My name is Chris Fellows, I am VoiceofGoizueta’s designated correspondent from the Accelerated One-Year MBA Program. Approximately one quarter of the population of Goizueta Business School’s Full Time Class of 2013 are “One-Years”, and I volunteered to write for the blog to help prospective students get an inside view of this degree option. In subsequent posts I’ll be enlisting the help of other One-Year classmates to offer varying perspectives, but I’ll kick things off with my review of the most unique element of the One-Year program, the summer experience.
Touching briefly on what brought me to the program, I had been working in banking in Atlanta for almost six years and after having had a few jobs in the industry, I was reasonably confident about my commitment to finance as a career path. On the personal front, I was married and owned a house. I wanted to get an MBA, and gave considerable thought to three key decision drivers that impacted where I would go; format (full-time/part-time), quality (regionally ranking/nationally ranked), and location (Atlanta/elsewhere). I felt that Emory allowed me to optimize my preference for a high quality degree in my preferred location, and that the accelerated format would allow me to maintain career momentum without too much of an interruption.
The full-time/part-time decision is an important one for people who live in major cities that have good options in either camp. My decision to go full-time was based on the fatigue I observed in the colleagues and friends I knew who went the part-time route. I had already subjected myself to three years of studying for CFA tests after work and just didn’t think I could split my energy for 2-3 more years. But for some people, taking a full stop from work simply isn’t viable, so it truly is a personal decision. I’ll try to round up some more perspectives on the full-time/part-time decision in subsequent posts.
I wrapped up things at my job in late April 2012 and spent a few weeks clearing my head before starting at GBS in mid-May. All of the admissions events and informal conversations with admitted students seemed to revolve around how “intense” the summer portion of the program would be as students complete the GBS core curriculum in 10-11 weeks. However, the main thing I couldn’t get out of my head was how amusing it was going to be to be hanging out on a college campus in shorts all summer rocking an L.L. Bean bookbag and sunglasses while virtually everyone else I knew in life was slaving away at work.
The summer kicked off with an (overwhelming?) number of sanctioned and unsanctioned “Getting to Know You” events among the 48 people in the One-Year program, capped off with a retreat at Winshape Wilderness in Rome, GA where we bonded with our class as well as our 4-5 person sum teams. Before I knew it, classes had begun.
Our first five week block featured four academic classes (Data and Decision Analytics aka Statistics, Economics, Leading Organizations and Strategy, and Accounting) and one course on professional development. In short, this portion of the summer was hearty. We had two classes every day; 8:30am-11:30am, and 1:30pm-4:30pm (with one 15 minute break in each), and had each class twice a week. Every class had work and reading due before the next one. Work projects were a mix of individual and team assignments.
Parts of the summer experience harkened to the movie Groundhog Day. Our group of 48 was in the same physical classroom for every class; so the physical environment remained the same, it was only the instructor and subject matter that changed. Due to the arithmetic realities of packing four courses into five weeks, each and every class period covered a substantial amount of material. For me, most days included an hour or so of meeting with my group, a couple of hours of individual work on campus before leaving around 6:30pm-7:00pm, and a few hours of individual or virtual work at home after dinner, taking me midnight most nights. My wife, a Duke grad, found my ‘new normal’ fairly amusing after the years I had spent reveling in the comparison of my SEC school fraternity life experience to her brutal slog in Durham.
In class, people began the summer sipping fairly civilized beverages (Diet Coke, Starbucks Coffee, green tea). As fatigue started to set in by the end of June, my classmates and I were openly slugging Monster and Five Hour Energy with little shame. But despite the demanding schedule, I really enjoyed it. I didn’t know a single person in my class before we started (beyond introductions at Welcome Weekend), and I loved hearing peoples’ stories start to come out as we worked through cases and problems in class. Top tier business schools like Emory foster an incredible amount of in-class dialogue. It was a wholly new educational experience for me for delivery of valuable classroom content to occur student to student; I was accustomed to the much more passive undergrad lecture style of content delivery.
Our second block of classes featured an interesting mix of traditional MBA classes (Marketing, Operations) and a grouping of integrated “Management Practice” courses; Leadership Communication, Leading with Emotional Intelligence, and Management Practice. My class will forever remember this Block as the “Popeyes” block, as each cohort spent a considerable amount of energy on a consulting project for Atlanta-based Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. The project raised our understanding of the challenges of the strategy consulting profession, and increased either the love or disdain each of us had for fried chicken.
I think most of us had mixed emotions when the summer experience ended in early August. We were relieved to be on the other side of the most intense barrage of academic demands GBS was going to throw at us, but we also recognized that this was the last time in our lives most of us would have to focus on school and simply ‘connecting’ with new friends with the volume turned way down on jobs and our family and friends from ‘real life’.
After a three week break, the One-Year class returned to campus in late August to merge with the traditional Two-Year format Class of 2013’s. Combined, the full-time class of 2013 is 188 students, which is very small relative to most top tier business schools. However, it is a sign of how close the One-Year program is that many of us felt a bit shell shocked by the volume of new faces we saw in the halls and classrooms.
The Two-Year students have been very welcoming however and it has been fun to get to know this entertaining crew. Their reports of impressive internship experiences have a couple of us wondering if we were overconfident in assuming we could use the One-Year MBA as the same career pivot that the a Two-Year program allows, but I’ve observed subtle differences in life stage and attitude that drove me to select the One-Year format in the first place.
In a town hall setting the other day, a group of Two-Year students voiced concerns over a coffee/bagel break that had been eliminated in favor of a sponsored case competition. For these students, the break was an important campus ritual. For me, only five months removed from employment at an expense-axing TARP recipient, it had always seemed frivolous. For some people, 12 months is too little time to figure out what they want to do next and actually get there. For me, I’m confident the One-Year program is giving me the broader perspective I was seeking without sacrificing the career momentum I had coming into the program.
In the coming months, I look forward to sharing my perspective on the One-Year Accelerated Program and will do my best to pull in a variety of my classmates to do the same. If you have any questions about the program feel free to reply to the post.