At the University of Chicago, Joanna H. Si didn’t expect to like operations management — despite working as corporate counsel to Amazon Web Services before starting at Booth. To her, the biggest surprise is how infectious a professor’s passion for a subject can be to students. “I was very entertained when Professor Ozan Candogan taught us about the dangers of the Bullwhip Effect through an in-class board game, complete with T-shirts for the winning team,” she quips.
STUDENTS GIVEN A SEAT AT THE TABLE
Think you have the MBA life figured out? The Class of 2017 is more than happy to buck conventional wisdom. Think graduate schools are plagued with starving students? Don’t tell that to Ohio State’s Tada Yamamoto, who gushes about all the free food available from speakers and activities. Contrary to popular opinion, Dartmouth’s Kiz Syed claims that the second year is actually busier than the first. For those who assume that business schools follow a corporate model — where students are cogs or commodities there to fill a seat — Rice University’s Caitlin Crotty has experienced the exact opposite.
“As a board member on our student association, my job is to help collect and funnel student questions, concerns and requests through the appropriate channels,” Crotty outlines. “The staff and administration have truly treated us as partners in enabling and enacting change, regarding everything from the curriculum and faculty to clubs and activities. I believe this level of responsiveness is unique in education, especially since students turn over every year, and I’m grateful for it.”
Those weren’t the only myths that were surprisingly dispelled over the past two years. At Indiana University, Paul Jin Carlson, a decorated Naval Officer, realized that successful military and civilian leadership are based on the same formula.
DEEPLY TRANSFORMATIVE AT ALL LEVELS
“The only difference is the language and terminology used,” he reveals. “In both the military and business school you are taught strategy, planning, execution, effective communication, budgeting, and leadership. You build your technical proficiencies and hone your leadership skills that you can be a competent leader. Both teach that you must be a good follower to also be a good leader. There are differences in the mission and purpose, but they essentially teach the same things.”
Another unexpected twist is that undergraduate business majors can still learn plenty from returning to school to pursue their MBA. That was the case for Columbia Business School’s Tiffany Yu Chia Chen, who earned a B.A. in Finance from National Taiwan University. “I learned a lot during the core curriculum,” she concedes. “I thought I would not gain a lot of new takeaways in these classes. However, I really enjoyed different approach our professor adapted and their valuable insights, as well as the depths and widths of knowledge and experience my fellow classmates contribute during discussion. The learning experience is completely different and it provides me a different way of thinking.”
For MBA students, this change in outlook — on business, life, and themselves — may be the biggest surprise of all. “For me, the most surprising thing about the MBA really was how deeply transformative it was and not just from a knowledge perspective,” asserts the University of Toronto’s Alex Walker Turner, a former cheerleader and trumpet player turned McKinseyite. “It has really forced me to re-evaluate the way that I approach all kinds of problems and how I envision my future. It has genuinely changed me academically, professionally, and personally. Having my life transformed was not something I anticipated when I applied, but I couldn’t be more pleased that it has been.”