Thoughts on Duke and Durham

Duke and Durham are really different from anything I’ve experienced before or expected. As an international student and as a Fuquan, here are some things I’ve experienced and observed since being here that have really struck me:

Entrance to The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University

Panoramic view of the entrance to Fuqua’s Fox Student Center and Keller East and Keller West wings.

Student Life at Duke & Fuqua

  • Duke is HUGE, definitely the biggest campus I’ve ever seen.
  • Fuqua is the most diverse community that I’ve ever been a part of, period!
  • You can always expect to hear a good story when you start a conversation with a random person you meet at Fuqua.
  • GO BLUE DEVILS! I’ve never seen people so proud of their sports team! Duke has not only achieved a great standard in sports, but also created a unifying force that binds all of Duke together. There’s nothing more uniting than for 2 Dukies to share an experience during a game and to root for our home team.
  • “Study hard and play hard” is not just a motto here. It’s actually a way of life that people believe in and follow.
  • Expect 50 new emails in your inbox, per day!
  • Classes are tough. There always seems to be too much work and too little time to finish it, but it’s the challenges that force us to move forward and improve, isn’t it? We love to be challenged here at Fuqua.
  • Once you get used to the idea of wearing business casual clothes to school every day, students from other schools wearing regular clothes may just seem too “hip.”
  • MMS Students reach for the sky.I love the idea of “Team Fuqua,” and people take real pride in being a member of it!
  • Once you are a Fuquan, you are a Fuquan for life!
  • I’ve been here for 7 months, and I still get lost in Fuqua! It’s huge, and very weirdly shaped, haha!
  • You’ll grow to love your team members. You spend most of your time with them, in and out of class.

students enjoy their Starbucks!

Life in Durham

  • Durham is nothing like the traditional “small town” you might picture. It has good brunch places and welcoming neighborhoods, and is surrounded by nature with lots of trees.
  • The weather is awesome! Clear skies, sunny and not dry at all, but the rain storms can get pretty scary.
  • People are nice. I don’t even have to ask for directions. People walking by notice that I look lost and just come up and offer their help.
  • It’s kind of the ideal town to live in. I’ve always loved to be able to stroll down a small street, find a nice café and just sit, relax, and finish a book. Durham is the type of place where you find people sitting outside of restaurants along the street or sipping a nice cup of coffee at a corner café, with blues playing in the background.
  • The cultural offerings are rich. Pop culture including concerts and art shows are here all year-round. Just pick up a brochure at a café or browse online to find a fun event like Triangle Restaurant Week. Duke itself also offers a lot of events like movie week and concerts that will always keep your weekend calendar filled.
  • Just pick any direction, walk for 5 minutes, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of trees!
  • You can get around with public transit, but it’s so much easier with a car.
  • You don’t really get a lot of shopping time, but that also forces you to plan and make the most of it. When you go grocery shopping, you might want to get an entire week of supplies rather than what might last for only a couple days.
  • When you move here, find a way to get furniture as soon as possible. I slept on the floor for 3 weeks and it was quite tough.
  • You need an American driver’s license to buy a car. You have to pass two tests to get the license, and you need several documents to be able to take the tests.
  • The restaurants here are amazing. Being Chinese and a bit of a cook, I’m extremely picky about what I eat, and Durham has not let me down. I think I’m authoritative enough to say that the Chinese restaurants are very authentic. My first go-to restaurant is Happy China, and I also enjoy Hong Kong China for Dim Sum, and Gourmet Kingdom for Sichuan food. The Sichuan Fish from Happy China always helps whenever I’m homesick. I’ve also heard great comments from my friends about the other types of cuisine in the area, including classic American steak and unique Italian lasagna, etc.
  • It only takes about 20 minutes to drive to the airport and flights are relatively cheap, so it’s easy to fly anywhere!
  • Basically, life is good here. You’ll LOVE it!
Zhi "Frank" Li

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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From the Court to the Classroom: The “Fist” Team Analogy

If you ask me, North Carolina is home to the best college basketball in the world. I grew up on the folklore of Tobacco Road, and for those unfamiliar with North Carolina, Tobacco Road is not so much a geographical location as it is a basketball asylum — the one place in the South where the hardwood sport, basketball, reigns supreme. It is the home of historic programs at Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, and Wake Forest; of legendary coaches such as Dean Smith, Jim Valvano, and Mike Krzyzewski; of unforgettable players from David Thompson to Christian Laettner to Tim Duncan to Michael Jordan. Basketball is more than just a game in this state. It’s a metaphor for life — how to lead, how to succeed, and how to be a part of a team.

Team Changeover

MMS students participating in the Duke Basketball Experience

MMS students learn valuable principles of teamwork from the Duke basketball coaching staff.

