As a prospective student, I was very aware of the tension inherent in the relationship between prospective students and their prospective schools. Just like with job interviewing or dating, each party is trying to evaluate the other. In some sense, I found this comforting. The schools I was researching needed to market themselves to me just as much as I needed to market myself to them. Every business school has developed its brand or unique identity and tries to communicate that to students through marketing materials, open houses, alumni events, etc. So, when I first heard about “Team Fuqua,” I interpreted it as mainly a marketing differentiator. Not that I didn’t believe the principles of Team Fuqua had been implemented in some form, but I imagined it to be limited in scope. I thought Team Fuqua just referenced your class and the faculty, perhaps also the program staff, being generally collaborative most of the time.
However, the more I’ve been exposed to the program, the more I’ve come to see that “Team Fuqua” is not just a slogan. It is a deeply held value that is shared by everyone connected with the school. My first Team Fuqua experience came at an open house I attended as a prospective student. At lunch, I discussed my interest in the Health Sector Management program with a current student, and he offered to introduce me to classmates pursuing the certificate. Lunch ended, he had to rush to class, and it didn’t happen. No big deal to me. The following week, I got an email from Weekend Executive MBA Admissions Counselor Andy Medlin, saying that a student had contacted him and asked him to connect me with the HSM students in his class. I didn’t connect this with Team Fuqua at the time. I just thought, “Wow, that guy was really nice.” It was just the first of many experiences where people have gone out of their way for me, because they care about representing the school well.
“Team Fuqua” is a Family
The amazing thing is that this value pervades the whole Fuqua support community. When I checked in for my first residency, the Thomas Center front desk clerk said, “Congratulations on joining the MBA program! What a great accomplishment!” While I had drinks with classmates at the Thomas Center’s bar, the bartender wanted to know all of our names. No, not because he needed to report us to campus security. He simply wanted to get to know us. Then, an alumni panelist at an HSM event spent half an hour chatting with me after the event, and emphasized that he was happy to keep in touch and answer further questions.
The program staff is also a visible part of our weekends, and they are quite engaged. Our program manager, Keith O’Hare, is always available. He and the other staff eat lunch in the same dining room as we do, so it’s easy to stop by and speak with them. Their high level of engagement is also clear. At a recent guest speaker event, I saw Keith sitting near the front and noticed that he wasn’t just assisting with event logistics; he was taking his own notes on the speaker’s comments.
Though I was impressed, I still didn’t quite understand why people at Fuqua go to such great lengths to be friendly and helpful. The answer came as I was checking out of the Thomas Center one Sunday. The desk clerk said, “Oh, so you’re one of our new students! I’m trying to learn everyone’s names and faces.” I told her how welcomed I’d felt by everyone and how I really appreciated their efforts. She smiled and paused a moment, searching for the right words to express her thoughts. “You’re part of our family,” she said, “We want you to succeed and we want to do whatever we can to help you.” No marketing flyer could sum it up better than that.