Alicia Nicole Buford
FINALIST: From Dreamer to Doer


Ring, Ring! "Hello, Joyce Buford's office, Arlene speaking, how may I help you?"-- "Hi Arlene, it's me again, can I talk to my mom really quick?" For Alicia this was more than just checking in, it was a daily routine. Alicia's mind was always filled with big ideas and big dreams, yet she always second-guessed herself and her abilities. Calling her mother every time she had an idea was her assessment of herself and at times a confirmation of her self-worth. Since her mind was always swimming with ideas, she generally never followed through even with her mother's praise. It was almost more rewarding to dream about all of the things she could do, rather than put the time into making them a reality.

As a young girl with big dreams and even bigger excuses as to why those dreams hadn't come true, Alicia realized that she needed to change her outlook. She wanted success but wasn't willing to put forth the effort to create it on her own, she was waiting for it to come to her. Alicia needed something to boost her self-confidence and give her a different perspective on her abilities. The excuses were a barrier between "what she was" and "what she wanted to be" -- she needed an escape.

Background (AHA! Moment):

Growing up, Alicia lived a different lifestyle from most of her friends. Aside from the fact that she and her family moved around a lot, her mother was the breadwinner of the family and her father worked in health care consulting, so her and her older sister spent their childhood either alone or with a live-in nanny. It was always apparent that money and success were far more important than family life. She never built up her self-confidence because every time she would feel acclimated in her environment she was forced to move to a new city and make new friends. At times Alicia felt lost and was never sure exactly where she fit in.

"Who am I?" was a question that often came up in Alicia's mind. To keep her energy focused, she was involved in everything from dance to gymnastics to cheerleading which helped her to feel like she belonged at least somewhere in life. She liked to keep herself busy to keep from feeling alone. Those feelings followed her to GW but she always managed to mask them with her involvement. College was daunting at first, but it was somewhat comforting to know that everyone was going through the exact same things that she was. But of course she assumed that the friends would come to her and she would not have to step outside of her comfort zone. Alicia was always afraid to let her guard down.

As always, Alicia masked her lack of mental confidence with her physical confidence by trying out for the GW cheer team. With much practice and perseverance she made the team and had very little free time to even think about her personal struggles in life. After one year, she quit the team to work and become involved academically. She held down two jobs and sat on the executive board for two different organizations. Keeping busy kept her mind off of her true life challenges and most importantly, herself.

Professional/School Challenge

Freshman year of college was a wake-up call for Alicia, as it was for many of her fellow classmates. She barely scraped by with a 3.0 GPA and realized that she wasn't going to be handed good grades on a silver platter -- she was going to have to work hard for them like everything else in life.

Something changed after that year, she began to realize that she needed to start making plans for her success. She needed to set goals and work hard to accomplish them to the best of her ability. She set out to graduate college with at least a 3.5 GPA which meant that she was going to have to be the one to push herself to reach that goal. Just one year later Alicia saw her name on the School of Business Dean's Honor List and was finally starting to see some changes in her academic life.

Senior year, Alicia decided to move off campus and live by herself so that she could really focus on where her life was going. Living independently, without social distractions, allowed her to think about her life on a larger scale. It was almost a spiritual escape, she could finally think seriously about the person she wanted to be.

The phone calls to her mother never stopped, she always began her conversations with "wouldn't it be cool if..." and then it always ended with a "but" -- more excuses keeping her from reaching her personal success. Her mother asked her one day, "if money were no object (because that was often Alicia's biggest obstacle), what business would you start?". This allowed Alicia to begin thinking objectively about the ideas she had been coming up with. She started to leaf through the books her mother always told her to read, "The Art of the Start", "Starting from Scratch", "Campus CEO" and finally realized that she was far more capable than she gave herself credit for. The books helped her to assess the feasibility of each of her ideas and turn quantity into quality.

Personal Challenge:

Between jobs, school work, extracurricular activities, and a long-term relationship, Alicia managed to go four years without figuring out who she really was. She spent so much time worrying about what would make everyone else happy, her mother, her professors, her boyfriend, society, that she always put herself last on her priority list, if at all.

Time was quickly passing her by and she needed to decide whether her life was heading in the right direction. She met up with a friend who had just recently graduated from GW but was still trying to figure out her calling in life. She and Alicia sat down and thought about what they wanted for their lives. They both agreed that they wanted to do something fulfilling and they wanted to do something now. Thinking became doing and they made plans to accomplish what it was they wanted.

With Alicia back on her priority list, it was time to start living the life she knew she was destined to lead.