No one personifies the culture of Tobacco Road better than Duke basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski. That is why every year, MMS: FOB students are given an opportunity to participate in a Duke basketball mini-camp as part of the MMS Team Changeover. Students are assigned to teams at the beginning of the MMS program and then are reassigned to new teams at the beginning of Fall Term 2. This “Team Changeover” is bittersweet. Over the course of the first two terms, your teammates become your extended family and it is difficult to say goodbye. At the same time, you gain a new team and section, offering an opportunity to work with 4 – 5 different classmates. Teams are created to complete assignments, study, network, and socialize. It’s a critical component of Team Fuqua.

The Team Changeover not only allows new team members to bond on the court and experience the tradition of Duke basketball, but also teaches valuable principles that can be carried from the basketball court into the classroom and out into the real world. As I left the camp, I reflected little on perfecting my jump shot, but instead on Coach K’s analogy of the “fist” and his 5 principles of teamwork.

The “Fist”

Coach K uses the analogy of a “fist” to explain effective teamwork. Each finger represents a member of the team. To make the greatest impact, each member of the team must come together like a fist, unified in mind and body. If goals are not aligned, teamwork fails and so does the ability to achieve your objective. It’s analogous to extending a single finger as you strike a brick wall. The result is a broken finger and a shot to your ego.

MMS students participating in the Duke Basketball Experience

Teams learn the value of collective responsibility during defense drills at the Duke Basketball Experience.

Coach Krzyzewski emphasizes 5 words for his teams: communication, trust, collective responsibility, care, and pride. The emphasis is on the power of these words and combining them in a manner that creates unity, which in turn creates victory.

  • Communication: Effective leaders are effective communicators. On the court, we communicated with our teammates when we released a pass to alert our teammate to catch the incoming pass.
  • Trust: Trust is a critical component of an effective team. Without trust, teams can fall into the trap of one person micromanaging the entire operation, thus reducing the overall synergy of the group. During basketball shooting drills, we had to trust our teammates and ourselves to make enough shots to meet our goal. Fortunately, my team met the goal and we didn’t have to do pushups.
  • Care: In the classroom, caring means giving your best effort on every assignment to optimize the likelihood of receiving a top mark. On the court, it means taking care of the basketball and minimizing turnovers.
  • Collective Responsibility: Every member of a team is accountable for the desired outcome. Therefore, it is imperative that each member is encouraged and supported to put forth his or her best effort. Just as collective gains should be praised, effective teams support each member’s individual interests and accomplishments. On the court, Coach K emphasizes team defense. During our defensive drills, each team was encouraged to smack the floor and shout “I love defense!” before each set.
  • Pride: Take pride in your team’s successes. Own your MMS: FOB experience. Celebrate both the big and little wins. Always provide an environment of encouragement and support for your teammates.
Tim Patron

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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To Apply or Not? That’s the Question & Here’s my Answer:

It’s seventh grade, and I’m listening to my teacher, Mrs. Stoltz, speak about our assignments for the day. The flow chart on the wall delineates our projects for the duration of class. As she goes through each item, she re-emphasizes one statement over and over: “Remember kids, be proactive!” Throughout the day, whether it be in history, math, science, or free-time, we are encouraged to take initiative and go beyond the scope of our duties to strive for excellence. At that time in my life, being proactive didn’t mean much besides, “get your work done, and get it done well.” It was simply a way to get us to finish our assignments in an efficient way. Now, however, I realize that it means much, much more than that.

Initiative. Proactiveness. We hear these words in conjunction with excellence, success, and leadership on a regular basis, especially at Fuqua. I’m sure that you’ve heard these words at some point in your life and rolled your eyes. Am I right? Believe me, I’ve been there! It’s much less about the words themselves. It’s the implications of applying them in our day-to-day behaviors that give way for an amazing array of opportunities that can shock and surprise even the most self-assured of people, and create unique and exciting paths for us in this enigma we call life.

Don’t believe me? Well, what if I told you that being proactive means the difference between being good and being amazing? It means striving for the stars rather than being happy on the ground. For me, it meant the difference between staying in California and going to an MBA program or coming to Duke for the MMS: FOB program. And it all began with an email …

I’ve joked with Cathy Johnson, my Fuqua admissions counselor and friend, about this. The reason I am in this program is because of an email. It’s really true. I had just finished applying to some MBA programs last May when I received an email from Duke inviting me to apply to the MMS: FOB program. Before then, I had never even heard of a Masters in Management Studies program, let alone thought of applying to one. My plan had been simple: get a business degree from a reputable university which could provide the basic business tools to work in the social entrepreneurship sector. I studied hard for the GMAT and worked tirelessly on essays and applications, all the while working 3 jobs. I had laid out my plan in advance and scheduled my days to fit in everything; my year consisted of working at a non-profit and our family’s rug manufacturing business, tutoring calculus, and fine-tuning and submitting MBA applications.

