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As a student of International Management and Law at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, Rae Peterson is committed to driving impactful global change. Having traveled to six continents and worked in several countries, Rae has considerable experience with comprehensive strategy in the automotive and consulting industries. Among her notable accomplishments in this field, Rae has worked with Volvo to identify manufacturing cost savings and increase vehicle profitability, and she was recognized as a Ford Scholar in 2016.
Driven by her commitment to service, Rae has worked for the US Senate to assist with constituent communication, federal judge nominations, and building legislative support. She has been recognized as one of her school’s Public Policy Research Scholars and researches international trade policy. Rae has even led consulting projects to expand the influence of NGOs in various developing countries. Following in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, Rae is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She is also a board member of the Ugandan Maverick Scholarship Program, which provides college scholarships to young leaders in Uganda. Rae’s journey with the Reagan Foundation began in 2016 when she was awarded the GE-Reagan Scholarship as a high school senior, and it continued when she returned to the Foundation in summer 2017 as an intern in the Education department.
Rae loves to engage in a wide variety of activities outside of her academic and professional endeavors. Rae has scuba dived around the world (her favorite location to dive is the Great Barrier Reef). She collects precious gems from various countries and says that every stone tells a unique story. She believes that having a balanced life is the key to being infinitely successful. This summer, Rae is working in corporate strategy for a Fortune 500 company. She is pursuing a career in the executive search industry.
What are you most proud of?
My parents encouraged me to take advantage of my adventurous spirit. I began travelling the world at a young age and I haven’t stopped since. I have adventured to six continents and am graduating Wharton early to visit my last continent (Antarctica!) and go on a 40-country trip. Travelling has opened my eyes to the world around me and has given me the gift of perspective. Whether it be climbing the mountains of Patagonia, to being chased by elephants in rural Sri Lanka, to jet boating in New Zealand, I have been greatly humbled by my experiences and have had the pleasure to meet amazing people. If you want to change the world, you need to experience it because the world is truly your greatest classroom.
What are you doing to grow as a leader?
The key to be an extraordinary leader is to never stop learning. The more time I commit to learning how to be a better leader, the better leader I become. Asking for feedback from the people you work with and genuinely taking an interest will help you build better team dynamics. Always create an environment where people are free to express their ideas and opinions, even if you don’t agree. Communication is crucial to be a great leader and surrounding yourself with people different than you balances a team’s strengths. Your leadership education isn’t just vertical but also horizontal. Learning about topics and industries completely different than your expertise will push you to think outside of the box. The minute you stop asking yourself “How can I be better?” is the minute you stop excelling.
What would you say to someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
The most important lesson that I’ve learned throughout life is that everything has a funny way of working out the way it’s supposed to. Throughout my transition from high school to university, I have had to redefine what success means to me. Rather than constantly worry about the next step, I have learned that it is more important to focus on learning as much as you can in the present. For example, Wharton is a pre-professional oriented school, and, while figuring out my ultimate career choice is important, taking advantage of the resources that are available to me at Wharton is just as important. Life is meant to be evolutionary and having a balanced life creates more value and meaning in the long run.
If you could do anything in the world, what would it be and why?
While I have professional ambitions, I love searching for fun occupations and thinking about how people have redefined what a “career” looks like. There are more paths in life than people realize. For example, if I could have any fun profession, I would be a diamond consultant and travel the world sourcing the perfect diamonds for clients. Some other fun career paths are professional ice cream taster, a Michelin star inspector, F1 race car driver, and personal dresser for the Royal family. Careers should never be limited to what other people view as “successful” and thinking outside of the box is crucial to happiness.
When was the last time you tried something new?
Since I enjoy being well-rounded and diversified, I try a new hobby at least once a month and currently once a week. By challenging myself to try new activities, I have formed an incredibly varied network of friends and learned things I never thought possible. Examples of some of the hobbies I’ve tried: skydiving, circus yoga, scuba diving, sailing, paintball, bee keeping, and many more. Even if you don’t enjoy the new activity you try, a great story will come out of it. Many people ask how I have the time to try so many new things. Yet, investing time in being a more well-rounded person will ultimately save you time in the long run and bring you more value.
What does tomorrow mean for you?
The beauty of tomorrow lies in the fact that it is unknown. If you knew tomorrow, you wouldn’t live for today. Imagine a world where you knew what would happen tomorrow. You wouldn’t feel a sense of purpose if your mission in life was fulfilling a destiny that was already written for you. We might not know what’ll happen tomorrow, but it asks something of you today. It asks you to inspire, to dream, to create. It asks you to imagine. In every moment, there is a possibility of a better tomorrow, and it is waiting for you to leave your mark.