Six years ago, I was sitting in an undergraduate business class when my professor asked us to raise our hands if we aspired to be a leader in our future work organization. I looked around the room to see that I was the only person without their hand raised. At the time, I was in disbelief to see that I was the only person who didn’t see myself as a future business leader.

Now, one year into the Daytime MBA program at Fuqua, I look back on that moment as evidence of the growth I have experienced so far. During that growth period, my peers—some of the most accomplished, humble, and supportive people that I am fortunate to have in my life—served as my biggest support system. While I credit the institution for providing numerous leadership opportunities, my classmates are the ones who have encouraged me to pursue those opportunities. They saw something in me that I had not yet fully seen in myself, a leader.

Support and Mentorship

When I started applying for second-year leadership positions, I was beyond excited to give back to the community that supported me throughout my first year. However, the imposter syndrome kicked in, and that girl who didn’t raise her hand in business class was back. I knew how incredible my peers were and thought there must be someone better suited for these leadership positions. Yet, these were the same people who empowered me to be a leader in the Fuqua community.

Stephanie Blair and other students in Section 3 of the Daytime MBA Class of 2024 held a holiday party. A large group poses for a photo in the kitchen of an apartment.
Section 3 holiday party, December 2022

I remember sitting down with my second-year leadership mentor, a fellow with the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE), and expressing concern about potentially not getting selected for the leadership positions I was passionate about. She not only empowered me to become a COLE Fellow myself, but she reminded me of key moments where I demonstrated the characteristics of a strong leader throughout my first year. For the first time, I saw someone else’s perception of me and felt the confidence that others had in my leadership abilities. Shortly after, I submitted my application to become a COLE Fellow and today I am a proud member of the COLE team.

Gaining Confidence from Classmates

My next leadership opportunity came in an email that I was not expecting. My peers nominated me for the presidency of Fuqua Fit, our fitness club. Being that I was not a member of the club, I was surprised and honored that my classmates had confidence in my ability to lead a club—something I had not done before. Ten minutes after my interview for the position, I officially became one of the co-presidents of Fuqua Fit.

Stephanie Blair and members of Fuqua's co-ed volleyball team pose for photo in front of net on Duke indoor volleyball court. They are wearing shirts reading, "Fuqua Fury"
I (bottom, middle) completed with Fuqua’s co-ed volleyball team in the Blue Cup against UNC (and we won!), April 2023

For each of these larger examples where my peers supported me in my leadership journey, there are a dozen smaller moments where they have helped me to see myself in a new light. Whether it was hearing for the first time that someone saw me as a future CEO or a classmate encouraging me to apply for a leadership position they thought I would excel in, my peers have shaped my perception of myself.

With the number of opportunities at Fuqua, it is common for students to serve as a leader of the community in some way. However, it is another thing entirely to see yourself as one. I often think about if I could go back to that moment in my undergraduate business class as the version of myself that I am today. If I could, there would be no question that my hand would be raised—in fact, I can’t imagine not being a leader in my future organization. I have come to believe that I am a strong, intelligent, and capable leader with the power to make a difference in the business world, and as a result, my aspirations have soared to new levels.

Stephanie Blair and 6 friends pose for photo on a blue Duke bench near Wallace Wade Stadium on the day of a football game.
Some friends and I (second from the right) attending the Duke vs. Northwestern football game, September 2023

It is often said that the people make the place, and I cannot think of a more accurate statement for Fuqua. The people at Fuqua have not only made me a better person, but they have helped me to build a new sense of confidence in myself and have empowered me in ways I never saw coming. For that, I am forever grateful.