Street art created in Valparaiso, Chile, by Smith MBAs with the help of two experienced graffiti artists. (Photo / Peter Haldis)
Shortly after 9 p.m. Chilean time (7 p.m. in College Park) Sunday, I boarded a 767 to travel from Santiago to Atlanta, bringing to an end to a whirlwind nine-day stay in the South American country. The global study trip was part of the Smith Experience program for MBA students.
Boxes of avocados at Subsole. (Photo / Peter Haldis)
The trip included visits to: Lodge Andino in the Andes for a day of hiking and horseback riding; ProChile, the government agency tasked with promoting Chile around the globe; Subsole, a Chilean produce company; Fundacion Origen, a nonprofit school, restaurant and hotel that provides a free education for disadvantaged students from Santiago; international shipping company SAAM; Startup Chile, a government program aimed at attracting tech businesses to Chile; and the Estancia el Cuadro vineyard.
We were visited at our hotel by representatives of: La Bicicleta Verde, a company that provides bicycle tours of Chilean cities; Beervana, a recently opened store in Santiago that specializes in imports of craft beers; and The Musiet Group, which is responsible for bringing U.S. restaurant chains like Denny’s and Ruby Tuesday to Chile.
Crates in the shipping yard at SAAM. (Photo / Peter Haldis)
In addition to all of the company visits, the trip also included some opportunities for cultural activities. After our visit to SAAM (where the port workers were on strike, leaving ships stranded in the bay), we took a walking tour of the street art in Valparaiso. At the conclusion of the tour, we were allowed to create our own street art, with the help of two experienced graffiti artists. Following the La Bicicleta Verde presentation, several of the students on the trip participated in a bike tour of Santiago, during which we escorted through the city by several stray dogs.
I’m currently taking a Smith Experience course through Smith’s Center for Social Value Creation in which I am working on a consulting project for a nonprofit called Year Up. On Saturday, Year Up held its annual gala at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor. I attended to observe and gather information for the consulting project.
The gala gave my team and I our first opportunity to interact with Year Up students and alumni, and learn more about their experiences. We met one student who, along with two other students, had written a a song called “Dress Shoes” and participated in the filming of a music video for it during a visit to The John Lennon Education Tour Bus.
However, the Year Up gala was the just the first half of my Smith Experience this past weekend. During my winter break, I’ll be one of 33 Smith MBA students participating in a study abroad trip to Chile. I spent my Sunday afternoon in Van Munching Hall for the first of two classes to prepare for the trip.
Much of the first year as an MBA student at Smith is focused on building skills. Thus, most of the cases you study in your first year are about well-known global and U.S. companies. But now that I’m in my second year, I’m being asked to apply the skills more broadly. This is most apparent in the only MBA core course I’m currently taking: The Global Economic Environment.
In this course, you get to apply your business thinking to variety of global economic and geo-political situations, from the German inflation crisis in the 1920s to the current issues facing the emerging economies in Brazil, Russia, India and China. The cases we’ve studied have ranged from depressing (South Africa) to surprising (Malaysia).
After next week, I’ll be finished with The Global Economic Environment and, thus, essentially finished with my MBA class work. I’ll continue working on my two Smith Experience classes through the remainder of this fall and winter, but otherwise the rest of my coursework will be in the Public Policy school.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the policy school works on a semester schedule, while the Robert H. Smith School of Business operates under a term schedule. Thus, although I’ll be wrapping up The Global Economic Environment in a few days, the rest of my classes will remain the same until winter break.
A view of the Potomac River from Weverton Cliffs on the Appalachian Trail. (Photo / Peter Haldis)
I’ve just completed my third week of my second year in the MBA-Master of Public Policy program here at the University of Maryland, and it’s probably been the busiest week I’ve experienced since my arrival here last fall. That, combined with the oppressive heat we’ve experienced much of the past week, has left me exhausted.
Prior to this week, I attended the first-annual second-year MBA retreat at a camping ground in western Maryland. Highlights of the trip included a day of whitewater rafting on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers, a seven-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail and a survival challenge courtesy of Smith faculty member Oliver Schlake.