So when I randomly checked my uci.edu email address one evening and saw “Duke University” in the subject line, not only was I not too excited (by that time I was drained from the application process), I was also extremely skeptical. Is this really from Duke University? I thought to myself. Or just some imposter? At first, I thought it was some wanna-be college with a similar name to Duke’s (Harvard College, anyone?). A quick glance at the email didn’t convince me otherwise, so I decided to google the program.

What I saw impressed me. A lot. The program, geared towards recent graduates, seemed great: fundamentals of business, preparing you for the job market, and equipping you with tools to succeed. All good. And of course after seeing the MMS website, I realized that the email was definitely legitimate, and so was the program. I did, however, still have doubts. Did the program offer any benefit to people who had work experience, like me? How much would the program prepare me to get a job that I want? And how exactly did the program measure up to MBA programs? Would it carry the same weight with companies, or would I simply be paying for a few extra letters next to my name? All of these questions, many of them doubts, swirled in my mind. I had already applied to all the programs I wanted to go to. I was done. I had no need to look into this MMS program …

Now, this is a situation I like to call a “proactive/passive moment.” In life, there are situations in which one can take action and be proactive, or sit back passively and do nothing. And as we grow older and have more control over our lives, it becomes progressively easier to be passive and take the lazy way out. These moments can be as small as deciding to help a stranger pick themselves up after a fall, or as big as deciding to speak up when a severe injustice is occurring in front of you. One thing is certain; these moments happen multiple times in a day, week, and lifetime, and only we have the power to decide which action (or non-action) to take.

In moments like these, I like to think of my choices and how I might feel about them in the future. Would I regret them, or be happy? I have an innate desire to live life to the fullest. Carpe diem, if you will. So, more often than not (if I am honest with myself), I find that I would regret NOT taking action more than taking an action. This case about MMS was no different. I thought about it and realized something: this could become something big, or it couldn’t. I could either see if the program was right for me and apply, or I could just sit back and wait for the other schools to respond. The latter option would definitely be the easiest, but truly, whether or not I got into the program was irrelevant. For me, the most important thing was being completely content that I had done everything in my power to take this opportunity, even if I ended up going to one of the MBA programs I had already applied to. What mattered most was that I would know that I had given it a chance. No regrets, right? I really had nothing to lose!

Needless to say, I applied to MMS: FOB, got in, and am in Durham writing about it now. The funny thing is that although I busted my butt crafting my application and submitting it in time (I applied very late in the admissions cycle), the only thing going through my mind was: Be proactive. Do your best, so you don’t regret it in the future. I viewed the process as an opportunity to explore, and because of this, I opened myself up to a new experience I couldn’t have imagined before. I’ve found that Fuqua has one of the most amazing resources in the world when it comes to social entrepreneurship, and that all of my innate principles (having an impact, leaving a legacy) are core values that Duke embodies. I realized that this school, and this program, was actually the perfect fit for me, much more than any MBA program I had applied to. So when I got the phone call from Cathy about my admission and scholarship offer, I knew that despite my initial doubts, I had definitely made the right choice. And the rest of those MBA programs? I got rejected from EVERY SINGLE ONE … if that’s not fate, then I don’t know what is.

So life, and my teacher Mrs. Stoltz, have both taught me that being proactive leads to amazing things. Taking initiative clears your mind up for different possibilities, opening up an array of different doors that could not have been opened without that first, seemingly futile, action. If I had ignored that email — that one email — I would not be at Duke. That’s kind of mind-blowing. So next time you are faced with a proactive/passive moment, however insignificant it may seem, stop yourself and think. Think about what kind of person you want to be, and take action based on that desire. Not only will you feel accomplished, but you will also completely and honestly be the person you wish in that moment: the person you truly are. And maybe, just maybe, that action might change your life forever.

Danya Akbar

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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Business Case Competition Provides Consulting Experience

Now that most of the MMS: FOB class has gone through the first rush of recruiting season, it seems that one of the popular routes is consulting. I had only vaguely heard of what consulting was before coming to Fuqua, but when given the chance to try it for myself, I signed up for the MMS Accenture Case Competition during the last term. The mock competition provided a chance to tackle a case like a consulting team would for Accenture, with a timeframe of only 48 hours. It was a stressful couple of days, but I think my classmates can agree that we learned a lot. Now we’re looking ahead to some group projects, including one in Strategy class that makes me glad I had the case competition experience. Here’s the play-by-play of how the competition went:

Thursday

11:17 am: I sit at the table with my teammates Anastasia, Fareed, and Chase in the Kirby Reading Room as other teams find places to sit together. I rushed out of class to learn a bit more about our task ahead. We had enlisted as a group in the MMS Accenture Case Competition.

We listen to Jaclyn, an MMS 2012 alumna, and Ellen, a grad from Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering with a Master’s in Engineering Management. They introduce the Accenture culture, and give us a crash course in decision worksheets and issue trees.

