It all started with a Post-it note. On this Post-it note, Julia Dean’s high school friend had written the names of colleges she had applied to. It was buried under a pile of dirty clothes, but when she dug it out and gave it to Dean, Babson College was on it.
Until that point, Dean—a first-generation Romanian-American immigrant whose parents came from nonbusiness backgrounds—didn’t know Babson existed. But, she liked that half of Babson’s curriculum was liberal arts, so she applied. However, even after being chosen for a four-year, full-tuition Weissman Scholarship, she wasn’t sure Babson was the right place for her.
“I was daunted by the idea of studying business, which I knew so little about, but my mom convinced me it was the right choice,” says Dean. “She reminded me that the Weissman Selection Committee chose me for a reason, and that, even if I didn’t see what they saw, I should trust them.”
Identifying Problems, Creating Solutions
It didn’t take long for Dean to begin realizing the potential the committee had seen in her. She recognized that the Babson ecosystem was filled with opportunities, and she wasted no time in taking advantage. Whether it was meeting with her professors during their office hours, or being closely mentored by Donna Sosnowski, the director of the Hoffman Family Undergraduate Center for Career Development, or Ian Lapp, the dean of the Undergraduate School, Dean jumped at any and all opportunities offered to her.
“Julia’s journey from college to career started from her first day at Babson,” said Sosnowski. “She took full advantage of the wide array of all opportunities, from experiential learning to studying abroad to getting involved with programs and activities that interested her.”
For Dean, getting involved also included a chance to address gaps in Babson’s living and learning experience by creating her own organization.
“What I love about Babson is that, if you can address a need with a new organization, you’re empowered to do so,” says Dean. “If you see a problem, they’ll give you the resources and support to solve it, to create positive change in the community.”
In Dean’s case, she discovered an unmet need in her first semester. She had posted on the Class of 2019 Facebook page in the hopes of finding a photographer for an art project. She found 12, and, in her follow-up conversations with these students, a theme emerged: they wanted to be connected to fellow artists at Babson, to give and receive feedback so they could grow creatively.
What resulted was CREATE, a student-run organization co-founded by Dean that, paired with special-interest housing (theStudio), offers a dedicated creative community, resources, and space to artistic students who are pursuing paths outside of a traditional business career.
At Babson, you’ll often hear that entrepreneurship is more than starting a business—it’s a way of creatively turning challenges into opportunities. By thinking and acting like an entrepreneur, you’re willing to experiment, learn from mistakes, and grow through hands-on experience. Beyond providing an alternative for Babson’s more artistic students, Dean understood that groups like CREATE are vital in developing an entrepreneurial mindset.
“The act of being an entrepreneur means that you need to synthesize information, identify a need, and creatively solve that need,” she says. “Creativity is a muscle—if you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s crucial that Babson has an avenue for students to exercise their creativity, so that when the time comes to solve a problem for a need they’ve identified, they have the creative stamina to create the best solution possible.”
In fact, the act of founding and leading CREATE would prepare Dean for her position after graduation: human capital analyst at Deloitte. Human capital analysis focuses on the times in organizations when strategy impacts people—for example, when two company cultures clash in a merger or acquisition. Dean had a vision for CREATE and its place on campus, but she also was responsible for translating that vision into tangible actions that the organization could implement, and the gap between the two was a valuable learning experience.
CREATE was just a part of Dean’s Babson experience—she also traveled abroad to South Korea, Austria, Spain, and France, and is a member of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity—but now, looking back on her time at Babson, CREATE has provided her with some of her most rewarding moments. Whether it was the first-year student who chose Babson after she came to theStudio and met Dean, or another who now is in a leadership role at CREATE after she visited theStudio and painted during an overnight for prospective students, Dean is reminded of what she is leaving behind as she approaches graduation.
“I love when current first-year students ask me if I’ve heard of CREATE. To them, it’s just a part of Babson that’s been around forever. That’s what makes me the happiest—that my organization can outlive me when I leave, and that new student leaders will carry its vision forward.”
Posted in Entrepreneurs of All Kinds