Consequential Leadership Teams Embody Fuqua’s Diversity

Did you know that about 40% of Fuqua’s Class of 2015 (440 students) are international? I think this probably makes Fuqua one of the most diverse business schools in the U.S. That my friends, is an accomplishment I’m proud to be a part of. Walking down the Keller Center hallway, beneath the long series of flags that represent the diversity of Fuqua students, one could easily mistake the building for a U.N. office!

mba leadership team

My amazing Consequential Leadership (C-LEAD) team is a melting pot of cultures and expertise.

Fuqua does a fantastic job of turning this cultural diversity into an effective tool for personal growth and leadership development through C-LEAD (Consequential Leadership) teams. Every Fuqua student is part of a 6 or 7 member C-LEAD team whose composition is designed to be as diverse as possible — ethnically, academically, and professionally.

My own teammates either directly hail from or have strong ties to Taiwan, Mexico, Ireland, Spain, China, and Iran. They bring rich work experiences from healthcare, telecom, consulting, and automobile industries as well as service in the U.S. Army. Add to this my connection to India, an industrial engineering education, and a career in operations consulting and what you get is a melting pot of cultures and expertise!

“How is any of this helpful?” you may ask. Throughout the first terms of the Daytime MBA program, we were put through a grueling phase of academic learning, and I think it would be extremely hard to pull through it on your own. We required the combined effort of a team — a team that is cognitively diverse. This team-based learning enabled me to assimilate into business school more quickly then if I had to work alone. Also, in teams we’re able to better solve the many, real-life business problems infused into our curriculum by our excellent faculty.

The level of diversity on my team (and most teams) invariably created some conflict of opinions, and we pushed each other to get out of our comfort zones. However, we positively resolved those conflicts through connecting outside of class — team lunches/dinners, potlucks, group workouts, and partying! Over the past 7 months, we learned to be more accommodating of each other and more appreciative of our strengths. We’ve helped each other achieve academic and personal goals along the way. These experiences have come to affect how I perceive and demonstrate leadership.

As I pen these words, I can’t fathom how I would have pulled through school thus far, without the unflinching support from my team. Many thanks and kudos to my C-LEAD teammates: Adrian, Alice, Charlie, Enrique, Tao, and Sanaz. You guys are the best!

Raj Rajendran

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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6 Random Things About Me

When evaluating business schools to apply to, I was actually first drawn to the Fuqua application because of the 25 Random Things essay. I thought this essay question really differentiated Fuqua from the other schools — here was a school that wanted to get to know the real me, and not the perfectly scripted essay version of me. It was through this essay prompt that I got my first glimpse of how much Fuqua cares about its students. I love how unique and ambiguous the prompt is, as it really gave me the opportunity to show Fuqua what makes me uniquely me and describe how I would fit into the Team Fuqua culture. This essay was one of my favorite things to ever write, and I hope you enjoy writing your version of the essay, too.

Here are 6 of my favorite random things about me:

  1. I wrote my undergraduate college admissions essay about Hello Kitty, and was accepted into every school I applied to. My personal statement was about my imaginary best friend Hello Kitty who shaped me into the person I grew up to be. Now, the billion-dollar kitty phenomenon is my role model — the Sanrio business model is gloriously brilliant.
  2. My life motto is “you can only reach as high as you dream, so dream bigger!”
  3. I’m allergic to coffee. But I’m very addicted to sugar …
  4. I have eaten dessert (usually multiple times) every single day for as long as I can remember. Dessert is my obsession and passion — it’s literally a part of me. After all, you are what you eat!
  5. I told everyone in high school and college that I would be on the Food Network one day. And I was! Fifteen months after college graduation I won Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
  6. My favorite restaurant is in Beijing, my favorite dessert is in Seoul, my favorite hotel is in Bangkok, and my favorite city is Taipei. But home is where the heart is, and that’s Los Angeles.
Dorothy Tong

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2015. Find out more about me...

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Fuqua Community Helped Me Redefine Failure & Success

Many times in my life, I have been challenged. Many times, I have made mistakes. Many times, I have experienced failure. Now, reflecting on my time in business school, I realize that many opportunities were placed in front of me so that I could fail, and so that I could learn how to fail effectively …

All of us came to business school as leaders — as previously successful students, high performing employees and/or managers, and as driven individuals with interesting and intense backgrounds. But I noticed an interesting shift happening once I entered Fuqua. I quickly realized that everyone around me is equally motivated, equally smart, and have done things that are mind boggling. All of a sudden, we all moved from being at the top to taking our first statistics quiz and placing two standard deviations below the mean. At the time, it seemed like this grade alone would prevent me from getting a good stats grade, would prevent me from getting good job interviews, and possibly keep me from getting my dream job. In hindsight, I’ve realized that stats class was just another color in the crayon box, and one low grade isn’t the end of the world and doesn’t mean that I’m a complete failure. I’ve continued to grow and find those new colors of crayon that have made me into a stronger person, friend, and leader at Fuqua.

mba students with large check

I used to be terrified of speaking in public. At Fuqua, I overcame the fear and the failures. I began participating in (and won!) case competitions. I never thought I’d be able to do something like this.

