LEAVING A LEGACY FOR THOSE WHO FOLLOW
Other students turned their passions into programming for their peers. At the University of Toronto, Jesús Amundaraín produced a sexual violence prevention training that’s been implemented across many of the school’s graduate programs. Not to be outdone, ESADE’s Barbara Chavier Mandarino organized a Managing Diversity in the Workplace event, where students, faculty, and representatives from PepsiCo and BCG discussing best practices in diversity and inclusion. At Babson College, Melissa Castro pioneered an Entrepreneurial Leadership Mentoring Program, which paired 160 female professionals to deepen their networks. In addition, Castro authored a sales skills program to further sharpen students’ ability to listen and persuade.
“In less than two years the outcome of her efforts include scores of successful mentoring relationships between MBA women and seasoned professional women leaders and a sustainable graduate student mentor program that will continue long after Melissa receives her diploma,” writes Dr. Susan Duffy, Executive Director of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership.
Harrison Jobe staked his legacy at Cornell University as well. Here, he launched and produced a Present Value podcast, where he interviewed the school’s thought leaders on their latest ideas. “It has been a privilege to engage with the university’s most prolific academics, sharing their research and insights through a professionally produced podcast that remains independent and completely student-run. I’m proud that we have ensured its legacy by mentoring a new team of first-year students who will continue to produce episodes and innovate new ways to share Cornell’s intellectual capital with listeners from around the world.”
SAYING “YES” CAN MEAN SAYING “NO”
For Shan Luan, the transition to the Katz MBA program was easy to make – logistically, that is. He was already a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, where he examined the links between obesity and cardiovascular disease. However, there was something different about business school, a reality that was summed up by one of Luan’s professors: “Business school is the last place to try something new and fail without serious consequences.”
For the Class of 2019, the most profound lessons often stemmed from trial-and-error – and the know-how and regrets that came with it. According to Ohio State’s Matthew Rosebaugh, the biggest takeaway was learning to prioritize. “Each time you say “Yes” to another priority, you are actually saying “No” to something else,” he says.
In other words, MBAs hold all the cards – and can create an experience tailored to their goals. This flexibility, however, is only valuable if students are proactive enough to capitalize off it, adds Dartmouth Tuck’s Sam Humbert. “Interested in a subject not in the curriculum? Create an independent study. Wish there was a club focused on your favorite topic? Launch it. Wish something was different? Change it.”
“NO ONE REALLY KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING”
That said, it takes time to absorb these lessons. That’s because there is a fear that MBAs dare not speak of in polite company. Simply put: No one has it all figured out…not even close, admits Georgia Tech’s Michelle Albert. “I walked into my first day of business school, having spent my summer poring over Wall Street Journal articles, bingeing NPR podcasts, and completing required reading. I still felt wildly unprepared for the baptism by fire that commenced when the first semester began. I wish I’d known that that was okay; nothing can fully prepare you for the blitz of meeting your classmates, learning new concepts, preparing for on-campus and off-campus recruiting, and attempting to engage in the local community. I eventually realized I wasn’t alone.”
Undeniably, business school can be a pressure-packed time, one where students are drinking from the proverbial firehose says MIT Sloan’s Faina Rozental. Her big mistake: not devoting enough time to caring for her physical and emotional health. “You tell yourself, “Oh, I’ll make time to go to the gym or to decompress,” but MBA life takes over without you realizing it. I wish I had blocked off non-negotiable self-care time early. While the MBA program flies by, it is still more of a marathon than a sprint.”
The marathon metaphor is particularly apt for MBA students. Ask runners why they slog through the heat, aches, and even boredom of a 26.2-mile marathon, you’ll get answers ranging from competition to health to simply proving something to themselves. The same is true of business school, says Ohio State’s Cara Ann Laviola. Looking back, Laviola wishes that she’d better appreciated her classmates’ differing motivations for returning to school.
“Each person who pursues an MBA does so for different reasons and at different points in their life,” she explains. “It’s as if we’ve all been on a highway, and we each took the exit that led us to the MBA program. Some of us had been on the highway longer than others; some decided to take the exit for nourishment (knowledge, career resources), for rest (to recharge and reset), or for an exciting change of scenery (gaining access to Columbus and the network of companies)…The paths that got us here are incredibly diverse, and these paths drive our motivations. I believe that having this understanding earlier on would have helped me to be more understanding of my peers, more realistic about expectations I placed on myself and others, and perhaps more helpful when my peers came to me for advice.”
A TIME TO FIND YOUR VOICE
While the Class of 2019 may have started business school with one set of goals and strengths, they often leave as completely transformed. That was the case for Jane Hannon, an MBA To Watch from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. Like many, she is leaving the Darden MBA more confident and better able to manage time. By the same token, Hannon adds, business school has also enabled her to truly find her voice.
“I’ve never been soft-spoken about issues that matter to me, but by being forced to take a stand on literally hundreds of (very tough) cases, I’m more confident than ever in my ability to voice my opinion and defend my reasoning.”
One of the most popular features of graduate business school, some say, is the mantra that “grades don’t matter.” A misnomer, perhaps, but it speaks to the underlying premise of an MBA program: It is a time to explore, question, and take risks – the actions that straight-A students often avoid to hold their coveted spot on the Dean’s List. This free-wheeling environment enabled a student like Brook Stroud to thrive. A decorated entrepreneur who’ll be building his caffeinated water franchise after graduation, Stroud found the most transformative aspect of business school was to embrace being uncomfortable. In the end, he says, it simply foreshadows learning and growth.
“TRUST THE PROCESS”
“The experience of arriving at an MBA program in a new city with people you’ve never met and taking classes in subjects you’ve never seen before is both exhilarating and at times uncomfortable,” writes the University of Texas grad. “When Sam Hinkie was a coach of the Sixers, his team mantra was “Trust the process.” I think the same is true of business school. It takes time for all the work and cross-pollination of different subject matters and ideas to come together, expand, and foster new insights.”
While the ‘process’ is inherently transformative, it is often the surprises along the way that make the MBA experience so rich and defining. For Summi Sinha, the great epiphanies came when she strayed from her strengths in academics and stepped into the spotlight as a leader and consultant. It was a bumpy process. That’s why it profoundly changed her – and why she has no regrets looking back on her two years at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
“For me, the value of an MBA education is preparing for the unexpected and no amount of prior knowledge or preparation can match the satisfaction of rolling up my sleeves and working with my team to make sense of being thrown at the deep end! Business school is the professional world in a microcosm where you are surrounded by talented and passionate individuals with a lot to learn from their collective experiences.”
See pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s MBAs to Watch.