12:47 pm: We receive the case, written by Jaclyn and Ellen in an email. The superintendent of Durham Public Schools (DPS) is considering introducing a supplementary online program for science courses. After an initial reading of the case, we start some internet research, finding anything that seems relevant. Anastasia and I collect data from the DPS website on test scores for analysis. Chase and Fareed look for examples of online schools, supplementary study sites, and public schools that went online.

5:45 pm: We met at NOSH, a nearby restaurant, for a quick bite and start discussing our strategy.

6:25 pm: Arriving at Fuqua, we find people milling about outside to catch some fresh air. My friends already look exhausted. I’m glad we took a break. We settle into an empty classroom since all the team rooms seem like they’ve been lived in for hours.

9:30pm: I have about 10 Excel and browser windows up all over my computer, and I decide there are enough statistics for the initial round of the competition. We each take an area of the case to focus on: technology, budget, strategy, and test scores. Thank goodness for Google Drive — we can all see and make adjustments to the information at the same time.

We start to examine what we have. It’s pretty late and we still haven’t committed to whether or not the science program is a good idea. We set the timer for 45 minutes to regroup.

Friday

1:29 am: We are still pouring over the decision worksheet, issue tree, and our presentation slides. There’s class in a few hours and some homework due! It’s important that everything is clear, but I’m not sure how much sense I’m making right now …

2:55 am: Chase drives me home. As we leave, we notice that some of our friends competing on other teams are still in the team rooms, packed with snacks and caffeinated drinks of all sorts.

7:45 am: I wake up to find that Anastasia and Farheed are already going over the work that Chase and I completed. There are plenty of typos, but keen eyes catch them.

11:35 am: At a table in the Fox Center, we scan over our report one more time to make sure we’re submitting the right copy. So many have been passed around! And then … send. I take a deep breath. It’s done. Now all there’s left to do for a while is wait for the results. The judges will be announcing who passes the first round later this afternoon.

5:15 pm: I’m getting dressed after a nice nap at home to head to Fuqua Friday. My phone starts buzzing. Both Anastasia and Chase sent me messages. “Wake up! We’re on to the next round!” I choose comfy clothes, knowing there’s another long night ahead of me.

6:46 pm: We regroup, settle back into our room, and start on the details of our presentation. In the final round, we have to expand on our initial analysis that we already did and give recommendations that we can back up with facts. We start by returning to some of our previous information and we each take up the parts that are most familiar.

9:00 pm: Where did all that time go?! We review what we have left to do. We set an alarm and regroup in 30 minutes. We decide to be done in an hour.

9:42 pm: Deadlines are made to be passed, so they say. We’re nowhere close to where we want to be. We discuss how to set up the presentation. I suggest we tell a story with our recommendation at the end and after a short discussion, we all agree. We get back to work, figuring out what goes in and what’s left out.

11:11 pm: We decide to start wrapping it up. We’re all exhausted.

Saturday

12:27 am: It took a while, but now we’re finally leaving. That’s it.

I’m a bit nervous because we haven’t practiced our presentation at all. We plan on practice in the morning. So it’s time to lay out my clothes and get to sleep ASAP.

7:10 am: Anastasia picks me up. I’m thankful she’s driving. I don’t wear high heels often, but I feel like my shoes are not the real reason that I feel shaky.

8:33 am: We are in the room next to where we’ll be presenting. Glad we’re going first, but I wish we had a bit more time to prepare. We’ve talked out our presentation a few times, made some last minute tweaks, and are as ready as we’re going to be. I take some deep breaths and together we shake and laugh out our stress like we learned in Business Communications class. We’re ready to go.

9:20 am: We did it! We’re done! Thinking back, I definitely could have been stronger in my section of the presentation, but we were saturated in the information and kicked it up in the question and answer section. Now we are back to waiting again, but decided ahead of time to do it outside the presentation room. There’s plenty of homework to catch up on in the meantime.

10:47 am: We are called back into the presentation room. All four of the groups have presented. One of the judges thanks us for our hard work and talks about each of the teams. We receive second place! They liked our information and unique recommendation, but wanted the recommendation earlier in our presentation. So that’s that. I feel bad for suggesting the “story-telling” method, but the point of the competition was to learn some new things quickly and present it as polished as possible. Without a doubt, that is what we did.

▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪ ▪

This case competition was a pivotal moment for me. I had delved into the project with my teammates and we presented our findings to the best of our ability. The deadline was stressful and we all wanted to win, but we put in our best work and I saw things in myself I hadn’t expected. I realized that I have an interest in strategy and saw what I could add to a group under tight circumstances. I feel like the case competition enabled me to show some of my strengths. Walking away, I’m happy with the work we did and happier for what I learned in the meantime.

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25 Random Things: Are You the Next Piece of the Puzzle?

