Christopher Zdenek ’20 (NEW), ’21 M.S. didn’t plan on attending graduate school. His plans included relocating to Los Angeles after graduating from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and beginning a career in the entertainment industry. However, once COVID-19 shuttered industries around the world, including entertainment, those plans changed.
“Syracuse University offered a great opportunity through the Forever Orange Scholarship program, where I was able to apply to Whitman shortly after graduation. I saw the entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises (EEE) program as a perfect match,” Zdenek explains. “I saw a focused program that let me dip my toes into all the areas of business I was interested in. I had also known of Whitman and the EEE program’s prestigious standing amongst other colleges and programs in the world.”
In fact, Zdenek’s initial interest in the Whitman School came from Kip Konwiser, adjunct professor for Syracuse University’s Los Angeles Semester program who taught Zdenek in Spring 2020. “Professor Konwiser had stressed the importance of learning new and challenging subjects as much as possible,” Zdenek says, and explains that he recognized that business was the area for him.
“I never took a Whitman class as an undergrad,” Zdenek admits. “Which is why I was excited to enter the major, knowing there was so much I could learn. That being said, it was an intimidating first few days of classes being around students who had majored in business during their undergrad programs.”
Despite the initial adjustment, Zdenek excelled during his time at Whitman by demonstrating a strong work ethic and an enthusiasm for learning new things. He says, “From finance to management to social entrepreneurship, I have learned a great amount from every class I have taken.” He explains that his success would not have been possible without support from professors and the Whitman community. “There is no way I would have been successful without the patience, support, and guidance from my incredible professors. I have had great experiences with every one of my professors, which I don’t believe is all that common,” Zdenek says. “It could have been very easy to leave a student behind who didn’t have a fundamental business framework, but that was not the case. All of my professors were genuinely interested in the success of their students.”
Leaving Whitman, Zdenek now has a well-rounded skillset that will prepare him for entering the workforce. “I can now watch ‘The Big Short’ and understand what the characters are talking about,” he quips. “Seriously though, I can create a 40-page business plan by myself after taking this program, something unimaginable a short 12 months ago.” Since graduating, Zdenek has followed his dream of moving to Los Angeles to work in entertainment. “I am excited to build upon my Whitman entrepreneurship experience and be open and flexible about what lies ahead,” he explains. “My prior reliance on planning out every detail of my life had initially led to a great deal of stress when COVID-19 had hit, but I learned to pivot and feel comfortable going into the unknown. After this program, I feel confident, adaptable and savvy.”
Learn more about the M.S. in entrepreneurship and emerging enterprises program.