Emma Chang: Confessions of a closeted Rosshole
It really is a daunting task, deciding your career path at the ripe old age of 18. It has been a little over a year since I found out I was accepted into the University of Michigan and the Ross School of Business. I remember thinking everyone knew what they were going to study in the fall. Little did I know, that is not true for everyone and many people will change their minds at least once, if not twice, in college. With so much excitement joining the U-M community, I did not realize it came with a whole new platform for college memes. The punchline for a lot of these jokes, however, involves business majors or – as we’re known on campus – Rossholes.
I’m what you might refer to as a “closeted” Rosshole. I applied to the Business School without any rhyme or reason and, to my surprise, was accepted. I remember being ecstatic until I realized the reputation that being in Ross carries on this campus. STEM majors scoff at you and you can’t exactly bond with other non-STEM majors because, you know, capitalism. As a freshman with absolutely no idea what the stock market is and an inability to pretend I understood how Wall Street worked, this was particularly confusing to me. What exactly is the stigma surrounding the B.B.A.? What exactly made me a “Rosshole?”
Honestly, to truly define what campus deems a Rosshole, you have to go to the meme pages. There, you can find the meaning of Rosshole clear as day. First, you have to be someone who incessantly talks about the fact that they’re in the Business School. Then, obviously, comes the Canada Goose jackets. Can’t be a true Rosshole without it. The overall effect is just a stuck-up person who will end up with some kind of fancy internship – that they may or may not deserve – doing something they don’t particularly understand that will eventually get them a lot of money. Kind of mind-boggling, no?
I can totally see why the rest of the school hates business students so much. The building itself screams Rosshole with its namesake, Stephen M. Ross, donating millions of dollars to enhance the already-garish façade on East University Avenue. Meanwhile, across campus, other departments may be struggling to find funding. It is infuriating. It is, wait for it, capitalism.
With this mindset, I entered freshman year unwilling to divulge the fact that I was in the Business School, which, let me tell you, was very difficult. The first two questions you get when meeting someone new anywhere on this campus is, “What are you studying?” and, as a freshman, “Where are you living?” Both of these questions posed issues because I was in the Business School and living in Martha Cook. Both of these answers can garner very negative, albeit interesting responses. I learned how to explain away the funny looks I got when I said I lived in the all-girls dorm with a severe reputation by mentioning it’s actually a really nice place to live, but that’s another story for another time. How did I deal with answering the major question? I had a couple of solutions, both of which were equally annoying and equally harder to deal with than if I had just said I was in the Business School. I learned if I asked the question first – bam – I could tailor my answer to whatever they said: “Oh, you’re in Ross? Me too!” or “Not in Ross? Okay then, I am in LSA and undecided.”
The whole “LSA and undecided” answer worked really well until I went to go fill out forms or people started to get more curious about my class schedule. The Business School isn’t part of LSA and business students are not undecided because they receive a B.B.A. Super specific, I know. Anyways, I would forget about the whole B.B.A. thing because I was so determined to ignore the fact that I was in the Business School. I’ll admit it, I was ashamed.
The first five months of the school year, a long time for a school that gets out in April, were awful. I treaded lightly when I met people, not knowing whether or not being a business student would somehow affect our possible friendship. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. I put so much emphasis on the negative aspect of the fact that I was in Ross that I didn’t look at the bright side. I’m in Ross. Some people would kill to be in my position.
I didn’t appreciate that until the middle of winter term. I think it had to do with the fact that I was in denial about not being a STEM major. The people with which I surround myself are all pre-med or some kind of biochemical science major taking organic chemistry their first year while I sat around doing ethics case studies. Both are super interesting, it’s just that, for a long time, I didn’t understand the weight of what I was studying, didn’t think it was as “academic” as, say, doing a chemistry lab.
Now, though, things are different. During the winter term, I met a lot more of my business peers and began to wonder why exactly I was uncomfortable telling people about my major. You don’t see biochemical students rushing to cover up their scientific endeavors, nor do you ever hear international studies students gloss over interests in the world. So, why should I hide my interest in business? The answer was I shouldn’t. The opportunities that a well-earned business degree can provide are infinite and the subjects within it are nuanced and applicable.
I think one of the biggest reasons I didn’t feel comfortable with my standing in the Business School was that I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Do I want to go into health-care? Do I want to manage a hedge fund? Do I want to somehow do both? These questions continue to plague me, but a business degree is at least start in some kind of direction. So, yeah, maybe I am a Rosshole after all.