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Student: giving back key element of Fisher experience

Published: 2013-12-20

Shai Rasmussen

Why invest in a Fisher student?

Shai Rasmussen, MBA student
Autumn Scholarship Reception and Dinner

"When I was growing up, we moved around a lot. My mom used to say 20 houses in 21 years of marriage. I think the number now is up to 25 houses in 34 years of marriage. My dad works in an incredibly volatile and dynamic industry called health care administration. But for every house, mom would go to the county extension center and learn the local crops, the growing season, and the schedule.

And then we would work.

Almost every Saturday was spent planting, weeding, mulching, or doing something for the house. I, of course, whined terribly because I couldn’t understand why we were going to the trouble of planting flowers when we knew Dad would be transferred again.

Mom said:

‘We are not just planting flowers for us — we are planting flowers for the next family, too. A great tenant always plants flowers and leaves every home better than you found it.'

I started practicing karate around 14 years old at the local YMCA. We had just moved to a new city, and I suppose I thought karate would either help me make friends or defend myself if I didn’t. Since I didn’t know how long we would be there, I decided I wanted to get my black belt by high school graduation—basically in four years.

I figured becoming a karate master was learning the moves, mastering the techniques, and working really hard. And that was true for the most part, until I reached purple belt. Purple belt is the tipping point between being an advanced student and everything else, and it is SO different. This belt was not based on technical mastery at all and was entirely based on service to the dojo — scrubbing the floor, cleaning the equipment, teaching classes, and endlessly tying the white belts.

When I asked my sensei how I would know when I had completed the requirements, he said:

'You will achieve mastery when service is no longer an obligation, but an opportunity.'

Rwanda is a country that has been decimated by years of tumultuous instability which ultimately led to one of our world’s greatest atrocities. But out of this terrible tragedy came a revolutionary—even transformational—idea called umuganda.

Umuganda is a national day of service that takes place once a month in each city, village, and neighborhood. Once a month, every citizen—including children—spends one day in the service of their neighborhood and country.

I was there for a few days of umuganda where I was trying to weed a field with what equated to a 3-foot long butter knife called a panga. I was so terrible at this that the villagers told me that my service instead would be making them laugh while they worked.

Rwanda realized that the key to a stable community was working side by side to make the community better. This tiny little country, with so much history, redefined its future through umuganda.

All of these lessons taught me the meaning of life and the way to make life meaningful. I believe these stories can be summarized by a Greek proverb:

'A society grows great when leaders plant trees under whose shade they never expect to sit.'

Donors are incredible examples of this concept in action. You are planting the flowers, scrubbing the floors, and offering umuganda. You are planting the trees for the future of Fisher by creating an arboretum of leaders who will enter the world and follow in your footsteps.

 Why invest in a Fisher student?

As a Fisher student, I commit to rise to your investment in me.

As a Fisher student, I commit to follow my mother’s example and leave everything better than I found it.

I commit to learn from the philosophy of mastery, even if that means scrubbing the floors of Gerlach Hall.

I commit to lifelong umuganda with my colleagues for our community.

Finally, as I grow in the future you have offered me, I commit to the arboretum of leadership and will join in your continued investment in Fisher.


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