The Columns

My W&L: Shelbi Hendricks ’16

— by on September 5th, 2016

Shelbi Hendricks '16

“For me, W&L is limitless. This is a community that supports, and even encourages, its members to identify and pursue multiple passions.”

Despite the academic rigor of being a Washington and Lee student, defining W&L in one word might be one of the most challenging undertakings of my four years here. In the fall of 2015, I was asked to do just that and I’m confident that I came up with the perfect word. For me, W&L is limitless. This is a community that supports, and even encourages, its members to identify and pursue multiple passions, and I have been no exception.

Coming into W&L, I knew I loved two things: psychology and basketball. What I didn’t know was that I had yet to find the unexpected passions that would become integral in shaping both me as a person and my future endeavors. As a first-year, I believed wholeheartedly that I would be pursuing psychology after graduation. Therefore, I jumped at the opportunity to complement my psychology and business administration majors by conducting research with social psychologist Dr. Julie Woodzicka. That research experience has lasted through my entire four years at W&L and introduced me to concepts and skills I never even knew I lacked.

As much as I enjoyed psychology, I decided to step out of my comfort zone my first and second spring terms by travelling abroad to Denmark with a business class. Our first spring, we studied corporate social responsibility, and our second spring we completed a consulting project with real-life clients, facing real-world challenges. With these trips and my exposure to Professor Straughan and Professor Oliver in the business and accounting departments, my passion for business and problem-solving emerged. Without those trips, which were outside of what I thought I was going to do, I never would have found consulting. Not only has this passion turned into a leadership position with an incredible Williams School Organization (Washington and Lee Student Consulting) but it has also redirected my career path from my initial plan of psychology graduate school to joining McKinsey & Company as a consultant right out of undergrad. If that ability to pursue a topic, a major, and eventually a career I wasn’t even aware of as a first-year didn’t exist, my experience at W&L and my plans for the future would be radically different.

The opportunity to find and cultivate multiple passions has not only changed my future plans, but also changed my experience at W&L. My junior year, I decided to add another activity to my repertoire — I joined the women’s soccer team. Although I had a sore lack of experience playing soccer, the team needed a back-up goalkeeper, and I knew how to catch, thus beginning my journey as a college soccer player. Not once when I was making this decision did anyone at W&L tell me I couldn’t do it. It was challenging to balance both sports, especially because the seasons overlapped, but at the end of the day, playing soccer became the single most formative experience I had at W&L. I walked into a team that I had no familiarity with, to play a sport I had no experience with, and with a lot of help from my teammates and coaches, I became a goalkeeper. Because I had the opportunity to be a two-sport athlete and really see all of the benefits (as well as challenges) that come with being a student-athlete, I will leave W&L as a stronger, more hardworking and more determined young woman who has developed a certain comfort with diving headfirst into something new — a skill that will be beyond important for my future career. If anything teaches you about taking a chance on something new, it’s picking up a new sport your junior year of college — something that was possible only because W&L and the support that it provides is truly limitless.

Although a short characterization of the impact W&L has had on me over four years, it is truly representative. My W&L is a place where the basketball playing psychology major can become the basketball and soccer playing psychology and business major who also travels abroad and holds leadership positions on campus. W&L is a place that has pushed me to be more than I thought I could be, a place that has defined me and my interests, and most importantly, W&L is a place where limits simply do not exist.