Culbertson, Austin

A year ago, when Austin Culbertson applied to join what was then a new enrichment program at Fisher College of Business, he did so not knowing if — or how — he was going to fit in as an incoming first-year student at Ohio State.

Dinners and social gatherings with the other members of the group helped break the ice, and he saw many of them in his classes throughout campus. But for Austin, the Fisher Focusing on Inclusion and Readiness for a Successful Transition (FIRST) program really hit home when he was paired with David Malloy, his mentor through the program.

“I felt like I belong as a Fisher student,” said Culbertson, a business economics student. “In long conversations, he shared with me some of his experiences, encounters and mishaps. After hearing this, I felt like it was OK to make mistakes, and that I was not the only one at Fisher with my upbringing and background.”

A few months after arriving on campus, Culbertson had successfully tapped into the purpose of Fisher FIRST — to engage with a diverse student community at Ohio State, develop stronger relationships with the campus community and emerge as leaders on campus and beyond. Fisher FIRST provided the foundation on which Culbertson’s Fisher experience is being built.

“At the heart of the Fisher FIRST program is a network of peers, champions and mentors who provide underrepresented students with an immediate sense of belonging and support,” said Mathilda Tuuli, program manager for multicultural inclusion in Fisher’s Undergraduate Leadership and Engagement Office. “Beginning with their first day on campus, the students are fully supported in every aspect of their business education — from academics, to social connections, to navigating Ohio State’s campus. My goal is that students feel at home at Fisher, excel academically and achieve their career dreams.”

Learn more about Fisher FIRST

Jordan Sibley knows firsthand the benefit of programs such as Fisher FIRST. A member of the Young Scholars Program (YSP), Sibley likened Fisher FIRST to YSP’s Bridge to Success Program — initiatives designed to connect first-generation and underrepresented students with critical opportunities to help them succeed.

“The bridge program allowed my peers and I to become familiar with others who shared the same or similar family structures, financial backgrounds and fears,” said Sibley, a third-year marketing student. “We were able to develop our own small communities, friendships and familiarity with campus before the first day of class. Seeing this built into Fisher FIRST — a business-specific program — provided me with the opportunity to view Fisher through a different lens.”

Sibley, Jordan
Jordan Sibley

Sibley now serves as a mentor to Fisher FIRST students, during their first year on campus, as well as throughout their Fisher careers.

“Oftentimes, my initial role as a mentor provides a student with their first impression of what it’s like to be a Fisher student,” she said. “This, of course, is very important, not only to the mentees, but to their parents as well. I’m a friend, an advisor, a role model and a resource for them.”

Sibley wants Fisher FIRST participants to know the program is focused on more than just academics. It’s an experience designed to support students’ well-being across a number of areas and address topics that matter to them.

“My mentee and I have discussed the relatively small representation of minority students at Fisher and how to find a place in it,” Sibley said. “We discuss how this program is important because it allows marginalized students to develop relationships with their peers and to start their own community. It allows them to become more comfortable on a large campus, and we talk about the wide variety of campus locations for food, classrooms, computer labs, libraries and more. We discuss future classes and potential career paths within her major. We discus some of the different organizations and programs to get involved within and outside of Fisher.”

“The purpose is to create a relationship where students can open up with their problems, concerns or goals.”

Having nearly completed his first year as a Fisher student, Culbertson looks back on his decision to join an unknown program and can’t imagine his path without it.

“Without Fisher FIRST, I wouldn’t be as enriched, have the insights, abilities or friendships that I have today,” he said. “Being a part of Fisher FIRST has taught me that as long as I stay on top of my coursework and stay motivated, I can go anywhere, meet anyone and do anything.”

“Being a part of Fisher FIRST has taught me that as long as I stay on top of my coursework and stay motivated, I can go anywhere, meet anyone and do anything.”

Austin CulbertsonFirst-year student

Fisher FIRST highlights

  • Develop an immediate sense of belonging at Fisher and at Ohio State
  • Experience mentoring from Fisher students and business leaders who know how to navigate and succeed at Fisher
  • Cultivate time-management and study skills
  • Connect with the many academic and career-management resources available at Fisher
  • Become informed about engagement, leadership and professional development opportunities
  • Receive ongoing support from dedicated program managers throughout your entire undergraduate journey at Fisher
  • Pursue your passion for business and leadership