“Oh, you’re from Hot-Lanta?”
This is the first sign that someone is clearly not from Atlanta. Nobody from Atlanta calls it Hot-Lanta or even pronounces the second “t”. Plus, Atlanta really isn’t that hot! As I am writing this, the high for the day is 70 and the low 33. Atlanta should be better known for temperature mood swings than a tropical climate. So, if that surprised you, then you might not know Atlanta as well as you thought.
If you’re uncertain about getting your MBA in Atlanta, take some time to get to know the city a little better and get beyond the myths. As someone who has lived around the city for 20+ years and plans on staying here for the near future, I’ll do my best to describe what the city is like without being too biased.
MYTH 1: ATLANTA IS ROOTED IN SOUTHERN CULTURE
While Atlanta is part of the Deep South, it is not known for its southern culture. Atlanta is very much a transient city, in large part because Atlanta was established as a transportation hub; it is home to the country’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson, for the past 10 years. The city has had an influx of people from all over the world. In fact, just outside of Atlanta is Clarkston, also known as “Ellis Island of the South”, which resettles the highest number of refugees per capita in the US. As most know, Atlanta was the cradle of the civil rights movement, birthplace of MLK, and host to Congressman John Lewis… each having left a significant mark on the city that continues to drive its heartbeat today.
While the people may not have as much Southern origin as you’d expect, the Southern hospitality is very much present. Some of the greatest examples come from our food. That includes Waffle House, which was founded on the principles of “providing the friendliest service in town while also offering the opportunity for rewarding and quality careers”, and Chick-Fil-A, which is known for its incredible service (albeit only 6 days a week). Here is one more thing to remember about Southern hospitality. When someone says, “bless your heart”, that is not them appreciating you – it’s a very sweet comment expressing contempt or pity.
This diversity is further expressed through food and music. No, The Varsity is not everyone’s favorite restaurant (or even a good restaurant). The food in Atlanta is as diverse as its people and varies significantly by neighborhood. And while many people might think Atlanta is known for R&B, hip hop, rap, and trap music from the numerous groups that have started or grown their careers here, it has also been home to artists from numerous country, rock, and indie/alternative bands. They include the Zac Brown Band, Sugarland, Lady A, The Black Crowes, John Mayer, and Manchester Orchestra, with other bands like Widespread Panic, REM, and The B-52’s coming from down the road in Athens. Perfectly displaying this eclectic mix is the rise of local rapper/singer Lil Nas X, who is famous for the “Country Rap” of Old Town Road, among others. Given the wide array of people and more than 60 live music venues, a fan of any type of music will be able to find a favorite niche in Atlanta.
MYTH 2: ATLANTA IS A BIG CITY
Atlanta regularly ranks among the 10 “Global Cities” in the US per Kearney’s global cities report and boasts the 10th largest economy in the US. However, Atlanta has a very different feel than other large US cities. The city is incredibly spread out with the metro area being home to around 6 million people, while Atlanta proper only hosts a population of about 500K. There are some entertaining tourist locations like the World of Coke, Georgia Aquarium (largest in the world), and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Still, the city is organized by unique neighborhoods with descriptive names such as Old Fourth Ward, Buckhead, Virginia Highlands, and Vine City to name a few. Atlanta is also incredibly “green” with nearly half of the city featuring a canopy of trees, 125 miles of outdoor trails, and a beltline for walkers, bicyclists, skaters, and strollers which circles downtown. The multiple beautiful skylines and endless array of small neighborhoods make Atlanta easy to sell to just about anyone.
MYTH 3: WE’RE ALL ABOUT PEANUTS AND PEACHES
While both are great, they are not as popular as one might think. In addition to being the startup capital of the southeast (#3 city for entrepreneurs per Forbes), Metro Atlanta is home to 16 Fortune 500 companies (3rd in the US) and has become more well-known for healthcare and film than agriculture. Atlanta is home to the CDC, Habitat for Humanity, CARE, and many more organizations advancing modern healthcare. On the entertainment side, Atlanta is often considered as a top 10 city in the world to produce film and television, whether it is Turner Studios, Tyler Perry Studios, or Marvel Studios.
MYTH 4: ATLANTA HAS MISERABLE SPORTS TEAMS
I’m beyond excited to say this is now a misconception, though this was accurate maybe a month ago. While the games are always a great time, Atlanta sports teams have an uncanny ability to do well enough to make the playoffs and then quickly crumble. As a result, we rarely get the high draft picks that enable us to land superstars who can help us win it all. On top of that, the last few seasons of the Braves, Falcons, and Bulldogs have produced some of the most heart-wrenching moments in sports history. In October, the Braves became World Series Champs! Now, we can finally pass the torch over to Minnesota.
MYTH 5: THE TRAFFIC IS TERRIBLE
Sadly, this is actually not a rumor. With two overlapping interstate highways combined with explosive population growth (there were only 2M people in metro Atlanta in 1990!) and slow or no growth in public transportation, traffic jams and wait times are legendary. While traffic jams in the Northeast stem from overly aggressive drivers, Atlanta traffic is mostly caused by terrible drivers. Every couple of years when The White Death (aka snow) rolls into town, this only gets worse.
So, why come get your MBA Atlanta? First, you have incredible access and exposure to a myriad of companies, regardless of industry or size. While Emory has long-lasting partnerships with firms like Delta and Coca Cola (see “Roberto Goizueta”), Emory is also intertwined with Atlanta Tech Village and similar small business accelerators. These provide students the opportunity to connect with individuals in their desired field and at their desired firms through internships, guest speakers, and class projects. Second, you’ll be exposed to new people and experiences, regardless of your background. A huge part of the MBA experience is learning from others and understanding their perspectives. Not only will you get that through your classmates, but from exploring the city and all it has to offer. Lastly, you’ll have a great time. Atlanta has so many great, different things to offer that I say anyone who doesn’t enjoy the city isn’t putting enough effort into finding a good time. On top of that, the Hartsfield-Jackson airport can get you to anywhere in the world, so you can easily explore other areas or stop by home if you’re missing family or loved ones.
That’s my perspective, but there’s no better way to learn about the city than visiting yourself. So, please, y’all feel free to stop on by but how about just for a visit? That’s my best Atlanta impression, coming from someone who has lived here for 20+ years but never used the “y” word. In honor of our Southern hospitality, great ATL-based nonprofits, and Giving Tuesday this past week (11/30) feel free to donate to CARE or Habitat for Humanity!
Kegan is an MBA student at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, where he is concentrating in Marketing, Analytics, and Social Enterprise. Kegan graduated from the University of Georgia in 2016, majoring in Marketing and Statistics. Prior to business school, Kegan was a consultant in the Strategy & Analytics practice at Deloitte, focusing on data analysis and marketing strategies. Outside of work, he is (sadly) a huge Atlanta sports fan and is often running, play tennis, or enjoying time with wife, friends, and family.