Until now, I never realized how well Fuqua was preparing me to face disappointments that may come my way. I never thought that failure, repeated failure, would be a part of my MBA journey. I expected to come into business school and excel. I had high expectations for myself — I was used to being a perfectionist. Of course, I knew there’d be some things to learn, and I wanted to learn, but overall, I expected to successfully overcome every challenge. But so far, my MBA experiences haven’t been that easy, and I haven’t been as glowingly “successful” as I thought I would be. I experienced failures, or at least, what seemed like failures at the time — like not acing my first stats quiz. And it was tough — it was really tough to accept failure, especially since I had become so used to accomplishing my goals. There were times when I questioned myself and my abilities, and I wondered whether I could make it through the Daytime MBA program.

A New Definition of “Success”

Now, over half way through the MBA program, I am realizing that all of my experiences, and especially the failures, have led me to believe that nothing is impossible. The failures provided me with invaluable opportunities to test my strength, to learn, and to grow. The failures also broadened my idea of “success” to mean something different than it used to. For example, success is no longer about acing every quiz, instead, it is about really learning, understanding, and applying the concepts taught in class. Success is helping my fellow classmates through their troubles. Success is growing my values into an ethical leader.

I know this “learn from your failure” attitude may sound like a self-help book, but I really believe it, and I learned the hard way. Along my journey, I also learned that I was not alone. At first, you think that you’re alone, but you’re not.

mba case competition team

Acting tough with my very first case competition team — my teammates were essential in helping me to find my voice.

Maybe you’ve already been in my shoes, or in a similar situation — thinking back to my undergraduate days, in my organic chemistry course, I had been asked to create aspirin. At about the halfway point of the experiment, I waited for the chemical reaction to progress — for the synthesis to occur — but quickly realized that I had not allowed my vial to sit in the ice bath for long enough and my reaction foamed over. I started the experiment again and created aspirin crystals, and when checking for impurities I found that my aspirin had a lot of salicylic acid left in it. Failing at this experiment multiple times revealed the mistakes that I had been making, and allowed me another opportunity to do the experiment again — each time more successfully and efficiently. In time, I created aspirin that got me a 98% grade, and I felt it was pure enough to swallow, to help with the migraine I had created for myself in the process.

I have faced experiences like this at Fuqua as well. I’ve even had experiences that led me to overcome my biggest fear since childhood, and I can proudly say that I made this great accomplishment. Last year, my management communications professor, Mark Brown, transformed my presentation skills and taught me how to effectively express my thoughts. I truly feared public speaking and wouldn’t speak up in groups larger than 5 people. Mark gave me tools to help me overcome my fear, and I began using crutches like index cards, and writing down speeches to practice a 100 times. My Integrative Leadership Experience team also helped me to grow from a quiet girl who did not participate in team discussions, into a girl who was able to speak proudly and confidently about my knowledge of the healthcare industry in front of a crowd of judges and spectators for a case competition (read about some of my case competition experiences). I also became a girl who could voice opposition when I saw something going wrong in public, and a girl who is now able to lead and mentor first-year students who are facing some of their biggest fears and challenges. Whether in class or at a friend’s wedding, I can effectively give an impromptu speech or even stand up in front of a large audience during a case competition and answer difficult questions (although I may be sweating up a storm). I was able to overcome my inability to speak up, and though there were very uncomfortable moments and some failures along the way, I ultimately succeeded and was transformed, with help from the Fuqua community. And more than just my classmates and professors, it is the global environment of Fuqua that inspires me to move on and force my growth.

machu picchu

A moment of reflection and solitude at Machu Picchu in Peru — feeling how far I’ve come.