In my last post, I talked about Team Fuqua. Team Fuqua is what it is because of its people. Each person admitted into one of the MMS programs is an irreplaceable piece of the Team Fuqua puzzle. As applications begin to flood into the admissions office, the admissions committee is tasked with piecing together the puzzle for next year’s class. If my class is any indication, each student is carefully chosen, and brings a unique story and perspective to the program.

Are you the next piece of the puzzle?

This year’s MMS application (for both MMS: FOB and MMS: DKU programs) asks prospective students to provide a list of 25 random things to help the admissions committee to get to know you better (read more about it in this blog post from Cathy Johnson, Assistant Director of Admissions). This essay provides an opportunity to share a wide range of interests and insight into who you really are. So keeping that in mind, have FUN with it! What makes you different, unique, and interesting to be around? Consider this a personal, longer version of the David Letterman Show’s humorous top 10 lists.

Inspired by the new essay prompt, I compiled a list of 15 random things about myself, but be sure to write 25 for your own application essay. I hope this helps you to structure your response as you prepare your application.

  1. I want to fly jets and Blackhawk helicopters! I am currently working towards the pilot licenses and certifications needed to do so.
  2. I co-produced a documentary film which won entry into Durham’s Full Frame Film Festival. As a result, I was able to spend the weekend watching some of the world’s most entertaining documentary films, free of charge.
  3. I won 10 intramural competitions in undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Go Heels!) including underwater hockey, poker, NCAA basketball bracket selection, and soccer.
  4. I can’t whistle. For that matter, I can’t do anything that would qualify as a “superhuman” trick.
  5. I still have 2 baby teeth. According to the dentist, I’m stuck with them for life.
  6. I have an extra bone in my foot. My X-rays have been the subject of several anthropological studies. I am a freak of nature.
  7. I am a published poet. I also like to freestyle rap, but don’t ask me to battle. I can’t handle the pressure.
  8. My last name, Patron, is pronounced Pay-tron, as in Patron Saint. It is not pronounced Pa-trone, as in the tequila, unless, of course, we are hanging out at the local bar.
  9. I swam with dolphins in the Bahamas. I also grabbed a few lobsters. They are quicker than they look!
  10. Malcolm Gladwell is my favorite author. His style combines studies and stories to explain how the world works. I like that he has made social science cool for water cooler chatter. His books are perfect conversation starters. Start chatting with me and it won’t be long before Mr. Gladwell shows up. As a student-journalist, Gladwell is the kind of storyteller I hope to emulate.
  11. I come from a lineage of French royalty. My great grandfather was a Duke of France. I’m not sure what that makes me.
  12. I don’t think NASCAR is a sport. It is simply glorified speeding. Sorry Jimmie Johnson!
  13. Yosemite National Park is my favorite vacation spot in the United States. I have been there 5 times. Every time I visit, I find something new to admire, from secret hiking trails and fishing spots to the diverse wildlife and majestic rock faces. It’s the great outdoors at its finest.
  14. I participated in a Shamu show at SeaWorld. Having watched the recent CNN documentary film, Blackfish, I guess I’m lucky to be alive.
  15. If I could have lunch with any 5 people dead or alive, I would invite Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Jesus Christ, Thomas Edison, and William Shakespeare. Each man changed the way we think about the world, life, and humanity. In the event that one of these men could not make it (I’m sure they’re busy guys), I would invite basketball great and fellow Tar Heel, Michael Jordan.

I wish you the best as you complete your application. Remember to be yourself. You may just be the missing piece of the MMS puzzle!

Tim Patron

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Networking is like a Game of Ping Pong, Literally

When you’re a graduate student at The Fuqua School of Business, even the fortune cookie that you get with your Chinese takeout food gives you the same advice — “attend receptions, send emails and make yourself memorable.” It’s a concept that we’ve heard over and over again as we learned about professional networking, which was my biggest cultural shock as a student trying to get accustomed to the American way of things.

mms students play ping pong

Playing ping ping with my classmate Chris.

There are a hundred resources, books, and mentors teaching us how to network correctly, but it’s meaningless if you don’t enjoy it. The idea of networking seemed a little awkward to me at first, but there came an interesting twist in the story when one of my favorite things to do in school — playing ping pong (table tennis) — turned into an incredible way for me to meet new people and make new friends.

The ping pong table at Fuqua is almost always occupied, often with 3 – 4 enamored onlookers huddled nearby. Legend has it that the table wasn’t always a part of the business school, and while an old, used table appeared about two years ago, the summer of 2013 saw better days with the addition of a brand new ping pong table and paddles. I began playing to de-stress in the evening with my friend Chris, and the game has now become an indispensable part of my daily schedule. It also affords us bragging rights when we meet students from other graduate schools!

mms students

I got to know Chris and others over friendly games of ping pong.

While the competition can sometimes get intense, the games always end the same way — with a friendly handshake. The relationships I have built over this game surprise me at times. I not only made good friends in my program, but even with the first- and second-year Daytime MBA students.

