Business Schools

Why MBAs Give Thanks


by Meredith Bodgas Don Brown is feeling deeply grateful. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business was forced to shut down, leaving students like Brown with no place to study. Fortunately, the Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis welcomed these displaced students into their program.

Olin even provided temporary housing for Brown so he wouldn't have to wait until he found an apartment to start classes. "When the rug is pulled out from under you, any sense of normalcy is appreciated," says Brown. "Being able to get involved immediately with the routine of classes helped me deal with the losses in New Orleans." Brown is thankful for Olin's efforts and is looking forward to returning to Tulane, feeling more closely tied to the Freeman students with whom he shared this experience.

As Thanksgiving approaches, there are many things on the minds of B-school students -- how they'll spend their time off, when they'll study for impending finals, and how great that turkey is going to taste. But like Brown, many students are also reflecting on how much they have to be thankful for this year.

FAMILY TIME. When asked what they appreciated most, B-school students consistently named the support of their families. As a new parent, Olin student Justin Chickles is particularly thankful for his relatives who, despite living many miles away, have dropped by to do laundry and rock the baby to sleep.

Even without a new baby, B-school students' lives are demanding. Brett Furber, an MBA student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, admits that he has had to sacrifice time with his fiancee and other family members to concentrate on school, but is grateful that he'll be able to catch up with them during their Thanksgiving feast.

Other students, like Nora Passe, are thankful simply to be pursuing an MBA. When Passe realized she wasn't satisfied with her job last year, she decided going to B-school would steer her toward a career about which she could be passionate. This fall she's thankful to have accomplished her goal of getting accepted at St. Thomas.

ENDING THE SEARCH. Christina Keller is also thankful to be attending B-school. Her experiences at Cornell University's Johnson School have helped her start a business that offers consultation work to other enterprises on achieving sustainability.

Keller's classmate, Justin DeKoszmovszky, is thankful for the Park Fellowship, the scholarship that lessened the financial burden of attending business school and enriched his B-school experience with what he describes as an innovative leadership curriculum. Fellow Johnson student Christy Benson is thankful just to be living in Ithaca, N.Y., with its gorgeous gorges, many restaurants, and nearby wineries.

Getting a job was another common cause for gratitude. Johnson student May Matthews is thankful for a full-time job offer from her internship, and Carnegie Mellon David A. Tepper School of Business student Malcolm Johnson is thankful to have landed a job as a banker -- and he only had to purchase one navy pinstriped suit to do it.

Of the myriad blessings that B-school students feel fortunate to have, there's one for which they can all be grateful. As Johnson student Juan Fontenla put it: "All the hurdles we had to jump over for business school are minuscule in comparison to the finish line: being surrounded by brilliant, down-to-earth, genuine leaders." And if that's not enough, MBA students should feel lucky they never again have to open a GMAT prep book. Bogdas is a project assistant for BusinessWeek Online in New York


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