Transformation Follows Failure

As I am now travelling the world (visiting London, India, Bahrain, and then studying abroad in South America), I have realized what it’s like to be in a country with a language that’s foreign to me. And I realized how many international students feel when they come to Fuqua and Durham — they may know the words in the English dictionary, but may not understand idioms and slang. But they continue to learn English. It’s their curiosity and dedication to understand the English language that shows me that nothing is impossible. When in South America, I plan on getting lost on the roads, mistranslating Spanish words, and having moments in which I’m terrified — in short, I’ll make mistakes, and there will be failures. I think this will lead to stronger memories and a greater sense of accomplishment. It will lead me to better understand myself — how I deal with conflict, how I act under pressure, and how I am able to overcome any difficulties that I may face. It will better prepare me for the consulting world, where I will face conflict with my clients, my superiors, and my teammates. It will allow me to thicken my skin and to believe in myself. Failure is all about the effort you put in — the more effort that is put into overcoming a mistake, the more likely that it will result in greater success.

I am realizing that business school is about more than just learning statistical analysis. Business school should take you out of your comfort zone in order to make you stretch and grow. It may be uncomfortable at times, but most transformational journeys are. Business school prepares you for the rigors and realities of the working world, where you will face the same industry challenges day to day, encounter bureaucracy at its height, and of course, make some decision that causes a project to be unsuccessful. But through all this, there is one thing that does not change. It is the people that you surround yourself with, the mentors that you follow, and the leader you aspire to be. Although we may fail at times, it is important to remember that failure is a natural part of life — no one is perfect. Through failure, keep your head held up high and be courageous to take a risk and accept the fall if it comes.

Life’s path is made up of slabs — with each crack comes failure, with each slab comes a new experience … and when the path is finally built, it will lead to a home of great leadership, honest work, and genius business ideas.

Nisha Asher

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Fuqua has the Ingredients for a Transformational Journey

Two years ago I was a sitting at my desk, working for one of the leading investment banks in Chile. I had recently been appointed to Senior Associate, and I was enjoying a comfortable position. At that time, my career path was all clear to me. Go to business school, then come back to the bank, and continue my career as a senior executive. But none of those plans have become a reality. The culprit? Fuqua! I have lived through a transformational experience during the last one and a half years at Duke …

fly fishing

Fly fishing in Pisgah National Park (near Asheville) during fall break.

The People

It all started when I attended multiple info sessions about the top business schools in the U.S. Not surprisingly, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business was the only one that captured my attention. It was primarily because of the people. I was really impressed by how close and committed the alumni were, and how much they interacted with prospective students. Even more, it was the only info session I attended that included alumni partners, illustrating how important the community/family are at Duke (a critical issue since I was coming with my wife). After attending some of Fuqua’s other Daytime MBA admissions events including coffee chats and interviews, I felt very connected with people at Fuqua including alumni and the admissions team. The same feeling came over me once I arrived at Fuqua. The student body is just fabulous! I had never before been in a place with such a collaborative environment. Everyone is available to advise you about courses, internships, clubs, sports, or any other topic you can imagine. Interacting in such a diverse school definitely helps you to open your eyes and discover new interests.

mba student with kids

Having fun with some kids during a community service project in Mozambique during my summer internship there.

Also, Fuqua has a high proportion of international students (roughly 40%) from diverse backgrounds. If I had to name the three most important assets of Fuqua, it would be: 1. Its people, 2. Its people, 3. Its people. The admissions department clearly does a great job of selecting the best possible and most diverse student body.

The Location

Another important reason I selected Fuqua was location. This is something you may not consider when choosing schools to apply to, but it’s essential considering that you’ll spend two years of your life at business school. In my opinion, Duke is in a “paradise of the outdoors.” Imagine any sport or outdoor activity you may want to learn or practice, and you can probably do it in North Carolina, and most importantly, almost year-long because of the mild climate. In my case, I have gone fly fishing multiple times (it’s a great passion of mine!) in Asheville and the surrounding area. The weather in Durham is just perfect, and almost every weekend, I play golf with friends. The weather is also a huge asset for those who have a family since kids can enjoy the outdoors all year long (no kidding).

The Possibilities

Finally, Fuqua is a place where all doors are open. It just depends on you to open them. Although I worked in investment banking, I’ve always been attracted by social service. Given my background, would you believe me if I tell you I interned for a foundation in Maputo, Mozambique? Just look at the picture! This was made possible by Fuqua’s Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE), a leading center in the industry that promotes initiatives such as impact investing. Read more about my summer internship. In addition, during my first year at Fuqua, I applied for a Master of Public Policy (MPP), something that I wouldn’t have considered two years ago. My experience in Africa and the testimony of some classmates encouraged me to apply. Guess what? I was accepted! Now I’m a dual degree MBA/MPP student.

Please believe me when I talk about a transformational experience at Fuqua. Here you will explore your deepest self, and pull out all those passions that have been waiting for years to come to the surface. Being a Fuqua student allows you to take action on your passions, and to even discover new ones.

Joaquin Brahm

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Application Tips and “My 25 Random Things”

Note: The following article was originally published in the Fuqua in East Asia blog. The original article can be read in its entirety by clicking here.