At the ping pong table, I met people who want to work in the same firms as I do, who readily share tips on their job search process, and folks who have experience in the industry that I want to enter who always have a few words of wisdom. I even met some who went to my high school and undergrad in India! Truly, it’s a small world, and there’s no telling what you might learn during a simple game of ping pong.

The pace of graduate school can be overwhelming, so let’s un-complicate some things. Play a game with a stranger, raise a toast to your victory or theirs, and walk away from the table adding one new person to your life. LinkedIn is great. But it just doesn’t match up to a good game of ping pong.

Ashima Sehgal

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Fuqua’s Got Talent: A Different Side of Business School

When one thinks of business school, suits, recruiting, and stressful late-night study sessions frequently come to mind. It is a place where accomplished individuals from all over the world gather to learn, grow, and establish a foundation for their respective futures. As such, it can be quite hectic. Searching for a job, juggling classes, team assignments, recruiting and networking events, club and extracurricular activities, all the while maintaining some semblance of a social life, can be daunting at best. So when something fun and non-business related, like a talent show, comes along, it’s like a breath of fresh air. Something I can participate in that is fun, exciting, and has nothing to do with my professional life? Heck yeah!

I first heard of Fuqua’s Got Talent when I applied to Duke. A quick google search pulls up blogs and YouTube videos from previous years, and it is clear that there are (and have been) a multitude of talented individuals at Fuqua. After seeing the videos and accounts of Fuqua’s Got Talent (and Fuqua Idol), I knew that I wanted to be a part of it, even before I came to Fuqua. So when the opportunity came around to participate in Fuqua’s Got Talent, I seized it. I am a singer, so I decided to sing and play the ukulele for my act. A group of MMS classmates decided to do an Indian dance as well, and since I love to dance, too (I can’t say no to Bhangra!) it was a no-brainer for me to join them. I was very happy that I could represent both California and Pakistan (I’m ethnically Pakistani, but born and raised in California) at the same time. So, I was down for 2 performances in the show.

mms student

Performing in Fuqua’s Got Talent.

Show Time!

Fuqua’s Got Talent fell on the Friday of one of the worst weeks in the Fall Term 2. We had multiple assignments, a group presentation, and 2 midterms. In the midst of all of this, my dance partners (Palak, Sarah, Mitalee, Brea, Zeel (see a blog with her perspective of the event), and Nazeela) and I set aside time after team meetings to practice the dance late at night. Fellow blogger Palak was the choreographer and teacher, and we all followed her amazing example. Practices were physically exhausting, but we were dedicated to making it work. The day of the talent show, we started with our Corporate Finance midterm, followed by our group company presentation for Business Communications class. After the presentation, I rushed to dress rehearsal with the girls. I did a mic check for my individual performance with the uke, and afterwards went to Fuqua Friday to watch the international fashion show. Karen Nyawera, one of my good friends in the MMS program, was modeling traditional African garb, and I had to cheer her on! After the fashion show, I rushed to the changing room where we got ready, and then headed to the show.

As we entered the auditorium, the excitement was palpable. The lineup was amazing: the show included a variety of talented Fuquans performing unique talents. We started off with an Indian folk dance (2 MBAs did this one), followed by a fantastic violin performance over dub step. I was the third person on stage, and as I got up there, I was greeted with supportive cheers. I performed one of my favorite songs: ”I’m Yours’” by Jason Mraz. I was quite nervous, because although I’ve been singing with the ukulele for a couple of years, this was my first time performing with it on stage. My anxiety went away as soon as I started playing, and lost myself in the song. The audience was extremely receptive and excited. My favorite part was seeing Russ Morgan (our Daytime MBA and MMS Dean) in the judge’s seat clapping to the song. Before I knew it, it was over and we were on to the next act!

With my dance group and Dean Russ Morgan.

With my dance group and Dean Russ Morgan.

I missed the next 2 acts because I ran to the changing room (yet again!) to get into my dance costume. I changed into leggings, a leotard, and Indian skirt, and Palak expertly folded and pinned the matching scarf, called a dupatta, onto my shoulder. With that, we entered the auditorium in time to catch the performance before us: an acoustic version of ”Hit Me Baby One More Time.” Yes, you heard right. An acoustic version of Britney Spears’ song, performed by a guy. But more on that later. After the applause, it was time for us to get on stage. Although we had practiced on this same stage numerous times, it was completely different walking up there with the spotlight on us. We all took our places, and the music began. As we performed, I could feel the excitement of everyone performing and watching. We had so much fun! We threw our hearts into the dance, and it showed. By the final pose, we were all so out of breath, but it was so much fun. Being up on the stage with my classmates, and sharing a bond that was completely different from anything that could be taught in a classroom, was an incredibly memorable experience.

