Choosing MBA Electives — A Strategy

by Kavanaugh Livingston, Part Time MBA at the DC campus

Working through a year of MBA prerequisite courses while also pursuing full-time work is difficult enough; after the core curriculum concludes, how does a student then navigate the challenge of choosing the right electives?

By the end of the first year, most students will have developed a better understanding of which subjects interest and challenge them the most. If a student really enjoyed the core classes in data analysis and leadership, for example, it would make sense for them to pursue these subjects further while avoiding classes in other subjects which they barely got through. Some students may have known from their first day at Smith that they wanted to specialize in a certain topic.

But not everyone wants to specialize, or has a clear idea of what subject they want to specialize in. This can make choosing electives during the second year of the MBA a mystifying process to navigate.

So — how should you make these choices if you are not ready to really pursue a focused subject matter strategy?

I have one key recommendation for picking the electives that will provide the most enriching academic experience: ask your campus faculty adviser for help! Your faculty adviser will be very knowledgeable about the content of the elective classes and the style of the professor who teaches the course. Using this strategy has led me to take courses that I would have never considered in the first place, helping to broaden my knowledge and skill sets.

I’m not going to shock anyone when I say that a professor who is an engaging teacher can make all the difference, even on a subject matter that you may not think is initially interesting. So, it may help to ask your adviser specifically about previous student feedback on a particular course and the style of the professor. Through this process I have taken more finance and marketing classes, which were some of the higher rated classes and just happened to be the two core classes that I wanted to get away from the most! How about that?

Paulo Prochno is a Clinical Professor and Faculty Director of the DC Evening MBA program, and before each term he has learned to expect my email asking: “Hi Professor — it’s a new term, would you be available for a meeting on campus next week so that I can discuss your thoughts on some of the electives I am thinking about?”

This strategy may not be for everyone, but this approach has allowed me to grow academically in ways that have benefited my role at work and in my other electives. And an added bonus? We will get to know your faculty adviser really well — a great experience in of itself.