). Never one to get trapped into routine, I have always thrived on new experiences, and they do not easily pinpoint me as one or another type of person. On the other hand, I am also not the sum of a random set of pieces. I always integrate my diverse interests so that my skills and activities complement each other. I have sought experience actively in all areas of life, and I plan to share both past and present with my classmates. More broadly, I look forward to passing the torch on to future generations, and before that, sharing its flame with all I come in contact with.