Shu Hong

Guest Blogger: Shu Hong, second-year student and China Admissions Ambassador.

I am Shu Hong, a second-year Duke Daytime MBA student at Fuqua and a China Admissions Ambassador for this year. Working closely with Admissions and coordinating interviews in China brings back memories of my own business school admissions process. Prior to deciding to apply to Fuqua, you’ve likely learned a lot about the school, community, and culture through various channels including: following the official Fuqua Weibo account, reading Daytime student blogs, attending information sessions, and  talking to admission officers, alumni, or current students at admissions events.

Here are some more tips as you work on your application:

  1. If you have talked to any admission officers, alumni, or current students, be sure to mention their names, together with what you’ve learned from your conversation with them, in your essays.
  2. Leave enough time to prepare for the essays. After the first draft, let them “cool” for a while, and then begin revising. If you happen to know any alumni or current students, you may find it helpful to ask their suggestions.
  3. If you are waitlisted, keep us updated on your job status, exam scores, or other big changes. Do not hesitate to share with us any significant news, promotions, or improvements.

In the spirit of essay writing, I would like to share 25 random things about me with you:

  1. When I was 12 years old, my father changed my first name from “姝” (beauty) to “書” (academic). Although the Chinese pronunciation remained the same, this change aptly characterized his high hopes and motivated me to live up to them.
  2. My hometown is in the northernmost province of China. It is adjacent to Russia and famous for the heavy snow during winters.
  3. From first grade to fourth grade, I assisted a classmate in a wheelchair with a variety of tasks from washing her hands to retrieving her textbooks, through which we developed a beautiful friendship. This experience taught me the joy of giving at an early age, and prompted me to continue helping others in need. Currently, through the Net Impact Club, I enjoy contributing back to the community.
  4. I love all kinds of food — Chinese, Mexican, Italian, French, etc. Whenever I come to a new city, the first places I go are restaurants and grocery stores.
  5. I have practiced Chinese Calligraphy since I was 7. I can still remember some of the movements and show off to my friends from time to time.

Read Shu Hong’s full list on the Fuqua in East Asia blog.

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Thursday: A Day in the Life of a Fuqua MBA Student

About this time last year, I remember wondering what day-to-day life would be like as an MBA student. Current students told me their days were packed with classes, speakers, and recruiting events. Still, I had trouble imagining what business school would really be like. Would assignments really be completed in teams? Would I spend the evenings studying? Would there be time to do hobbies I enjoyed, like running and cycling?

In this post, I hope to give you a sense of a typical Thursday for me at Fuqua during the first term, and address some of the questions you may have about business school. Of course, remember that this is just my experience. At Fuqua, you will tailor your daily life and activities to what you are most interested in, so each person’s day looks different. As you can see, the schedule is pretty packed, but for me, being engaged in school from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep is exactly why I chose Fuqua.

7:15 AM: Wake up.

7:45 – 8:55 AM: Go to the gym at Wilson Recreation Center on campus, about a 7-minute walk from Fuqua.

9:00 – 9:30 AM: Meet with my Fuqua buddy to discuss his summer internship. He worked at a local pharmaceutical company that I’m interested in, so it was great to hear his perspective. Each admitted student is assigned a first-year Fuqua buddy upon admission to Fuqua. Fuqua buddies are a great resource for questions about Fuqua and how to prepare for the year ahead.

9:30 – 10:30 AM: Sit in Fox Center and prepare for class.

10:30 AM – 12:45 PM: Biotech and Pharma Strategy class: Since I exempted from two core classes, I was able to take an elective course during Fall Term 1. This was a case-based class focused on topics such as pricing, vaccine launch, intellectual property, and acquisitions. One of my favorite parts of this course was learning from the second-year students’ contributions. They had great insights from their summer internships that enhanced the class discussion. For me, the highlight of the course was actually the final paper — my team developed a launch strategy for a new Hepatitis C drug expected to gain FDA approval in 2014.

12:45 – 1:45 PM: Lunch in Fox Center. Fuqua has a great cafeteria with a salad bar and many made-to-order options. Most business students eat lunch in the Fox Center so it’s a great opportunity to catch up with section mates or get to know new classmates.

1:45 – 4:00 PM: Accounting core class. During Global Institute, Fall 1, and Fall 2, first years typically attend all core classes with their section (the entire Daytime class is divided into 6 sections). Attending class with your section mates is a great way to get to know a subset of Fuquans more deeply. Before each accounting class we had a team case due, which we complete with our Consequential Leadership (C-LEAD) teams. One of the best lessons my team learned throughout the term was how to be more efficient in our meetings. When we were all busy with competing recruiting, academic, and social priorities, we wanted to make the most of each meeting while still ensuring that each member of the group understood the material presented. I am lucky to have a great team, so we had plenty of laughs throughout the term and have gotten to know each other well as both colleagues and friends.

