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A Day In The Life Of A Stanford MBA Student

Stanford GSB’s Knight Management Center

“This class is a huge learning curve for me but it’s empowering to learn to create tools and models from scratch,” she notes. “I’m already about 3x faster in Excel than I was six weeks ago, have learned a bunch of approaches that would have made me much more impactful in my past career, and can’t wait to be able to apply these new tools in the future!”

LENDING A HELPING HAND

Dunford wasn’t the only student who struggled in this class. That’s why TAs hold a weekly session outside of class on Mondays. Despite this, Dunford knew she needed more remediation, which is why she headed off to TA hours the following day. To her dismay, a line had already formed before she had even arrived. It was times like these when Dunford learned why she holds her classmates in such high regard.

“Three classmates are nice enough to let me go ahead of them so I can make it to my 4:30 class on time,” she writes. “Another classmate helps me out with a question about averaging across multiple cells. I’m grateful the atmosphere here is one of collaboration, not competition, and want to make sure to do my part to help my classmates out as well… both now and post-GSB.”

It isn’t just GSB peers who are eager to help. Before she began work on an energy innovation grant to fund a prototype, Dunford spent a Wednesday afternoon at the engineering quad– and they more than obliged. “They encouraged us to apply, and have connected us with some great resources and other companies, including a complementary startup working on clean energy to replace diesel generators in Nigeria. As part of the community of folks interested in clean energy, it’s been cool to discover opportunities to connect with the technology and innovation going on in other parts of campus.”

BEST WAY TO SPEND TWO HOURS: HIKING “THE DISH”

The Dish

Before enrolling at Stanford GSB, Tolu Adeofe worked as a strategist at Google. It would take a master strategist to manage her jam-packed class schedule, which includes four classes on Monday alone. However, Adeofe’s favorite time of the week happens on Wednesday night, when she joins the Women in Management (WIM) group, a bi-weekly free-for all that features 6-8 women who discuss the big issues of the day. “Each group is led by a trained facilitator who helps us think through any issues and inspires us with really great life and goal planning activities,” she shares. “I love my group so much and we always have the best time together.”

No classes are held on Wednesdays, which frees students to take off for their favorite haunts. At Stanford, one of the grand traditions is walking “The Dish,” a popular hiking loop highlighted by a radiotelescope and striking views of the Bay Area on clear days. If students have a big block of time, Adeofe believes there is no better way to spend it. “The Dish is this amazing trail about a 30 minute walk from campus, it has intense inclines and amazing views from the top, it takes about 2 hours to walk the entire loop plus make my way back to campus.”

Stanford GSB’s motto is “Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.” Yiming Ma, a gifted storyteller and McKinseyite from Toronto, personifies these values. That’s why he was among 30 students chosen to deliver a LOWKeynote. Modeled after TED Talks, LOWKeynotes provide a platform for students to share ideas on how to improve lives, organizations, and the world (i.e. LOW). While Ma delivered his “Unfinished Stories” talk to acclaim, it was a quiet gesture that touched him most deeply.

A LIFE-CHANGING COURSE THAT PREPARES YOU TO TRULY LEAD

“After my LOWkeynote, dozens of friends and strangers alike reach out,” he recalls. “But the most unexpected email arrives from Professor Glenn Kramon, a former editor at The New York Times and supervisor of 20+ Pulitzer winners. I hadn’t even known that Glenn had been in the crowd. Professor Kramon’s kind note floors me.”

If you asked Stanford GSB alumni about their favorite class, it’s a safe bet that “Interpersonal Communications” (aka “Touchy-Feely”) will top the list. It was certainly a defining experience for several members of the 2018 class. Held on Mondays, the class is a boot camp on self-awareness. Taught heavily through small group role playing, it is a safe and supportive – yet also honest and sometimes painful– way to learn how to give and receive feedback. It is a course where students learn the hard truths about how they communicate and how they’re perceived – areas that leaders sometimes take for granted. In the process, students learn how to better connect with others to build trust and buy-in.

Lauren Dunford

The course left a deep impression on Dunford, who describes it as an “incredible deep-dive to learn more about relationships with individuals and groups.” During the week, the lessons from “Touchy-Feely” resonated with her so deeply that she bypassed working on a model to confront what she had learned about herself. “My head is so full of thoughts about Touchy Feely that I end up journaling about the T-group experience instead. As part of Touchy Feely, we get a handy sheet listing out different emotions. I use the sheet to pinpoint how I’m feeling, and I set goals for the next session.”

WEDNESDAY “TALK” IS A MUST-SEE AT THE GSB

If there is a staple to the Stanford experience, it would undoubtedly be TALK. Every Wednesday, hundreds of students pile into the MBA Lounge to hear students deliver a 30 minute, deeply personal reflection on their life. How important is it? Stanford employs coaches to help student deliver their TALK. Forget those cranky five year projection models. At Stanford, the TALK is the most difficult part of the program; it demands the discipline for students to truly analyze their lives and understand the forces and events that shaped them. More than that, a TALK requires the courage to show vulnerability in the most intimate of settings. As a result, this cathartic act has emerged as one of the school’s hallmarks.

“TALK is a favorite,” writes Dunford. “Hearing pieces of the life stories of other GSBers, and frequently being inspired by their thoughtfulness and reflections is a special way to end each Wednesday and reset for the rest of the week.”

More than that, it is a unifying experience that reminds students just how special their peers are – and how fortunate they are to be spending two years with them. “Every Wednesday night I am in exactly the same spot to learn about the unbelievable pasts of my classmates through TALK,” adds Ullah. “TALK has been around at the GSB for at least a decade and gives MBAs a chance to delve deep into their personal histories and psyches to connect on a whole different level. I have sat next to a person in class or casually chatted with someone on ten different occasions and then am blown away by the trials they have overcome or by their milestone achievements. I left with the oddly common feeling here of inspiration.”

To scroll through the weekly schedules of these students – and students from previous classes – click here.

DON’T MISS: MEET STANFORD’S MBA CLASS OF 2018 or STANFORD GRAD’S ADVICE TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF MBAs