Business classes, activities prepare student for Miss California pageant

Whether she was attending business classes, working with friends in the Barowsky Students’ Association or speaking to perfect strangers in Toastmasters, Olga Kolin ’19 never imagined that the skills and confidence she gained at Dominican would lead her to speak on a big stage in front of thousands at the Miss California pageant.

Olga, a Business Administration-to-MBA 4 + 1 program major, is Miss Marin County 2018 who, in June, competed for Miss California. Her talent was salsa, but her quest is to be a business whiz who runs her own business. The pursuit of that helped earn her a crown.

“In business classes we are constantly giving presentations, which allows me to practice public speaking,” says Olga, who interns with Belvedere Advisors LLC. “In the Barowsky Students’ Association, a lot of what I do is speak to the group as well as people in the community. This allows me to work on my communication and leadership skills. Without a doubt, the skills I have acquired in the business school have helped me through this pageant process.”

The process of finding Dominican in the first place was quite spontaneous. Olga saw the green Dominican University sign over the U.S. 101 every time she and her parents drove from Elk Grove to visit Sausalito and the Marin Headlands.

“When the time came to start looking at applying to universities, the sign stood out to me. I found that Dominican was the perfect place for me,” says Olga, who also was accepted at UC Davis. “When it came time to make the decision, I realized I didn’t see myself at a big campus. In high school, I was very involved and used to speaking to my teachers, advisers and coaches regularly, so I knew I didn’t want to lose that in college. Dominican offered that personal experience that would be idyllic for me.”

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Olga had enough academic credits to enter Dominican as a sophomore, having completed 11 AP courses throughout high school. Not long after arriving on campus, she began taking advantage of the local connections established by the Barowsky School of Business. It was the right time and place for her.

“Being in Marin is integral in allowing students access to an abundance of businesses in San Francisco,” Olga says. “I’ve already experienced how effectively networking works at Dominican.”

Olga also joined the Dominican Accounting Finance Association (now the Barowsky Students’ Association) during her first year. Although she was the youngest member, Olga was eager to be an active member, so she took on a board position within the club and was responsible for inviting local executives to participate in the inaugural “Start-Up Night.”

“The fact that they were replying to my emails and willing to come was just fascinating to me. I realized `Wow. This is how we control what we are getting out of this university. This is why we are here,’ ” Olga says. “We need to take advantage of the fact that we have alumni and professors who will put us in touch with these high-level business professionals. That was a huge realization for me in terms of confidence for securing a career after graduation.”

Olga also immersed herself in Service-Learning classes off campus by volunteering her time at the Ritter Center and working at the Food Pantry off campus. On campus, she was “fueled by the lectures and by the real-life application that her business courses offered.”

As a student leadership host for the Institute for Leadership Studies’ lecture series, Olga also has been inspired by Dr. Denise Lucy, founder and executive director of the ILS.

“She exemplifies what a university professor should be because she really focuses on learning about us and spending time with us,” Olga says. “It is very important to feel that you are being listened to and that your instructor knows who you are.”

For fun last year, Olga entered the Miss Dominican contest, a pageant for Dominican University’s female students, and won the popular vote and the title, Miss Penguinette. Then, on a whim, she decided to apply for the Miss Marin County pageant, intrigued by the potential of earning a scholarship. She turned to Toastmasters to train for the Q & A portion of the Miss Marin contest. Toastmasters is a student club affiliated to a local Toastmaster’s International chapter where members develop pubic speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback.

Olga prepared questions she thought pageant judges might potentially ask her on stage. She handed out the mock questions at Toastmasters.

“I received so much valuable feedback, though I was searching for criticism,” Olga says, smiling. “It was specifically helpful because most of the people were different in terms of age, political background, and cultural background. It was a diverse audience and very respectful.”

The time and detailed preparation Olga is putting into her pageants is a byproduct of her total Dominican experience and how she is approaching her business ambitions.

“The whole time it was really about bringing out my best self,” she says. “It all comes down to competing with myself and challenging myself to be better than I was yesterday.”


June 11, 2018