4:15 – 6:30 PM: Statistics core class. The semester flies by and there is a ton of material packed into 6 weeks, so I had to push myself to be accountable to make sure I understood the material from each class. We had an online test due before each class so that was a good way to check understanding.

6:45 – 8:00 PM: Corporate presentation. Recruiting presentations start during Fall Term 1 for most industries including consulting, finance, marketing, and general management. Companies that recruit Fuqua MBAs typically have one official on-campus presentation about the company. Because of the strong Fuqua network, most of these companies send members from their leadership team who are Fuqua alumni. During presentations, these representatives typically give an overview of the company, explain available internship opportunities, and answer students’ questions. After the presentation, there is typically a networking reception where students have a chance to get to know the company representatives and get a better sense of company culture.

8:00 – 11:00 PM: Eat dinner, do homework and catch up on emails. Homework usually involves reading cases and preparing assignments in advance of group meetings. Most assignments are team assignments during Fall 1 and Fall 2. My study team met before each assignment was due so individually, I always took a stab at completing the assignment (or at least attempting to) so I would be prepared to contribute to our team meetings.

Heather Langerman

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2015. Find out more about me...

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Being a Woman at Fuqua is a Beautiful Thing

Recently in the media, there has been quite a buzz about being a woman in business school, thanks to the New York Times’ article about Harvard Business School and its policies regarding gender equity. While I can’t comment firsthand about the culture at HBS, I can give an accurate account of what I thought about when applying to business schools, my experience at Fuqua, and what I’ve been able to do while at Fuqua to increase awareness about women’s roles both in the classroom and in the professional arena. While strides can still be made toward complete gender equality in business school programs across the country, I believe that Fuqua is well on its way to ensuring that both males and females are respected and invited to every conversation.

female mba student

Female students at Fuqua don’t seem to think twice about raising their hand and speaking up.

Coming from the military, I was used to working in an environment that was predominately male. And to be quite honest, I learned to enjoy the challenges and advantages that being a woman leader presented within the military context. Bringing a different perspective to the table and having alternative priorities than some of my male (and female) colleagues made me a valuable asset to our team, and exposed me to the thorough practices of regimented, mission-driven individuals, which was a change from some of my undergraduate college leadership roles.

That being said, I did look at diversity in business school as a relatively high priority because I wanted greater exposure to women in the business world who were determined to break the proverbial glass ceiling. Some of the first conversations I had about choosing a business school were from my outreach efforts to women’s groups because I knew that women were the minority, and I wanted to hear their thoughts on equality in the classroom and after graduation. These candid conversations were extremely valuable and provided me with specific insights from the female perspective. For example, I learned about the reality of classroom dynamics and what types of networking opportunities were available exclusively for women. These conversations helped me to determine which schools to keep at the top of my list.

weekend for women

Fuqua’s annual Weekend for Women is a special event that brings prospective students together.

Women are Everywhere at Fuqua

One aspect of Fuqua that differentiates it from other top-tier programs is Weekend for Women, an annual event in November for prospective female students that provides a chance to come to campus, attend class, and interview with second-year students. While I couldn’t attend when I was a prospective student because of scheduling conflicts, I was impressed by the event, and heard a lot about it. Some of my best friends at Fuqua met their future roommates through the program, and have an incredibly strong friend group based on their interactions 2 years ago! Later, as a student, I volunteered to help with the Weekend for Women, and answered prospective student’s questions face-to-face. I built relationships with them that have continued. This year’s event organizers, two second years, Arika Smith and Hannah Soll-Morris, also planned a speed career networking session, so attendees could ask second years about their summer experiences and about what they’re planning to do full-time. It was a great way to introduce the reality of post-business school choices to prospective students — definitely not something I thought enough about before applying to B-school.

When I decided to apply to Fuqua, another aspect that I took into account was the fact that gender differences weren’t strikingly apparent at Fuqua. There were plenty of female student bloggers, I was contacted by a second-year female veteran, and about half of the admissions staff was female. The fact that only about 35% of my Daytime MBA class is female doesn’t detract from the overall impact and involvement that women have all around Fuqua and on the wider Duke campus, and not just through Fuqua’s Association of Women in Business (AWIB). Fuqua doesn’t need to emphasize gender-neutrality in its marketing strategy because the culture here is one of mutual respect and inclusion, no matter if you’re an international student, a female, or a minority.

