There are few places as exciting as a college campus at the beginning of the school year, and Michigan State University embodied the spirit of energy, anticipation, and promise on campuses throughout the nation this past August. Walking paths filled with eager students crisscrossed the gently rolling shaded greenery of the MSU campus. The bubbling Red Cedar River created scenic background just steps from the Broad Graduate School of Management, and the warmth of late summer greeted students.
Nearly 100 first-year MBA students at Broad set out to blaze their own unique trail during the next two years. We had all come from different parts of the world, bringing with us a wide range of experiences and skills, but a common goal united this distinguished group—we would leave this campus as the well-educated, thoughtful, and insightful business leaders of tomorrow.
A group of strangers, making up the Class of 2013, assembled in late August not quite knowing what to expect as we began our journey as MBAs and reacclimated to student life. As I initiated conversations with my classmates, I was surprised to learn how many different backgrounds were represented. When I was accepted to the program, I could not have imagined that I would be enrolled in classes with a former automotive engineer, a 7th-grade English teacher, several military servicemen, and the owner of a hotel, among many other former professions. Between the small class size and the opportunities to socialize, I was able to network with my new classmates before the semester even got under way.
SENSE OF CAMARADERIE
All first-year students are required to take the same classes, which focus on several disciplines, including financial management, accounting, supply chain, marketing, statistics, communications, and leadership and teamwork. As courses began, I discovered that many moved at a relentless pace. My travel coffee mug didn’t leave my side, and I exchanged numerous bleary-eyed nods in the hallways with my classmates. Between classes and my graduate assistantship position at MSU’s University Relations department, I was certainly overwhelmed and lacking sleep, a sense of camaraderie prevailed among the class. We exchanged study strategies, dissected test questions, and sought the expertise of one another.
I truly knew I had selected a wonderful program when classmates went out of their way to help, such as the accounting teaching assistant who scheduled a personal tutoring session with me before both the midterm and final and the second-year finance student who created his own weekly study group because of the high demand for extra help. I knew business school would be competitive; however, I am continually and pleasantly surprised by the collaboration among classmates. The program is set up in such a way that it loosely resembles an actual corporation, so students have to reach beyond their immediate circle for resources and therefore become experts in engaging cross-functional teams. I also discovered that professors especially enjoyed interacting with MBA students, and I scheduled one-on-one meetings with several of them to discuss my academic progress as well as my career goals.
In conjunction with classes, everyone is assigned to a team of four or five students with different concentration areas, work experience, and nationalities. I have gotten to know my teammates well, beginning with intense collaboration for a case competition that we wrapped up late in the evening during the first week of school. Throughout the rest of the semester, our team has been required to complete numerous group projects. Today’s business environment exhibits complexities that necessitate teamwork, and the group assignments are an ideal way to practice this collaboration.
MINGLING WITH RECRUITERS
Besides coming together for class and group work, Broad MBAs also congregate to cheer our beloved Spartans on the football field. The MBA Assn. hosts a tailgate event just yards from Spartan Stadium and invites recruiters to attend, giving students an opportunity to mingle with potential employers in a more relaxed setting. In addition to enjoying Big Ten sports, students have countless opportunities to get involved in clubs, case competitions, entrepreneurship events, and development workshops to strengthen their business and leadership abilities.
As I’ve settled in to my new life in East Lansing, I’ve watched the campus greenery give way to concentrated fall colors. Hues of auburn, gold, and crimson blaze throughout the university grounds, signifying the change of seasons. The newest class of Broad MBAs has finally adjusted to a rigorous routine of classes, studying, and testing and is well under way with a significant change of its own.