Student Story

Rashida Hagakore ’24 on Personal Freedom Through Education

“Business school is the last thing I thought I would do,” says Rashida Hagakore ’24, “but I feel like everything I've lived until this moment has given me the bandwidth for this work.”

Hagakore began [email protected] last fall with Professor Spela Trefalt’s Project Management course. “The course was extremely challenging and I loved it,” she says. “It was just what I was looking for: systems and the science of managing. Professor Trefalt is phenomenal, the embodiment of gracious intelligence; having her as my first Simmons instructor has left a significant positive impression.”

Years ago, in her first undergraduate experience, Hagakore was a commuter student majoring in writing. “I felt no connection to [that college]. No one was checking in on me.” She left before completing her studies, and traveled the country working with Cirque du Soleil. “I was able to discover myself, in that time,” she says. “I didn’t care about my career or making money. I was healing my past, and expressing myself however I needed. What I did for work didn’t matter in terms of my identity.”

After dealing with a string of problematic managers, Hagakore decided she needed a change. “I’m an idealistic person, so it was hard to be in toxic work environments. I decided I needed to be the one in charge, but I knew that it would be difficult to compete for those roles without a bachelor’s degree.” 

Initially, she assumed she wouldn’t fit into the business mold. “Up until that point, my idea of freedom was being able to have the time and space to explore my inner world. I wasn’t concerned about my career or job. Now I’m taking that same focus on freedom by being in charge of my own business.” Hagakore already has experience in wellness work, offering life coaching services via her website. “Managing money and spreadsheets is foreign to me, but I’ve made progress. I know that I need to embrace those things to bring my vision to life.” 

Luckily, Simmons has been a refreshing change from her first undergraduate experience. “Simmons offers support for success. They paired me with a student specialist, who checks in to see if I’m okay. My professors have been eager to answer my questions. I wasn’t sure I would be able to access that type of support digitally, but I feel at ease with the platform. This is the environment I need to succeed.” She’s also learned how to use Excel and PowerPoint through Simmons’ partnership with LinkedIn Learning; these resources are especially valuable for a returning student. “I’ve shared my insecurities with others in my cohort. We all want to help each other succeed.”

Her Simmons experience has shifted Hagakore’s idea of business. “I used to believe that a leader was someone who works alone. At Simmons, leadership is more collaborative. A leader is someone with a heart for service, who works with a group. In Professor Trefalt's class, I learned that communication is the cornerstone of good relationships and necessary to accomplish work effectively. Learning and implementing communication plans and milestone check-ins may have felt awkward at first, but after giving and receiving feedback from classmates based on our agreed communication plan, I’ve been able to integrate outside perspectives on my work. This has been an invaluable learning experience. I see Simmons as an incubator, where leaders are fostered and supported, then go out to different parts of the world to spread those waves of change, one person at a time.”

Hagakore is excited to embrace her creativity, along with her newfound business acumen. “I can help people heal and express themselves, while still creating spreadsheets and engineering a marketing plan,” she says. “The science of business and management is where I’m linking my creative potential to work that will financially sustain my passions and interests with flair.”

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