Current students and alumnae serve as panelists during the Weekend for Women.

Current students and alumnae serve as panelists during the Weekend for Women.

While at Fuqua, I haven’t been disappointed by the gender diversity on campus or in the classroom. As a first-year, I had plenty of role models to look up to and this year, I’m proud to be a club leader. About 31% of female club presidents are female this year, which is roughly proportionate with the total number of women in my class (35%). Although my section reflected the typical 35/65 percentage split across the genders, I was always able to raise my hand and participate in class, and I witnessed other women in class doing the same — the only thing affecting our air time was our own willingness to speak (or lack thereof).

As a woman who’s doing a concentration in finance and going into banking post-graduation, the only instance where I have noticed the stark split between males and females is in my finance classes. In my Private Equity and Venture Capital Class last term, there were 11 women compared to 66 men. My personal theory as to why this huge difference exists is because women in my class are focusing on marketing or strategy instead of financial fields. Finance professionals are typically and traditionally male, based on what I’ve seen, and my girlfriends just aren’t interested in finance (trust me, the marketing courses at Fuqua are just as quantitatively rigorous as the finance, so I don’t buy the excuse that women aren’t as good at math as men are). The gender divide was much more equitable in my Managing of Innovations class at 26 women and 29 men, and it was quite refreshing to hear more women speak up in class and have an equal divide on our 6-person team, with 3 men and 3 women. Fuqua can’t make women become more interested in finance as a career path. So, until more women rise in professional financial ranks and encourage other women to join them, it will be up to those of us in school to tout the value of our Valuations and Investment courses and encourage our female friends to join us.

I believe it's up to women like me to encourage other women to consider careers in finance.

It’s not unusual for finance classes or events, like this Corporate Finance Panel, to be attended by more men than women.

Changing the Status Quo

I think the best part about being a woman at Fuqua (and the thing that they don’t tell you about during your admissions interviews) is the fact that as a Fuqua student, you have the ability to affect change. I believe that I’ve impacted gender awareness at school through my involvement with Fuqua’s primary woman’s group, AWIB. As Leadership Co-Chair with Chantel Pizarro, we instated “MAP,” which stands for the Male Ambassador Program. Through this initiative, we aim to bring men into specific conversations about gender differences within Fuqua and within broader professional settings.

Last year at AWIB’s annual conference, men were essentially shunned from the discussions and panels because the event was financially sponsored by an outside entity, and we didn’t have control over who attended. This was unfortunate and in response, Chantel and I scheduled 2 events this past fall to increase the dialogue with men (after all, what’s the point in talking about gender issues with only one gender in the room?). Our first event included 40 attendees who listened to a panel of alumni talk about gender perceptions in the work place, and best of all, the gender split of attendees was 50/50! It was the first time I had ever heard a male’s perspective about gender issues (or lack thereof), and the alumni had incredibly insightful comments, too. We also hosted a discussion with faculty and administrators about gender at Fuqua, and we are going to offer a “Sports 101” session during the next term to help inform all first-year students about current events in sports so that they can talk about sports during their internship and job interviews. Sports are often a great ice breaker and conversation starter during interviews, and a lot of recruiters are interested in hearing about Duke athletics.

women in business conference

The Association of Women in Business organizes an annual conference that attracts prominent speakers.

Another group on campus that I have been a part of is Fuqua’s Leading Women (FLW). This organization is for all female Fellows (COLE, Forté, Admissions, CASE, Career), club presidents, and female staff and faculty. My Co-Chair, Ashley Hobbs, and I organize two events each term to bring influential women together in a relaxed social setting. We want to increase the interaction among students, staff, and faculty because we have found that these casual conversations are the ones that spark ideas and new initiatives. While AWIB and MAP are focused on educating both genders about similarities and differences and how they impact each other in the workplace, FLW gives women the white space they need to relax and talk informally with likeminded women about issues that affect them at Fuqua. The differences between these groups shows the variety of support that Fuqua offers to students.

Although I have never expected special treatment because of my gender, the simple fact that we’re allowed to have candid conversations about male and female relationships at Fuqua is an incredibly positive thing. Increasing awareness about subtle biases that both genders have will pay off great dividends when my classmates and I are 10 – 20 years into our careers and have the privilege of hiring, promoting, and retaining qualified candidates. These discussions have only begun thanks to female executives like Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO and author of Lean In, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton University Professor and author of this popular article in The Atlantic. We won’t see the results immediately. However, we, both men and women in business school, owe it to future generations to have the conversations now about gender in the workplace — which is why I’m proud to say I’m studying at an institution that encourages and actively supports all students, no matter their gender.

