Here at Smith, classmates are as valuable of a resource for learning as any of the classes or professors. Often informal discussions, that occur before or after class or at group meetings, can bring you to new opinions or different viewpoints on the current issues of the business world. With all of the diversity we have, the perspectives of your peers really give you a good world view. We have some more structured forums, such as a weekly Wall Street Round-Table for finance issues or a cases discussion sponsored by our Net Impact club, but just day to day interactions can lead you down the path of tackling a pressing world issue in debate.
Here at Smith experiential learning in a part of every class we take. But, there are a few classes devoted solely to that purpose. The Mayer Fund and the New Markets Growth Fund are two of the most prominent experiential learning classes that the Smith School offers. The Mayer Fund is a student run equity investment fund. It functions as a class, but it is really a live fund. The fund has a team of student research analysts and two portfolio managers. Its as close to real life as you can get. The New Markets Growth Fund also functions as a class. Its focus is on venture capital and business incubation. Its target is student with an entrepreneurial focus who are interested in developing the companies that the fund invests in. Both are great experiences and two very strong parts of the Smith School experience.
As the search for a summer internship continues, I’ve been logging frequent flyer miles as I travel to meet with firms in many different locations. Just this past week I spent time in the New York City area to go on various interviews. Its tough because finding an internship is a big concern for most business school students, but classes move so fast that you can hardly afford to miss a day. Last semester we had no class on Friday, this was great for interviewing, since you could schedule one on a day that didn’t conflict with class. This semester unfortunately we have a class on Fridays, so it complicates the scheduling process. Most professors are understanding of the need to interview, but still it can leave you with a backlog of work to get done.
One of the great things about being a student again is having a student’s schedule. At times being a student means long nights and weekends spent doing class work. But it has its advantages, i.e. spring break. As the first half of our semester comes to a close, the focus shifts toward travel for spring break. I personally will be heading south, but some of my classmates are going to Central and South America, others are traveling to Asia, and some are going to Europe. The flexibility to travel and enjoy time away is something I wasn’t able to do while working, but now can indulge in while a student again.
Here at Smith we have selective classes, which are basically required electives. You have to take one of a group of classes in a few different areas. One of these areas is information technology. I am taking a class called Strategic and Transformation IT, which focuses on evaluating and making IT decisions in the business world. One cool thing about the class is the professor brings in industry professionals to speak to the class on their experience in IT. Today we had a Senior V.P. from Amazon.com and last week we have the CIO of Chevy Chase Bank. These visitors to class bring the theory behind the topics we discuss into a practical business setting which is very beneficial.
Approximately 3 times a semester, the MBA program hosts a Friday Speaker series event for the MBA students. These speakers can focus on a variety of topics in current business or could just be something of interest to the current student population. This past Friday we had S. Tien Wong, CEO of Opus8 as our guest speaker. Mr. Wong is a Dingman Center Entrepreneur in Residence and has run his own firms for the past 15 years. He spoke to us about outsourcing and offshoring. These are two hot topics in today’s global landscape and Mr. Wong’s insights as someone who has been involved in business process outsourcing were very interesting.
One of the great things about being a business school student is winter break. After all, as a working professional, you rarely get five weeks off in general, let alone in a row. Still with the holidays and traveling, much of my break was busy, yet somehow it felt much more low-key than the semester. I guess when you don’t have deadlines to meet and project to complete, the pressure drops a bit.
We are strongly encouraged to pursue internship opportunities and the like during break, since we don’t have the time constraints of the semester. Between using the school resources and searching through my own network, there are lots of possibilities out there, the challenge then becomes narrowing down the choices. As we lead into a new semester, the internship search intensifies, and the interviews start happening, hopefully leading to a productive end.
With about two weeks to go, we are officially in the stretch run of the semester. This means there’s a lot of stress over finishing projects and classes. People and groups deal with this in different ways. Some try to do everything themselves, others try to delegate as much as possible. One thing to consider when you pick groups, you need to be able to trust the people you work with. A lack of trust leads to disfunction, and then the team gets nothing done. Another thing to think about is how can you make the group work more fun for the team. Some of my groups have brought food to meetings, tried meeting in different locations, or even took breaks to play Nintendo Wii as a team. Sometimes the group needs to bond a little to build that trust that is essential for being successful.
Here at Smith, we take two types of classes, those that last for an entire semester and those that last for just half a semester. This is great because we get the opportunity to take more classes, but it can pose a challenge, because it results in a constant flow of deliverables. Its probably more real-world like doing it this way, considering in most jobs you are constantly working. It can be quite taxing though, as “midterms” come 3 times a semester, and “finals” twice. Overall, it forces you to keep up, because with the pace that we go here at Smith, there is little time to catch up.
Oftentimes in business school, its easy to get caught up in school work, or group meetings, or even school organization events. The pressures on your time can make finding distractions challenging. But just like in the working environment, finding time to “get away” is important. Fortunately, both UMD and the DC area offer lots of opportunities to forget school work for awhile. Personally I’ve opted for UMD sporting events, attending a few football and basketball games, and exploring some of DC’s attractions. Whatever your interests there are things around here to do, and that’s a great way to help keep your sanity.