At this year’s Celebration of Excellence, 25 students representing all 10 majors within the College of Business and the School of Design and Human Environment (SDHE) were invited to attend the annual awards banquet. Staying true to the spirit of the college’s passion for and strong belief in experiential learning, five of these students got the opportunity to do much more than simply spectate.
Seniors Obum Gwacham (Marketing) and Alexander Mason (Finance), along with MBA student Frances Chen each served as awards presenters throughout the evening, while junior SDHE student Margo Botti accepted a Weatherford Award on behalf of her Grammy Award-winning uncle, Chris Botti, who was unable to attend; and senior Josh Gilardi (Marketing) was selected by Dean Ilene Kleinsorge to present a speech offering a current student’s perspective about the College of Business.
Despite the students’ different roles in the ceremony, each of them had to speak on stage to more than 400 attendees made up of distinguished alumni and business partners, as well as their peers and professors.
“I had never done anything like that before,” said Gwacham. “It was certainly the largest audience I’ve ever had to speak in front of, but I enjoyed every moment of it. Seeing how excited the other student presenters were before the event helped calm my nerves, and I was able to feed off their energy,” he said.
“When I was asked to be a presenter earlier in the year before the original event was postponed, I was told that the event had around 300 RSVPs,” said Gilardi. “I was terrified because it’s not just peers I’d be talking to but alumni, business professionals and important others. Talk about an intimidating first impression! After the event was canceled in February, I was relieved but disappointed that I would miss out on the opportunity. I was emailed in April saying the event was rescheduled for May and now they had 400-plus RSVPs, so you can imagine what I was feeling. I was nervous starting the day of the event up until I stepped on stage to speak. Once I started giving my speech though, I felt a lot more comfortable,” he added.
Chen and Botti also learned a lot from the experience after shaking off some early jitters.
“Speaking at the Celebration of Excellence forced me to step out of my comfort zone,” said Chen. “Not only did I have to remember to speak with confidence and personality, but it was also a learning experience for me in that I learned how to behave properly at such an elegant, formal event,” she said.
“I thought I was inadequate to speak on behalf of my uncle and the College of Business at such an important event, but I quickly got comfortable, and it felt like second nature to me,” said Botti. “The experience confirmed how much I love speaking in front of large audiences,” she added.
Not only did the students hone their public speaking and presentation skills, but they also discovered the power of networking.
“I always knew that Oregon State had a great alumni network, but I truly felt it that evening,” said Gwacham. “I was approached by a number of alums that wanted to help me out with just about anything or answer questions I might have about what could be next for me after graduating,” he added.
Gilardi was also impressed with the alumni he encountered at the event.
“This event was proof that hard work pays off,” said Gilardi. “The award-winning alumni worked hard and were recognized for their efforts and accomplishments in different ways. I worked hard and was selected to speak because of it,” he said.
Overall, the students all said that they had a great time at the event.
“The number of attendees was simply amazing,” said Gwacham. “Some even came in from other states! It’s an event I look forward to being a part of after I finish with my undergrad at Oregon State,” he said.
“It was just a really fun experience for me as I got to see some old friends who are alumni at the event,” said Chen. “They mentored me in different stages of my life, and it was so good to show them my growth and how I’ve changed and make them proud of me,” she said.
One of the keys to a great experience is putting your education into action, and it was exciting getting to see these students thrive on the stage, handing out awards to distinguished alumni and business partners. Perhaps in the future, these students will be back at the Celebration of Excellence receiving awards of their own.
View some photos of the student presenters from the event in the image gallery below: