Level Up Your Career With A Duke Degree While Continuing To Work

Ryan Smith, Assistant Dean for Working Professionals Programs, and Fuqua alumni share how Fuqua’s community and resources can help your career. We’ll discuss our five flexible programs that accommodate working professionals’ busy schedules: two executive MBA programs and three Master’s of Science of Quantitative Management (MSQM) programs.

Read the full transcript below: 

John Byrne: Hello, everyone. This is John Byrne with Poets&Quants. Welcome to our webinar. Today we are going to talk about Duke’s Fuqua School of Business Programs. We have basically alums from three of their different programs, including their Executive MBA, their weekend executive MBA program, as well as their master of science in quantitative management in health analytics from Fuqua. Let me welcome our guest, assistant Dean Ryan Smith, the Duke’s Fuqua School of Business Career Management Center. He oversees the Working Professionals Program as well as alumni career services. Fuqua’s Working Professionals Programs are designed to accommodate students who want to advance their careers with greater business leadership and data analytics skills while still working full time, which means you can get your MBA without having to sacrifice the income by leaving your job and doing a more traditional residential program.

We’re also pleased to have joining with us today from Fuqua alumni Laura Payne, David Harper, and Dr. Mital Patel. Now one of Poets and Quant’s best and brightest in 2021, Laura made a career in Global and Community Health before she joined Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA program. Shortly before graduating in May of 2022, so she’s a real recent grad, she moved to population health director with Oak Street Health.

David Harper left the Army as a captain to work in continuous improvement at the OshKosh Corporation. My kids wore a lot of OshKosh clothes, David. And during his time in Duke’s weekend executive MBA program, Harper moved to be a senior brand manager with Proctor and Gamble in Cincinnati, and he’s calling from Cincinnati today.
And then we have Dr. Mital Patel. He’s a physician in the medical device industry. He earned his masters of science in quantitative management health analytics from Fuqua. After graduated in 2021, Dr. Patel moved to Global Value and Outcomes Manager and now is senior manager with Boston Scientific. Today we’re going to talk a little bit about how Duke Fuqua has helped not only with skill sets, but also shaped careers of these three alums. Welcome, Ryan, Laura, David, and Mital. Ryan, tell us a little more about the Working Professionals program at Dukes School, and what are the different programs that are represented here, in fact.

Ryan: Thanks, John. You’ve highlighted here, we have overall four programs that are designed, designed for working professionals: the Global Executive MBA, the Weekend Executive MBA, and then two of our online programs, the Master of Science and Quantitative Management for Business Analytics and then Health Analytics. And really all these programs are designed to meet needs of those that, as you’ve indicated, want to continue in their careers rather than take the hiatus in from their job while pursuing the MBA. And really the difference is a format primarily in terms of, I mean all of them give you the rigors of what you expect from a school like Fuqua with the addition of different immersive experiences.

For those that are really looking for a global immersion, the Global Executive program would be more aligned to that type of experience in terms of residencies that take you around the world and engage you in culture. And really the perspective here is taking what you’ve gained from the classroom and applying it into the world setting and into the culture of those residencies. Coupled with, and followed by distant sessions where you interact with professors and add on to what you’ve learned in the intensive residency experience and build accordingly along with engaging with leaders within the countries that you’re visiting. And also other cultural and corporate engagement activities.

The Weekend Executive program similarly for working professionals is designed for those who want more short burst intensive residencies, three day weekend experience followed by distance sessions as well. And they provide similar, the knowledge building and the interaction in a different way in that you do get some of the campus experience coupled with that, given that the residencies are on campus in Durham, and then followed by the hybrid format where they’re in distance session. And then the MSQM program is all online. And so it provides that perspective, though it’s dedicated and designed for those who are either in analytics or looking to pursue leadership opportunities in analytics careers.

John Byrne: Lot of choices, lot of options, all with great flexibility given the online component and some of them, which is terrific. Now I know for our three guests here who are alums that going back to school, particularly when you’re working full-time, is a pretty big commitment. And for many people, frankly, it’s a scary one. I want to know what made you to decide to go to business school in one of these programs in the first place, and then what made you choose Fuqua? Laura, why don’t you go first?

Laura: Thank you. It’s something I had been thinking about for a long time. So my career for about a decade had been solely in the nonprofit space, and I wanted to see where I could contribute in a bigger fashion and have more impact to the broader community. So I’d been thinking about business school for a long time. Coming from the nonprofit [inaudible 00:06:06].

John Byrne: But when you say a long time, how many years?

Laura: Like three or four years.

