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What MBAs Love Most About B-School

For Molly Duncan, business school was a great awakening. Like any renewal, her awakening arose more how she felt than what she learned.

Two years ago, Duncan, a psychology major, had arrived at Darden with no academic business training. Intent on mastering the intricacies of capital structures and value creation, she soon discovered that the process was far more satisfying than the result. For her, business became a means of understanding the world and connecting with others. Even more, it tapped into a passion that turned her into a class president, leading scholar, and McKinsey recruit.

“I constantly find myself carrying classroom conversations into the hallways or calling my family to tell them about my machine learning model or an accounting scandal we talked about in class,” she gushes. “I think everyone puts up with these conversations because I am so energized and excited that they would feel bad changing the subject!”

A TIME TO REFLECT AND RE-CHARGE

Claire Lee

Transformation may be cliché in the business school lexicon, but Duncan wasn’t alone in experiencing a renewal of sorts. Take Claire Lee, who took a detour to New Haven after racking up the honors during a four year stint at Deloitte Consulting. She viewed her two years at Yale as a time to hit the pause button. This break enabled her to map out her path — and eventually return to Deloitte refreshed and rarin’ to go.

“It may sound funny since the single biggest scarcity for b-school students is time, but the break from your professional, “real” life helped me reflect on my professional and personal journey so far,” she explains. “It’s a luxury to have the time, energy, and mental space to fully immerse yourself in your current life experience – whether academic, social, or professional – and this reflection and immersion helped me recalibrate and recharge for the path ahead.”

At the University of Wisconsin, Jessie Wright, a Minneapolis native ticketed for the New York City Ballet after graduation, used her time to ask herself the big questions that often get short shrift during the chaos of 60-70 hour work weeks: “What conventional thinking must we challenge? What is the future of the nonprofit arts business model? How do we anchor our operations back to a guiding institutional strategy? What inter-industry connections can we explore to build stronger futures?”

GOING TO MISS THOSE 3-DAY WEEKENDS

This year’s Best & Brightest MBAs used their spare time to do more than turn inward and pose questions during their b-school sabbaticals. Such flexibility demanded a big change for Wharton’s Kyle Brengel, who was accustomed to rigid schedules and little time at home as a U.S. Army Officer.  It turned out to be a blessing for his family.

“I had very limited time to see my children during the week, but being at Wharton I’ve been able to really build an amazing bond with both of them,” he says. “Wharton’s flexibility allowed me to structure my days and weeks in a way that worked for my family while still getting the most out of the program and my classmates.”

At Georgetown, which doesn’t hold classes on Fridays, Tahira Taylor was able to use the day as a reprieve, a ‘me-day” to build herself up for the demands of the coming week. “I would spend time with my family, go out with friends, volunteer in D.C. with classmates, catch up on leisure reading, travel, shop, try new recipes, or sit on my couch doing absolutely nothing,” she admits. “While I know I’m going to miss 3-day weekends, the nice thing about going back into the working world is that I won’t have to spend my Saturdays and Sundays doing homework (hopefully).”

GO BIG…AND GO OVERSEAS

Colleen Thomas

Rattling around the house was the last thing that UCLA’s Colleen Thomas planned to do, however. Instead, she found traveling abroad to be the best part of the business school. While she enjoyed learning alongside students from other cultures, going overseas took the experience to another level.

“Every time I have engulfed myself in a new culture, I learned something new about myself,” she points out. “I gained more understanding and more appreciation for all of the differences that make us human. Our trips abroad have always brought us closer together as we learned more about each other. As we learn more about how others navigate and operate we start to question the status quo, build new solutions, and develop new ideas.”

However, many students found plenty of stimulation right on campus. Take Texas A&M’s Isabel Chirase. As an undergraduate economics major, she often felt like she was reciting facts and theories. The MBA required far more from her. “I am intertwining my classroom content with what I already knew of people interactions, leadership, and the daily challenges that organizations face. This has fostered more critical thinking and the shifting and refining of many mental models.”