Sarah Feagles

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Fuqua Focuses More on the Business of Energy

mba student

Guest Blogger: Richard Bethune, second-year Daytime MBA student.

As Co-President of the Duke MBA Energy Club and a second-year MBA student with a passion for energy finance, I was thrilled to see two exciting developments occur this past summer. First, energy banker Ralph Eads donated $5.5 million to Duke, most of which will fund Duke Energy Initiative programs and an energy finance professorship. Second, Fuqua announced the creation of the Energy Finance Concentration partly because of the energy club’s lobbying efforts including our well-attended energy finance speaker series last spring. I jumped at the opportunity to enroll in the new Energy Finance Concentration courses because I came to Fuqua to take advantage of the school’s already fantastic combination of finance and energy offerings.

Energy finance involves general finance topics such as mergers and acquisitions along with specialized topics such as Master Limited Partnerships, solar leasing, and project finance. It involves some basic science and engineering knowledge. It is a hot topic now because the United States and other countries are undergoing seismic changes in how they generate power and produce oil and gas. These changes are leading to hundreds of billions of dollars in merger and acquisition activity and value creation opportunities. Energy firms and their advisors are desperate for MBAs with the financial and scientific knowledge to understand and capture these opportunities.

New MBA Courses Provide Detailed Insight & Path to Opportunity

Key faculty support for last year’s energy finance speaker series came from former J.P. Morgan banker John Buley, who is Director of Fuqua’s Center for Financial Excellence. He is also supporting the concentration by co-teaching the new Project Finance course with Professor Vish Viswanathan, which I plan to take in the Spring Term 2. We will study large-scale infrastructure projects that rely mainly on the cash flows generated by the projects to repay loans and earn a return on investment for equity investors. I just completed a couple of energy finance case studies for Vish’s Advanced Corporate Finance course, and I look forward to covering these topics in greater detail during the spring course.

Other new courses for the Energy Finance Concentration include a seminar series led by Dan Vermeer, Executive Director of Fuqua’s Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE). I took his two-term course in the fall, which included a fascinating variety of speakers, from a Siemens smart grid executive to the former CEO of mining giant Rio Tinto. It was great to understand the energy finance challenges faced by some of the largest corporations in the world.

In addition, an academic travel program was added that’s focused on energy. The in-class portion of the program was led by the former U.S. Ambassador to oil-rich Venezuela, Patrick Duddy. Students heard from some great guest speakers in Durham before traveling to speak with energy policy experts in Washington, D.C., and drilling experts in shale gas-rich Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was glad the class was able to visit EQT Corporation, the natural gas company where I completed my energy finance internship this past summer. Previous energy banking experience and my involvement in the Energy Club demonstrated to EQT that I had the experience and interest in energy to succeed as an MBA intern. My Fuqua finance, accounting, and energy courses prepared me to raise equity capital, analyze the pension, and model natural gas well production for EQT.

I am excited about the Energy Finance Concentration because it gives me the opportunity to develop hard finance skills in courses like Corporate Finance and Derivatives while better understanding the science and business of energy in courses such as the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP). In the FCCP course, I joined a team of students to consult on a commercial energy efficiency program for the Alliance to Save Energy. Tremendous innovations in renewable energy and oil and gas are creating many jobs for MBAs at investment banks, consultancies, utilities, clean tech VCs, energy conglomerates, renewable energy firms, and oil and gas corporations. I believe the Energy Finance Concentration gives me an edge in the job search.

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Week-in-Cities with MBA Net Impact Club

Many of Fuqua’s student-run clubs organize “Week-in-Cities” trips to different regions of the country to network with businesses and alumni. As a cabinet member of the Net Impact Club, I had the pleasure of co-organizing this year’s trek to the Bay Area, which occurred a couple months ago during Fall Break.

Every year the Net Impact Club schedules the Week-in-Cities trip in conjunction with the Net Impact National Conference, which was held in San Jose and wonderfully described in a previous post by second-year blogger Jen McFann.

During the three days before the national conference, our group of 30 learned a lot from wonderful panels of socially-minded businesses men and women from 6 focus areas: Social Finance, Energy & Sustainability, Education, Corporate Social Responsibility, Social Impact Consulting and Global Health & International Development. We also visited the offices of Clif Bar, Nest Labs, RSF Social Finance and FSG Social Impact Consulting. We attended a happy hour with many Fuqua alumni from a variety of industries who live in the Bay Area.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are the highlights of our Week-in-Cities trip!

corporate visit

Inside Clif Bar’s headquarters in Emeryville, California.

corporate visit

Touring the fun headquarters of Clif Bar.

mba students

Catching up on emails before the Global Health Panel.

mba student presentation

Student-moderated Education panel.

social finance panel

An intense social finance discussion with panelist from RSF, Kiva and Good Capital.

