Business students Christoffer Birch-Jensen and Matt Gantz have been selected as recipients of the first Barry Scholars Endowment.

The scholarships, totaling $20,000 each, are a gift from The Barry Foundation. John Barry, the foundation’s chair, is a member of the Offutt School of Business Global Leadership Council. Each year, two sophomores with declared majors within the business school will receive the endowment based on their demonstrated leadership, high impact community service or entrepreneurship, and overall academic achievement.

Four finalists were selected from a larger pool of applicants who were required to submit a resumé detailing their involvement, grades, class experiences and a letter explaining how they view themselves as a leader in the business school. Jacob Amos and Reagan Whitney were the other finalists.

Like a March madness bracket, the final four entered the last round of the screening process for which they created 10-minute presentations on a business article of their choice. A panel of judges including Dean Greg Cant and Marty Hoffman, a representative from The Barry Foundation, asked questions of the candidates based on their presentation.

“I was just super excited,” Birch-Jensen said of the announcement that he had won. “I had spent so much time preparing my application and the presentation. I wanted to give that personal touch to it; it was so much work, so I was exhausted. When I got the call, it took a while to sink in that I actually got it. I feel honored.”

Gantz, too, felt that he could breathe easier after being notified of the results.

“I was just mostly relieved,” he said. “We’d been waiting on that moment for three months.”

Both Birch-Jensen and Gantz have known they wanted to enter the business world for most of their lives.

For Gantz, it clicked in sixth grade. His family was visiting an uncle who lived near Pepperdine University in California, and when he saw the business school’s campus there, Gantz felt he wanted to be a part of something like that.

“It may have been the aesthetics of Pepperdine,” joked the Eagan, Minn. native. “They have a beautiful campus.”

But something more than the Californian architecture must have struck a chord with Gantz, who is now a business major with a finance concentration and a minor in English writing. His career goal is to become the executive manager for a finance firm or bank.

Birch-Jensen, who is from Sweden, has taken a slightly different track within the school of business. He studies international business with a focus on entrepreneurship and has a special interest in China.

“I’ve always been interested in market forces,” Birch-Jensen said. “What makes people chose one product over another, or what makes one company successful over another, or one country more than another?”

Each Barry Scholar is required to demonstrate a commitment to the global business community. In the fall of 2013, Birch-Jensen intends to spend a semester in China studying the business sector, especially as it relates to exports to Sweden. This May, Gantz will travel to Scotland on an ethnography May seminar where he will study the culture within a Scottish finance firm.

Additional responsibilities for the scholarship recipients include leading seminars with other business students, service projects within the Offutt School of Business, and a senior lecture on a business topic based on individual research.

Cant said that the scholarship is unique because, unlike the academic scholarships received by nearly all Concordia students at the start of their college career, the Barry award is about recognizing current students for the work they have done since college.

“Both these guys,” he said, “and I’m sure every Barry Scholar in the future, will be tremendous advocates for the school.”

Stephanie Barnhart

Steph Barnhart, 2013, is a multimedia journalism and public relations major at Concordia College. She has been a contributing writer, staff writer, and the news editor for The Concordian. Steph is an optimistic vegetarian who loves sustainability blogs, green tea, and talking. Follow her on Twitter at @stephbarnhart.

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