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What is the Portrait Project?

It might be obvious to state it but we all have very different ideas about how we are going to make our mark on the world. Last year Tony Deifell (MBA’02) came up with the idea of celebrating the different goals and perspectives of HBS students in a series of black and white portraits, accompanied by some unique personal statements.

The idea is for EC students to write a short piece answering the question: What is it you want to do with your one wild and precious life? The question comes from the last line of a poem called “Summer Day” by Pulitzer-prize winning writer, Mary Oliver. Members of last year’s class all answered that question differently, with some amazing stories.

This year, the Careers Office of HBS has offered to fund the project for the class of 2003. While it would be great to allow everyone to participate time and budget limitations have made it necessary to limit participation to 33 people, 3 people from each section. People were asked to nominate people from their section who they felt could contribute meaningfully to the project.

The statements are currently being finalized and the portraits will be added to the graduation CD that is received by all students. During graduation week the portraits will be on display in Spangler so drop by and see what your classmates decided to write about their lives. There are sure to be some interesting stories.

Currently, the portraits and statements from last year are displayed on the corridor in the Baker library foyer and can be viewed at //www.alumni.hbs.edu/2002portrait/

Here are some samples from last year:

John Brown (MBA’02)
I want to fail well. When I get knocked down I want to get right back up and try again harder. I want to seek out moments in life where the outcome is uncertain, the stakes are high, and my actions determine if the enterprise meets success or failure. Taking risks, of course, means dealing with failure. I’ve been rejected by some of the finest educational institutions and most prestigious companies in the world. I’ve lost public competitions like student elections in front of my friends and peers and been beaten on the football field in front of tens of thousands of people.

Lord knows I’ve screwed up plenty and I’ll do so again many times, but failing well means not giving up in the face of adversity. I want to live my life by the old skiers’ adage: if you don’t fall down, then you’re not trying hard enough. If I can fail well, then I will be a success.

Marijana Kolak (MBA’02)
Looking back, I feel the paths worth taking were those I followed with my heart: my trip to the US eleven years ago; the long journey later from a 300-people village in the Idaho wilderness to a small Midwestern town and to the nation’s capital; and the decision to come to HBS without knowing any MBAs, where I ended up loving every minute of the experience.

I want to make sure my children grow up to be beautiful human beings.

As a business leader and public servant, I want to help rebuild Yugoslavia so my children are the first in many generations not to have their lifetime marked by war.

Beyond that, I hope to remain humble about my place in this great wide world and mindful of my blessings and the responsibilities those blessings bring. Above all, I hope to always follow my heart, even when choices are not obvious. Even when they’re hard and I’m scared of making them.

Alok Sanghvi (MBA’02)
“Drive a red Porsche” is probably what I would have responded 15 years ago. Back then I fully expected to be a lawyer, married, and able to dunk a basketball by now. Well, things have changed since my days of ripped jeans.

Today, I’m more concerned with the road I take than the car I’m in.

I want to plot my course with someone I love. I am not sure that I’ve found her yet, but I think I’m getting close. I want to ask my parents for directions. The best map of my life is the one they continue to draw for me in dinner conversations. It’s written half in English and half in Gujarati. I want to stop for those who need help. I’ll take heed of my sister’s dedication to our society’s vulnerable. I want to have the courage to take new routes. Someday soon, I’d like to be part of a company small enough that I know everyone’s name. I want to be a driver and a passenger. I want my friends and family to join me on my ride and let me join them in theirs.

I suppose I want a lot. In some ways, I haven’t changed much at all; in that way, I hope I never do.

April 28, 2003
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