Upon returning to campus, I had to jump right back into the grind. This is the first semester in which I’ve taken both MBA and MPP classes, and this past week is the first time I’ve had to deal with the challenges of juggling two sets of coursework. Tuesday was a remarkable exercise in this as I was on campus from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Typically, I only have one class on Tuesdays, a public policy course on management and leadership. However, this past Tuesday, I had to give a 45-minute group presentation on the leadership challenges related to Hurricane Katrina, and arrived to school early to put the final touches on the presentation.
At the conclusion of the class, I took a break for lunch before attending my initial client meeting for my Smith Experience project. This project involves creating a marketing plan for a non-profit called Year Up, which works with urban 18 to 24-year-olds to help them go to college or pursue a professional career. Following this meeting, I put in my two hours of work at my grad assistantship in the Smith Office of Marketing Communications, before heading off to dinner.
After dinner, I attended a Smith Experience “boot camp” to prepare all Smith students working on Smith Experience consulting projects for the semester ahead, followed by another meeting with my Year Up team before finally being able to head home at 8:30.
Yesterday was my final class of the first year of my MBA program. So far I’ve taken 13 classes for 26 credits: Introduction to Financial Accounting, Data Models and Decisions, Financial Management, Marketing Management, Leadership and Teamwork, Managerial Economics and Public Policy, Strategic Management, Managerial Accounting, Managing Digital Business Markets, Operations Management, Creativity for Business Leaders, Consumer Behavior and Understanding Organizational Change.
To complete my MBA-MPP dual degree program, I need to take an additional 40 credits. I’ll be able to knock out three of those credits this summer when I take my first policy course, Macroeconomics and Policy Analysis. Next fall, I’ll take my final MBA core course, The Global Economic Environment, and four more policy course, Political Analysis, Moral Dimensions of Public Policy, Public Management and Leadership, and Foundations of Social Policy. I’ll also likely be taking my first three-credit course as part of The Smith Experience. (I will find out about Smith Experience offers on Monday.)
It’s possible that, except for the six credits of The Smith Experience I need to take, The Global Economic Environment could be my last MBA course. The MBA-MPP program includes a total of 66 credits, and I must take at least 30 in each program. Adding the nine additional MBA credits I need to take to the 26 I have already completed puts me at 35, leaving 31 for my MPP degree. One variable: It’s possible that one of my Smith Experience programs could count towards the MPP Project Course I am required to take, or vice versa. If it’s the former, then it’s very unlikely I’ll be taking any additional MBA courses because I’ll need to take an additional MPP course to reach 30 credits. If it’s the latter, then I may have room to fit in an additional MBA elective that catches my eye.
The only core class I am currently taking is Operations Management. Like some of the other classes I’ve taken, such as Understanding Organizational Change, this class involves an online simulation. What’s interesting about this simulation is that it is a week-long, 24-hour simulation.
My team, cranberries, has spent most of the simulation in the top five of the team standings.
Though details of the simulation aren’t particularly interesting (we have to manage the operations of a fictional technology company through a four-step process), the simulation itself is quite addicting. On multiple occasions, I have found myself frequently refreshing my team’s simulation page, tracking our progress and anticipating when we could take our next action.
The key to the simulation is to expand the plant’s capacity to address bottlenecks, while also making sure that your team has enough inventory to meet demand. The simulation began on day 50 of operations, and my team noticed that the plant had run out of inventory at times during the first 49 days. So, one of the first steps my team took was to increase our inventory repurchase point, yet we briefly ran out of inventory early in the simulation, forcing us to further raise the repurchase point.
So far, my team has been very successful in implementing our plan; we’ve purchased two new machines, which has relieved all bottlenecks and reduced lead times to the point where we can charge the highest possible price for our goods. Going forward, it seems to be just a matter of optimizing our inventory repurchases to keep the associated costs minimal, while also making sure we never run out of inventory.