John Byrne: Okay, that’s a long time.

Laura: That’s feeling like…

John Byrne: That’s working into it.

Laura: Yeah. But I was feeling like maybe I was a little bit old for a daytime program and was thinking about the risk and reward. So coming from the non-profit world and the salaries in the non-profit world, it was a big risk to not work at all for a couple of years. So I was looking at executive programs but really wanted to make sure that I was at a top tier school, and I loved the options that Duke presented.

Team Fuqua, which is our Duke community, is how I ended up here. I have a friend who also did the Global Executive program and she really pushed look at this particular program, look at the timing of it. And for me, the job I had, I’m very lucky that my boss, our CEO, was really supportive of me going to school knowing that I would likely leave at the end.

But because of my work schedule, I worked a lot of nights and weekends. I did communications and events. So a weekend program was honestly harder for me. And going the big spurts at a time was really what attracted me to the GEMBA program and the smaller number of students. So our cohort, Ryan can check me on this, I think we were about between 85 and 90 people. So the idea that I would really get to know everybody was really impactful for me.
It did end up being a little different. Being a May 2022 graduate meant I matriculated in the summer of 2020. So our global looked a little less global, a little more local, but still with the global nature of the curriculum and our cohort.

John Byrne: Yeah, I think the pandemic obviously disrupted a lot of people in everything that they do, whether personal, professional. How do you think Duke handled it?

Laura: So a little more context, I was an essential worker through the pandemic. So I think that I had a really particular lens of how different people were handling different things. I was honestly really impressed. It was frankly really disappointing that we weren’t traveling. I won’t sugarcoat that we signed up for a program that we would travel the world, but also I feel like we elected to stay in that program at a time where it was clear we weren’t, but we still got the same professors. We got to know the Duke campus in a way that normally the global executive program does not. Usually it’s your first and last term, now I think multiple terms are on the Duke campus, but for us, we got to go more times, because we were able to get together and really appreciated the focus on safety, but also the focus on giving us the best experience possible.
We did get to travel to Hawaii was our furthest adventure in our fifth term, so our second to last term. And I think the lengths that Duke went to to get us there and to follow all the rules and to keep us safe and healthy there, but also give us a really fun, enriching experience, I think really, really meant a lot to all of us.

John Byrne: That’s great. Obviously, it’s an experience you’ll remember the rest of your life, and it’s probably made more memorable because of the pandemic, despite the differences in the educational experience.

Laura: I think it did make our class closer, I will say. Our class is incredibly bonded.

John Byrne: So David, many military veterans use an MBA to transition into civilian life. It appears to me that you made that successful transition already having gone to Oshkosh. So I wonder why did you go back to school, and how did you find it for you?

David: Sure. John, great question and thank you for allowing me to be here. Extremely humble to share my experiences at Fuqua and Ryan, thank you. You’re right. So I was prior military and then I transitioned over to Oshkosh Corporation. And then after that I actually took a pause on my professional career after Oshkosh to become a stay-at-home dad to support my wife’s career full-time. And while being a stay-at-home dad, I knew eventually that I would want to pivot back into the business world. And in that time happened to be while I was a stay-at-home dad too, I was like, “Hey, this is probably a good time for me to maybe go back and earn my MBA and get my footprint back into the business world.” So I knew I wanted to go to business school and use the MBA to do just that. To go back, enhance my business acumen across different functions.

Why Fuqua? It was pretty clear to me early on, what really resonated with me at Fuqua is, and you will hear this from Dean Bolding, but throughout the Fuqua community is there’s really three pillars that Fuqua students kind of have in common and Dean Bolding will use this as well.

One is the IQ, being smart. One is the EQ, and then the emotional quotient. And then the third, but most importantly I think is this DQ, what they call the decency quotient. And that really resonated with me as I was looking through business schools, and a lot of business schools didn’t honor the fact that I was a full-time stay-at-home dad as a career or as a job, even though I had roughly eight years of prior professional experience between the military and at Oshkosh Corporation. And knowing that Fuqua valued what I was currently doing as a stay-at-home dad, and also took in consideration my prior professional experience and understood the pivot I was trying to get back in the professional world, that was a done deal for me. So the fact that these are the kind of people that they’re looking for, but also more importantly, who I want to learn from and interact with, people who respect people of different backgrounds, come with humility, come caring about other’s success and elevating everyone around you. I just got that sense from the Fuqua program that that’s what it was about, and that’s exactly what happened.

John Byrne: Yeah, that’s great. And I imagine that that MBA helped you transition to P&G as well, right?

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