By Omar Sofradzija
In offering a fare-thee-well to her fellow Eli Broad College of Business graduates as the 2018 undergraduate commencement student speaker, Kaylee Zajac will also proffer a reminder of how each path is the same in direction, yet distinctive in detail.
“My story is unique on its own, and it’s my story. It’s how I did this. But it’s also very similar to how everybody else approached” the path through MSU, said Zajac, 21, a supply chain management and economics double major and Honors College student. “So, I’d like for family and faculty to understand the decisions and the challenges that we face as students, the uncertainties that we try to combat, and the ups and downs that we go through that led us to today. We have a lot more in common than we all think.”
“I think it’s important to share that message, that you’ve given everything you have to get to where you are today, and you should be really proud of that moment because you’ve really set yourself up for success. Even if you feel like your path hasn’t been perfect, it still represents you, your story, and your accomplishments.”
MSU was not the first school choice for Zajac, who hails from Rochester, Michigan. But once here, she began to discover what she didn’t know she didn’t know.
“If you asked me before freshman year if I thought MSU would change me the way it did, I’d say, ‘Heck no’ … it’s kind of scary to think how large this campus is, but there is so much beauty and diversity in it, the world is much smaller than it appears. I’m so proud of all of the connections I’ve been able to make,” Zajac said. “MSU just kind of fosters and establishes this environment, to grow into the person you’re going to become and meet all the people you’re supposed to cross paths with, and I’m really fortunate for that.”
“The business school in general, the opportunities I’ve got – whether it’s been recruiting season or mentors I’ve gotten through SCMA (the MSU Supply Chain Management Association), or the different clubs I’ve been able to be a part of, organizations where I’ve had leadership roles, or trips and conferences that I have attended; those have really opened up my eyes (to) the scope of what I can do upon graduating,” she said. “And it’s those kinds of opportunities that shaped me into the young professional that I am today and … that have given me the skills that I need to be successful moving forward.”
Zajac has been incredibly busy on and off campus, working internships at Warwick Capital Partners in London, Meijer in Grand Rapids, and 3M in Minneapolis–St. Paul, the latter of which she is soon returning to for her first post-graduate job as a supply chain rotational analyst.
“Having internships has been such an eye-opening experience, and pretty life-changing in terms of knowing what I want to do, and my involvement on campus has really helped me establish and strengthen my identity and the roles that I’ve had during my four years, and that’s been really special to me,” she said.
Around campus, she has been a part of SCMA, the Spectrum Consulting Group, the Spartan Sierra Club, and MSU RISE (the Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment). As a member and mentor of RISE and an Environmental Studies and Sustainability minor, she has tried to find ways to bridge the gap between economics and the environment. It has been important for her to incorporate sustainability into her business approaches.
“It was always a really difficult balance to try to figure out, how do you appeal to the business world and be successful there while also protecting the environment,” she said. “I just had to stay true to myself.”
It’s just a part of the larger balancing act: that of living life while always learning.
“You work every day towards what you imagine your future will be. That’s just a good reminder that everybody needs before they leave MSU,” Zajac said. “It’s okay not to have it all figured out yet. There are people who have much more experience, and they are still trying to find and reinvent themselves. In the end, it’s about focusing on the important things that make you happy.”