One thing I remember about my undergraduate experience as a Journalism major is how little difference there was between my required courses and my electives. The electives available at the journalism school generally built upon the skills learned in the core courses. So, my journalism electives had names like “Feature Writing” and “Advanced Editing.”
Required tools for “Creativity for Business Leaders” include crayons and an anti-stress ball. (Photo / Peter Haldis)
However, so far in my MBA experience there has been a vast difference between the core courses and the electives I’ve taken. The core courses, whether quantitative or qualitative, are primarily aimed at building skills, whether that’s calculating a company’s operating profit or determining what a company’s future strategy should be. It’s all based in systematic thinking.
But the electives I’ve taken have enabled me to exercise intuitive thinking. The most prominent of these courses is Creativity for Business Leaders. So far in this course, we’ve created name tags using crayons; constructed mascots for our class teams; designed advertisements for fictional businesses, such as pet dating websites; and searched for inspiration from magazines we’d otherwise never read. My choices for the last assignment were “Dive Training,” a magazine for beginning scuba divers, and “Quilter’s World,” “the magazine for today’s quilter.”
As I’ve mentioned previously, I am a dual-degree student who is a candidate for a Master of Public Policy in addition to pursuing an MBA. So, although I need to complete a few more MBA credits, the bulk of my coursework in the 2013-14 academic year will be taken in the School of Public Policy.
This dichotomy has made putting my schedule together next fall an interesting experience. Just as with my MBA, my first semester of policy coursework will be focused on core credits. But unlike the seven-week MBA courses, policy courses last an entire semester. In addition, policy courses are held once per week for two-and-a-half hours, whereas MBA courses are twice per week for one hour and 50 minutes.
Fortunately, there are two elements that have introduced flexibility into my scheduling. First, due to my MBA coursework, there are two MPP core courses that I do not have to take. Second, there are several sections of each MPP core course to choose from.
As of now, I have registered for six courses for next fall: My remaining MBA core course, The Global Economic Environment; four MPP core courses; and one MPP elective. Like all MBA core courses, The Global Economic Environment is a one-term course, so there will be a huge hole in my schedule when that class ends; on Mondays my first class will be at 4:15 p.m., and on Wednesdays I won’t have class at all.
I still have one term left in the first year in my MBA experience, but much of my focus has shifted to a summer internship. As an MBA student who comes from journalism and is looking for utilize his MBA there, I have focused my attention on MBA internship opportunities within the industry. One downside to focusing on this area is that most journalism MBA interns are selected shortly before the end of the school year. So, while many of my Smith colleagues already their internships lined up, several of the ones I’ve applied to are still accepting résumés.
The upside is that my journalism experience should give me some advantage. I recently joined a LinkedIn group called Journalist MBA’s. I’m one of five members of the group. The third link returned in a Google search for “Journalism MBA” is one of my previous posts on this blog. In other words, there don’t appear to be many MBA students with journalism backgrounds. Many of the positions I applied to merely request that applicants have “an interest” in journalism; I have seven years of experience.
As a dual-degree student, I also have to start preparing for next fall, including registering for my public policy courses. Although I will have finished my MBA electives by the end of this year, I still have one core course I need to complete, and I need to finish my Smith Experience coursework. So, I will be taking coursework next year at Smith and the School of Public Policy. What’s interesting about this is that, while the MBA program operates under a term schedule, my Master of Public Policy courses will be semester-long. Having a schedule of courses of varying lengths will be an interesting new experience for me.
Peter Haldis is an MBA-MPP candidate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. This is his second go-around as a student at the University of Maryland, having graduated from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism in 2004.
Peter’s professional experience includes a journalism fellowship at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a non-profit that provides free legal assistance to journalists. At the Reporters Committee, Peter copy edited stories for the committee's website and was managing editor of the quarterly magazine, The News Media and The Law.
He is also the former managing editor at business-to-business newsletter company Hart Energy Publishing, where he oversaw seven newsletters about the motor fuels industry and created the company’s Refinery Tracker newsletter.
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 13 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, MS, PhD, and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia. Find out more at http://www.rhsmith.umd.edu