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My W&L: Maggie Ackell ’16

“I’ve learned a diverse set of capabilities that has aided my transformation from a curious girl with a knack for business into a cognizant, concerned businesswoman aware of the challenges of this complex world.”

When people ask me what my field of study is at Washington and Lee, they are often shocked at my response. As a Business Administration major and a Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor, many think my two main areas of study are contradictory. Business, with its efficiency and speed, does not have time for the theoretical discussions of poverty ethics, right? Poverty is something the government should be worried about, not business, right? Taking a cue from the economist Milton Friedman, the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits, and nothing more, right? Wrong. The Shepherd Program has enriched my business degree in ways that the Williams School alone could not have. Having grounded myself in the Shepherd Program’s classes, fieldwork, internship and extracurricular activities, I’ve learned a diverse set of capabilities that has aided my transformation from a curious girl with a knack for business into a cognizant, concerned businesswoman aware of the challenges of this complex world.

My first connection to the Shepherd Program was through the Volunteer Venture pre-orientation trip. I went to Greensboro and had a powerful volunteer experience at Greensboro Urban Ministry. Although I wanted to study something in the Williams School, I immediately felt compelled to take Poverty 101. During that first Fall Term, I received an email from Dean Straughan and Professor Oliver regarding BUS180, a first-year specific Spring Term Abroad course studying Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Having had no prior experience with the concept, CSR appeared to be the solution to the dichotomy of my interest in social justice and business. I was lucky enough to go to Copenhagen twice in my Washington and Lee career, once in my first year in the BUS180 class, and again in my sophomore year working as a consultant for BUS391, a consulting practicum centered around CSR and sustainability issues.

As a Shepherd student, I bring a unique perspective to courses like these that contrasts with that of “traditional” accounting and finance students. Often, we find ourselves so tightly concentrated on our pragmatic skills or on a specific project that we forget to see the bigger picture. Similarly, it is so easy to talk about what is practical, rather than what is ethical. However, the Shepherd Program has trained me to ask the hard questions that morality requires of us. In Rockbridge County, I have been face-to-face with an elderly disabled veteran, living in an assisted-living facility with scarce amenities and comforts. In Vietnam, I have been face-to-face with a young mother, smiling because her fruit cart has begun to turn profit for her family. In Greensboro, I have been face-to-face with a homeless man, thanking me for serving him lunch. These faces compel me to ask what is ethical, what is right, what is just. They compel me to bring humanity back into conversations of business or theory. They compel me to reject the “contradictory” nature of a Business Administration major and a Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor, because by trying to understand their plight just a little bit better, I am asking them to sit at the table and engage in the conversation with me. As I pursue a consulting career after graduation, I very much intend to keep Henry, Minh and Marcus in the conversations I have, knowing that a recommendation I make may very well have an impact on them or someone like them.

Hometown: Appleton, WI

Major: Business Administration

Minor: Poverty & Human Capability Studies

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • ODK
  • Campus Kitchen Leadership Team
  • Washington and Lee Student Consulting
  • Mock Convention 2016
  • Volunteer Venture
  • Student Recruitment Committee
  • Running Club

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • CSR Consulting Practicum in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Shepherd International Internship doing Microfinance Consulting in Can Tho, Vietnam
  • Summer Associate at Palladium Strategy Execution Consulting in New York, NY

Post-Graduation Plans: Pursuing a career in consulting.

Favorite Class: This is the hardest question I will EVER answer! I have to go with Poverty 101 with Howard Pickett. It was the first class I ever attended at W&L, and therefore it was my first introduction to college classes. I have never been so challenged in my life! Ultimately, it taught me to be a better participant — to think (and REALLY think) before I speak, to say what I truly mean, to ask questions candidly, to write with conviction — which helped me not only in my further terms as a student, but also how to be a good citizen at W&L.

What professor has inspired you? You guys ask the tough questions. Although I only took one course with him, Professor Dickovick will forever influence me. His International Development course was hugely significant for me. I learned so much in such a short period of time, but it never felt overwhelming due to Dickovick’s poise as a professor. Every conversation I had with him, whether it was in class, at Macado’s or LexCo, in his office, walking down the street, I felt like I walked away having learned something. His kindness also inspires me. Whether you took a course with him or not, he always has a smile on his face and words of support for you. All of my friends know him and adore him, and we all have very different areas of study. I think that’s a testament to the great person that he is.

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Favorite Lexington Landmark: TAPS. Although it is new, it is the best! Trust me, the pimento cheese burger will blow your mind.

Why did you choose W&L: Fun fact… All three of my older siblings went here (graduation dates ’08, ’10, ’13). I wanted to rebel and go against the family grain, but somehow W&L pulled me in. I visited the school during Spring Term when I was still on the waitlist for my first choice school, and I had a change of heart. I suppose the Ackell legacy was meant to be!

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Don’t worry about a minor, double major, or triple major-seriously. Take classes that you find interesting, whether you think it applies to your major or not. Many of my most memorable (and fun) classes have been in art history, religion, and anthropology, which are all very different from my Business major.

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