Points of Pride

Rachel S. Jablonski

Double Major, Entrepreneur and Valedictorian

Rachel Jablonski - Cap & GownRachel was nominated by both the Monte Ahuja College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences as college valedictorian and is the university’s valedictorian for the Fall 2021 Semester.

Rachel is not just an outstanding student and scholar. She is creative, curious, entrepreneurial and resilient. This Fall, she will have earned a double major in French and International Business as well as a minor in Dance.

Rachel chose Cleveland State University because the university offered a French Major. Her mother had studied French and exposed her to the language at an early age. She fell in love with the language. She also knew that she wanted to work with people from all over the world.

The International Business major, for her, was a logical choice which played to her strengths in strategic thinking and communication as well as her collaborative, empathetic nature.

She used those strengths during her internship with the Department of Commerce U.S. Export Assistance Center where she helped local small businesses with market research to assist expansion into global markets.

Rachel’s second internship, in marketing, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, she participated in the Education Entrepreneurship Consortium’s Summer Side Hustle program and decided to take inspiration from a business idea she had 2 years prior from a short-term trip to Shell, Ecuador. On the trip, the group interacted with an indigenous tribe called the Waorani.

Rachel Jablonski“When the pandemic began, this led to the tribe being unable to buy food due to a lack of tourists in Ecuador,” she explained. “Knowing there was a loss of sales, I wanted to create a channel for their artesania (Spanish for crafts) and help them participate in the global market.”

In September 2020, Rachel launched Habitant Exchange, an online business sellinng hand woven pieces created by the women of the Waorani tribe including bracelets, purses, bags and home décor. The products are unique and sustainable. Proceeds from selling the pieces helped the tribe afford food, clothing and housing, in addition to helping prevent the sale of their Amazonian land to oil companies.

In November of 2020, Rachel presented Habitant Exchange in the Weston Ideation Lab Side Hustle Series to tell her story to the CSU community.

Rachel JablonskiRachel always knew she wanted to study abroad. Her original plans were altered by the pandemic, and it was stressful preparing and organizing for a trip that might not happen, but in Spring 2021, Rachel was in France for the semester. She enjoyed the opportunity to hone her language skills, the people, reading in French and the cultural experience. She hopes to do the same and live in a French-speaking African country one day.

Rachel says looking back, her French major enhanced her International Business major and provided her with an advantage. She thought about and approached her business classes with a different perspective. For example, she could read the same text in both English and French and gain new insights.

Her favorite professors during her time at Cleveland State are Donna Davisson (International Business) and Annie Jouan-Westlund (French). Both professors took time to get to know their students, were supportive of her earning a double major, provided advice and encouragement.

Rachel JablonskiDuring her time at CSU, Rachel was involved in many different student organizations, however the mainstays were the Mandel Vikes (Honors College student organization) and International Friendships, a national organization that provides life-changing hospitality and friendship to international students struggling with culture shock, stress and loneliness.

“We have meaningful discussions about topics that matter and things we can relate to cross-culturally,” Rachel explained. “Everyone comes at it from a different cultural or religious perspective and I really enjoy that.”

“The Mandel Honors College provided wonderful networking opportunities and I ended up working in their office, so I got to know all of the faculty and staff pretty well,” she said. “It was special and became a home on campus.”

Rachel’s Honors College project was research on the barriers and opportunities for Moroccan women to begin e-commerce businesses and how it compares to the barriers and opportunities that American women might face. She determined issues specific to Morocco and identified suggestions that policy makers, financial institutions and women’s business organizations could put in place to address the obstacles they face.

What does the future hold?

“I’d like to work in small business development, hopefully with women in North African countries,” she said. I’d like to do some cultural training beforehand, so in the meantime, I will work on my own business.”