Kelly Tanimura

Dean's Scholar

Major:  Business Administration/Finance
Lucas College and Graduate School of Business

Why did you choose your major?

I grew up surrounded by business.  As a child, I had the privilege of watching my family operate a successful company. At a young age, I decided that I wanted to go into “business.” In elementary school, I made fake business cards for myself, flyers for pretend businesses I wanted to start, and even created a bank and offered to be my brother’s financial advisor when I felt like he was not spending his allowance wisely. (He politely declined.) I declared my plans to major in business to my family when I was in junior high, not actually understanding what a complex discipline I had set my sights on.

As the reality of choosing a major and a career path became more imminent, I began researching what business was composed of and found a world rich with complexities and nuances. There was this amazing interaction between quantitative and qualitative, technical and interpersonal, analysis and intuition, and local and global. I found of world of dynamic balance and knew I had found my place. In finance, I found a world where numbers spoke a language and told a story. And, just like the little girl from years ago, I found myself enamored with the world of business. 

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

Receiving this award means so much to me. It was such a surprise to receive it; I did not think I qualified or deserved it. There is so much gratitude to each instructor, family member, friend and barista at Starbucks (because, let’s face it, school takes a lot of caffeine). It also means that all those times I felt like I was running on a treadmill (working hard but not getting anywhere) can be attributed to bad perspective. This award means that all the efforts of my family and community (who I’m sure I made suffer along with me throughout school) were not in vain. 

Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life?  In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.

My family has had the largest impact on my life. I am the youngest of four children and have a huge extended family. My parents always worked to be purposeful and to give my siblings and me an intentional community. They encouraged us to do what we liked, to treat others well and honor God through it all. My grandpa worked extremely hard to make education for my siblings and myself a priority, and my extended family has always supported my education and has never questioned that my efforts would be better served elsewhere. 

Professor Ivanov played a huge role in my education at SJSU. I had him as a professor for three semesters straight, almost my entire time at this school! During my first semester, Professor Ivanov took a lot of chances on me and gave me opportunities to prove myself.  His encouragement is one of the main reasons I became so involved in the College of Business. He tries to set his students up for success. He constantly worked to understand various situations I might have outside the classroom to better understand my performance inside the classroom. 

Describe an experience that has shaped who you are today.

While applying for college my senior year of high school, I did not get into my top choice. I was devastated. I appealed with letters and recommendations. I got rejected again! After attending junior college, I applied to transfer to that university and got denied a third time.  I even got a rejection of an appeal even thought I did not try to appeal this time. Ouch! I was rejected four times from my dream school. Talk about being sad and embarrassed.  After each time I got rejected, I let myself cry some, then decided that rejection did not mean that I could cut myself some slack. It meant that I got another chance to try harder than I did before. This experience taught me that rejection is not the end of the world, and flexibility and adaptation does not mean defeat. This experience gave me a lot of opportunity to practice humility and trust that God had plans that were far better than my plans. 

What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?

You can do it. You are capable. You are able. Academic excellence means different things to each person. There are the obvious quantitative measurements like GPA, but a great amount of excellence depends on your character during the learning process, the joy and balance in your life during that period, and the way you use what you have learned.  Understand what academic excellence means to you and fight light heck to get there. If you think that you can’t achieve academic excellence, you are wrong. You can, and you are capable. It is never too late to change your attitude toward academics.

What makes you a Spartan?

Spartans share a unique characteristic. They have the spirit to overcome. Whatever cards have been dealt, whatever situation is present, I look around my school and see students who defy expectations and situations. I am a proud Spartan because there is a drive to overcome and outperform. 


Nominated by Associate Dean Malu Roldan
“Kelly is a graduating senior who is the CEO of the Spartan Fund, a newly established Student Managed Investment Fund at the Lucas College of Business.”