Ella Wahlestedt ‘21 had appeared in a number of films, commercials, theatrical productions, and national ad campaigns before attending Babson College. With her “foot in the door,” Wahlestedt hoped that gaining entrepreneurial skills would help equip her for the business side of the film industry.
At Babson, she was invited to join the Babson Honors Program, where she has thrived and which has helped fuel her dream of becoming a film producer.
“I thought this was just a really unique experience,” Wahlestedt said of the honors program. “What other program allows you to do a deep dive on a topic for a year and get credit for it? I jumped at that opportunity.”
For her honors program senior research project, grounded in both business and the liberal arts, Wahlestedt examines how streaming services are affecting independent film and filmmakers. She applies a historical lens to comparing streaming services to the classic-era studio system of the 1930s and 1940s.
“It’s definitely been one of the most academically rigorous and intellectually challenging experiences to date,” Wahlestedt said. “I certainly think I’ve become a better writer throughout this process, and improved my critical-thinking abilities and research skills. Writing such a long piece of work really forced me to think about the ideas, with sub ideas, and to categorize and organize everything accordingly. I don’t think I would have ever delved this deeply into a topic if it weren’t for the honors program.”
The Babson Honors Program is a rigorous three-year journey on which students bond as a cohort, hold meaningful networking events, study abroad, and perform in-depth research on interesting topics under the supervision of faculty advisors whom they select. The honors program also has helped students refine their writing skills and has proven to be a critical spark in their professional journey.
“The Babson Honors Program turns students into superb writers, because they learn how to write a thesis from beginning to end, starting from a question, and identifying a niche that the question fits into,” said Ganesan Shankar, faculty director of the Babson Honors Program, and professor of information technology management. “They go through a methodology for understanding how to answer the question, and come up with some very interesting conclusions.”
With that experience, many graduates of the honors program go on to successful careers that focus on or rely on their superb writing skills.
One prime example is Abagail Fabiaschi Wittnebert ’02, who wrote a novella for her senior research project. Now, she is a professional author whose books include Winter, and I Liked My Life. Fabiaschi also is a co-founder of Empower Her Network, a nonprofit organization that provides a path to independence to survivors of human trafficking.
Another graduate of the Babson Honors Program is Daniel Thomsen ‘02, who is a producer and a writer on TV shows such as “Batwoman,” “The Passage,” “Time After Time,” and “Westworld” to name a few.
“The program has helped to attract some of our top students at Babson, which in no small part has contributed to Babson College being recognized as one of the top undergraduate programs in the country.”
Former Babson Honors Program Director Robert Turner
Closer to home, extraordinary alumni who followed a career path grounded in their experience with the honors program include Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Eliana Crosina, Accounting and Law Associate Professor Ben Luippold, and Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Alisa Jno-Charles. All three came through the Babson Honors Program and pursued careers that have a strong research and writing component.
The Babson Honors Program began as a way for faculty to advise students on their research in the 1980s. In 1992, Associate Professor of Accounting Robert Turner formalized the program that exists today.
Students must have a 3.4 GPA and be invited by the governing board, called the Honors Council, which guides and oversees the program. Both Crosina and Luippold currently sit on the council, going full circle. This year, the program is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its first graduating class.
“The 25th anniversary speaks to the success of the program and the outstanding alums that have taken their education to near and distant places, impacting their careers and the world around them,” Turner said. “And, the program has become more competitive in recent years as students see the benefit of this experience and how it relates to their growth as individuals.”
In addition to a crowdfunding campaign, the program has held 16 online gatherings led by Turner, Professor of Film Julie Levinson, and Senior Lecturer of Accounting & Law Virginia Soybel—all former directors of the program—that were a much-needed bright spot in an otherwise challenging year. And, it is planning to hold a fall and spring celebration in Boston and New York, respectively.
“The program has helped to attract some of our top students at Babson, which in no small part has contributed to Babson College being recognized as one of the top undergraduate programs in the country,” Turner said.
The results of the program are undeniable. Wahlestedt is the latest example of Babson students accelerating their careers thanks to the Babson Honors Program.
While researching her project, Wahlestedt completed an internship at a full-service film and production company in Santa Monica, California. She thrived in that position, which turned into a promotion, which, in turn, led to a full-time offer. Next, Wahlestedt will be able to carve out a specialized role at the company to help build out its distribution division.
“I don’t think this would have come to fruition,” Wahlestedt said, “if it weren’t for the honors program.”
Readers can watch videos by all the Class of 2021 Babson College Honors Program participants on the 2021 Honors Project Presentations website. Congratulations to all these graduates on their impressive work!
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