After returning to Fuqua at the end of the week, we were all excited by what we had learned in San Francisco and ready to jump into recruiting season!

James Megivern

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2015. Find out more about me...

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Climbing Walls: The Fuqua MBA Journey of Personal Growth

It all started with this assignment: Take about 70 men and women, from all over the world, from many different backgrounds, with widely (and wildly!) varying levels of athleticism, and get them to work together to climb over a wall, one by one. Oh, by the way, these people have only met recently (last week), the wall is 14-feet tall, and they aren’t allowed to use ropes, tools, or any other kinds of tools. Just the people, working together, to get over that wall, as fast as possible.


The Wall at Triangle Training Center.

“The Wall” was the most rigorous of the many physical tests that the newly enrolled Fuqua MBA Class of 2015 faced a few months ago on Team Challenge Day. Team Challenge Day is hosted at the beautiful facilities of Triangle Training Center in Pittsboro, North Carolina, about 22 miles south-west of Fuqua. The day is part of the orientation and leadership development program at Fuqua. It provides an opportunity to develop leadership, decision making, and problem solving skills in the context of teamwork. The teams involved are 6 sections of 70+ students who take first-year core classes together, and the smaller learning teams of up to 6 students.

The Wall is the culmination of Team Challenge Day. It has become a rite of passage for all Fuqua MBA students, and finishing times are fiercely contested between the 6 sections. However, The Wall is much more than just a physical challenge, a ritual, and a competition. On Team Challenge Day, I realized that The Wall is really a collective exercise in extending the boundaries of possibility and deepening the bonds of camaraderie. It was, and remains, my single most memorable day at Fuqua — an unforgettable experience …


Classmates help each other to climb The Wall.

The Wall is also symbolic of the many different “walls” that every Fuqua student must climb before, during, and after their MBA experience:

  1. The Wall of Professional Success: Leaving behind a successful professional career to pursue an MBA, and perhaps overcome some career obstacle to ultimately transition to a higher level or a completely new career.
  2. The Wall of Comfort and Security: Exchanging the comfort and security of the familiar for a new environment and new experiences.
  3. The Wall of Disapproval: Overcoming the disapproval of others, be they family, friends, colleagues, or various commentators, about the value and wisdom of pursuing an MBA.
  4. The Wall of Geography and Distance: Departing from familiar surroundings, be they in the United States or elsewhere in the world, to come to Fuqua in Durham, North Carolina.
  5. The Wall of Culture: Embracing new cultures, including, most importantly, Team Fuqua.
  6. The Wall of Similarity: Forsaking the similarity and uniformity that you may have become accustomed to in your existing professional and social circles to embrace the global diversity at Fuqua.
  7. The Wall of Fear: Conquering the fear of the unknown and the future.
  8. The Wall of Uncertainty: Confronting the risks and uncertainties that come with new opportunities.
  9. The Wall of Capabilities: Learning new habits, skills, and knowledge to enhance your capabilities, and when and where necessary, unlearning old habits, skills, and knowledge.
  10. The Wall of Change: Developing the courage and capacity to change.

In my own Duke MBA journey up to this point, I’ve had to face and overcome all of these walls, and doubtless will continually have to do so in the future. I left a successful and well-established career to pursue new but as yet unrealized opportunities. It was difficult to give up professional and personal comfort and security, but it was entirely worthwhile. In the famous words of Steve Jobs: “The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again.” No, it certainly hasn’t been easy — indeed it’s been decidedly uncomfortable at times — but several months into my journey, I can say without an iota of doubt that I definitely made the right decision and have absolutely no regrets. Of course, being here at Fuqua has everything to do with that. The entire school is geared to supporting and facilitating the personal process of growth and development. I’ve also learned and benefited from many other MBA students here at Fuqua because we are all on similar, though not identical, journeys.

There are many emotional and mental challenges, or “walls,” involved with coming to and attending the MBA program at Fuqua. Some are expected and predictable; some are not. Some are relatively easy; others are much harder. But that’s the whole point, because after all, the Fuqua MBA is designed to be a life-changing journey of personal growth aided by all the experiences and all the people (classmates, professors, staff, alumni, and others) at Fuqua. Your comfort zone will expand, you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself, and you will develop a completely different outlook on life. Above all, you will develop the capacity to climb walls that would have previously seemed impossible to overcome.

For a better idea of what Team Challenge Day is like, including climbing The Wall, check out this video:

Mjumo Mzyece

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Daytime MBA, Class of 2015. Find out more about me...

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