Connecting Outside of Class

Fuqua’s Got Talent was more than just a place to showcase our talents. It was an opportunity for business students and faculty to come together in a fun environment and learn about different arts and cultures. It was a way to explore interests outside of our professional and academic lives, while at the same time see different sides of our classmates. For me, it was an event that made me appreciate how multi-faceted we all are, and how amazing Fuqua really is. To be at a top notch business school and have this much talent? It’s pretty fantastic.

Not only did Fuqua’s Got Talent give us the opportunity to see a completely different side of our peers, but it also gave us a chance to showcase our talent and show what we’ve got! Since the MMS program is both young and small, sometimes it can be difficult to be heard in comparison to the rest of Fuqua. This was the first year that Fuqua’s Got Talent had 2 performances from the MMS program. And guess what? My dance group got runner up! I’m sure you’re wondering who won. Deservedly, it was Ryan Fawcett’s acoustic version of ”Hit Me Baby One More Time.’ Go watch the video, and you’ll see what I mean.

All in all, despite the crazy busyness of that week, I am so happy that I participated in Fuqua’s Got Talent. It is one of the experiences that I will always remember. It definitely brought me closer to my classmates and to the rest of Fuqua. I was able to share a different side of myself with the school, and to see a unique side of people that I had never before expected. Sharing in that experience will connect us in a way that case studies could never do, although those are indeed very important, too. :-)

Danya Akbar

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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The Brand Challenge Mission

Recently, my fellow MMSers and I were given the opportunity to participate in the MBA Marketing Club’s Brand Challenge. The annual event is a fun and collaborative competition where teams of students develop creative strategies to market an assigned product against its corresponding brands. Though it is a competition, it is not your average marketing competition. Teams get very creative and dress up in their product, have product tastings, and even conduct challenges like karaoke! Teams present their product and their respective creativity to fellow students at Fuqua Friday, and a team of judges (faculty) come around and decide who the winners will be for the different categories. Categories included an overall winner, execution, creativity, and popularity.

mms and mba students

My Brand Challenge team included MMS classmates and 2 Cross Continent MBA students.

In teams of 4 – 6 students, we were assigned to a product, which we had to market against a competitor product. My team specifically was a very special team. First off, we were a group of 4 MMSers, and in addition, we also had 2 Cross Continent MBA team members. The organizers of the Brand Challenge had extra students who were interested in joining teams, so we volunteered to have 2 Cross Continent students join our team for a chance to network and collaborate with them. Secondly, our product was the Old El Paso® Stand ‘n Stuff Taco Shells (or so we thought!). General Mills directly sponsored our product in the Brand Challenge and as such, we were also assigned to the competitor product — Mission taco shells.

As a team, we came up with a strategy to market our product strongly against the competitor’s. We came up with an activity for the Brand Challenge called “The One-Handed Taco Challenge: Mission Impossible.” We planned to have participants use one hand to stuff their taco with lettuce, salsa, and beef, and then eat it as fast as they could. In addition, we decided to also have a taste testing with taco shell pieces. We were well prepared and anticipated the execution of our strategy to run smoothly.

However, the night before the Brand Challenge, we received our actual product, which ended up being the Old El Paso® Stand ‘n Stuff Soft Taco Tortillas! Well, there went our taste testing idea! We had to come up with an alternative strategy, and quickly. Our “Mission Impossible” challenge was still relevant so we continued with that, but we had to come up with something else as well to wow the judges. In the end, we decided to highlight the soft tortilla’s strength to withstand sogginess by floating the tortilla in a bowl of water. This was a great portrayal of how the tortilla wouldn’t get soggy for a long period of time if there were wet ingredients, such as salsa, in it.

We dodged a bullet! Our strategy ended up being extremely successful, and all of our participants in the “Mission Impossible” challenge were just as excited as we were. The judges were extremely impressed with our floating tortilla and one-handed taco challenge. My team won first place for execution! We won $150 for our team to enjoy a nice dinner, or outing of our choice.

The Brand Challenge was a great experience, and I definitely recommend it to any creative person, whether you’re interested in marketing or not. It is a great chance to get creative and come up with innovative ways to market a product. And who knows, you may end up winning!

Palak Bavishi

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An American Roadtrip

Coming to America, I knew that Thanksgiving was a festive tradition that brought families together to show appreciation for the freedom and liberties they enjoyed. Many international MMS students were invited to celebrate the holiday with American classmates and their families. As good as this sounds, especially the delicious, perfectly grilled stuffed turkey, I made other plans. We had a few days off from school because of the holiday, and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to do some traveling. So along with a few other MMSers, we put a twist on Thanksgiving and made a 4-hour roadtrip to one of America’s most historic cities: Charleston, South Carolina.

horse-drawn carriage

Horse-drawn carriages share King Street with cars in historic, downtown Charleston.

