I am incredibly grateful to have spent this past week at Harvard Business School's Summer Venture in Management Program (SVMP) aimed at introducing rising seniors to Harvard's MBA and, in all, exposing us to the impact of strong leadership in the world around us.

I was among four students selected from Vanderbilt University and also among three Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars with the shared conviction to challenge ourselves and work towards a better future. Representing so many different social and cultural backgrounds, we are all determined to change the face of leadership to one more rich, dynamic, and representative of the world we live in.

Coming to the program with an Engineering background I was ecstatic to flex my problem-solving skills in a different way through the program's rigorous case method style of learning. My appetite to learn was only heightened when the program directors stressed that we must manage our time well in order to finish reading the 2-3 cases assigned each night to prepare for each day of class (14 cases total!).

maryam muhammad participating in svmp program

The case method approach to learning proved to be incredibly enriching and engaging. During class time, laptops and cell phones are prohibited. When a student is selected to speak, all other hands must go down to give the student an emphasized platform on which to thoughtfully express themselves. The questions asked are concise and specific and redundancy of responses is strongly discouraged. Through this method I was therefore encouraged to listen intensely to my peers and also to add value with my responses. This way the analyses progressed intelligently and critically which kept me engaged and inspired to think through different perspectives. We covered a variety of cases in marketing for brands like Starbucks, Snapple, and Microsoft's Bing - and operations management for Benihana Sushi and OXXO. This exposed me to various fields where business skills can have a profound impact.

participants at a  summer venture in management program class

After our classes we were privileged enough to hear from HBS alumni about their experiences and careers. The work of Efosa Ojomo, author of The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty, and Kwame Owusu-Kesse, COO of Harlem Children's Zone, was particularly inspiring for their lasting impact on vulnerable communities in the United States and abroad.

Typing this now I wish I was back with the people I only spent a week with, but who now feel like family. Everyone was unique in their own way, incredibly hard-working, and passionate about discovering their purpose and leaving a lasting mark on the world. Despite my wishes, I know everyone left SVMP feeling confident, empowered, and prepared to transform their respective disciplines and environment through dynamic and ambitious leadership.

maryam muhammad evidence of completion of SVMP program

As for me, I am excited to return to UnitedHealth Group's Optum for the remaining summer as a Business Systems Analyst. I am also looking forward to volunteering in the Nashville community. I cannot express enough gratitude to Harvard Business School, Anita Elberse, the SVMP staff, HBS professors, and SVMP participants for a truly unforgettable experience.