Welcome to Charleston

One of the first things we did in Charleston was take a guided horse-drawn carriage tour around the city center. It felt like we were transported back in time to the 18th century colonial era. We went around the historical areas, and the city has done an immaculate job at maintaining the traditional colonial architecture. The tour guide also did a great job putting things in perspective for us, describing the history behind the city and even pointing out the finer details such as cannonball dents in houses that were created during the Civil War. Today, many of the houses around the city center are owned by wealthy families and used as summerhouses.

Rainbow Row: A historic and colorful street in Charleston.

Rainbow Row is a colorful and quaint historic street.

Learning some American History

Another significant chapter in Charleston’s history was its service as a major slave port during the transatlantic slave trade with almost half of all the slaves from Africa going though Charleston. There are a number of plantations that used to rely on slave labor that have been converted into museums and are open on weekdays to the public. Sadly, these are closed during public holidays, but I would highly recommend visiting one of these as it provides a rare glimpse into American socio-cultural history.

folly beach

A beautiful, sunny day on Folly Beach.

Charleston is also home to several pristine beaches and to wrap up the trip, we took the opportunity to visit one of the more popular ones, Folly Beach. As I walked down the beach, I looked out to the Atlantic Ocean and imagined English settlers reaching the beautiful shores. I suddenly realized why the English decided to settle here — it’s an irresistible location.

While we didn’t get the opportunity to sit down for a traditional American Thanksgiving meal, we did use the holiday weekend to learn more about America’s colonial roots. And without the colonists or pilgrims, I guess there would be no Thanksgiving…

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Give the Admissions Process Your Best — Don’t Let Doubts Overcome You

I was sitting in accounting class, listening to the lecture on accounts receivable, and during the break I heard all the different languages around me: Chinese, Korean, and Hindi. I suddenly realized how awesome it is for all of us to be gathered here at Fuqua.

A year ago, I was in Moscow and it was cold outside. I was sitting in my room searching for master’s programs in the USA and trying to study for the GMAT. I was really excited about the opportunity to study abroad, but at the same time, I was starting to feel really overwhelmed. At some point I considered giving up and thought about waiting a year to apply to US business schools. I knew that I might regret that decision, so I sucked it up and decided to push through.

Honestly, I was stressed out. Now, looking back, I think that I should have been more confident in myself. Of course you never know how things will turn out, but at the end of the day, I believe everything happens for a reason. In speaking with my classmates about their experiences, I realized that we had all felt the same way. It was very intimidating for many international students to apply to US schools.

When I found the MMS: FOB program at The Fuqua School of Business, my first thought was: “Will I be a good fit? Am I good enough for this top-tier business school?” My answer was “No,” at first. I researched the school, the area, and the people by looking at the website and by reading this blog. I became more and more confident that Fuqua was where I wanted to be — I wanted to become part of the Fuqua Family. So, I put my intimidation and my insecurity aside and I gave Fuqua a shot — my best shot. I had a strong feeling that Fuqua was where I should be, and one year later, here I am! Maybe some of you feel the same way that I did a year ago. Several of my classmates did, and agreed to share their experiences and feelings, too.

mms studentKonstantin Belchuk, Russia:
“A year ago I was taking the GMAT. I remember that I was doing everything else on autopilot. I did not realize till my plane landed in Durham that I might be studying in the USA at a world-class business school. A year ago, I can’t say that I was frustrated, but in the back of my mind I was not fully confident about getting in.”

mms studentJennifer Hong, China: “I was extremely overwhelmed a year ago this time. I was taking 5 advanced courses and was preparing for the GMAT. I made up my mind to pursue a master’s degree in the US to broaden my spectrum and enhance my global mindset. But I had to give up the opportunity to be admitted to a master’s program in China, which was extremely risky. I used to ask myself whether I made the right choice to study abroad. But after I got an interview invitation and then an admission notice from Fuqua, it turned out that I should have been more confident about my application.”

mms studentJimmy Choi, Korea:
“I decided to apply to the MMS program because I felt that I wasn’t fully prepared to get a job I really wanted. I talked to two of my college and high-school friends that graduated from MMS and learned that it was the ideal program for me. I was confident that I had something to offer to the program but still afraid of not being accepted, because at that point it was the only school I applied to. A lot of things were happening at the same time: my finals, senior paper and job interviews — it was quite overwhelming. But I knew that I needed to go for my goals and now being here, I don’t have any regrets. I am happy that I got admitted, and so far I really enjoy the diversity of this program, the people, and the team spirit.”

These experiences show that it is normal to feel some insecurity and to be overwhelmed at times during the application process. Despite these feelings, what I want to stress is that it is extremely important to give it your best and go through the process to the end. Later in life, you will regret more of the things you didn’t do than the things that you tried. So my advice to prospective students is to be yourself, look for all the unique things that you can offer, and even if you are not 100% confident — go for it anyway! Give Fuqua a shot if you think it could be the school for you!

Just imagine, in a year from now, where could you be?

Kate Kim

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MMS, Class of 2014. Find out more about me...

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