A few months back, I was a prospective student eagerly reading each blog to understand my ‘fit’ with Fuqua. And, now I am a Fuqua student writing a blog that will be read by the next batch of prospective students. Surely, it feels good to be on the other side, but presenting the ‘real’ Fuqua is a tough, yet interesting responsibility and one that I have embraced. So without further ado, let us start from the start…orientation!
I left India expecting Fuqua to be a friendly place, but during orientation I realized that this isn’t the full story. Fuqua is an unbelievable place where people go overboard to help others yet maintain healthy competition amongst one another. Orientation is the first step to acclimate incoming first-year students (FYs) to this seemingly oxymoronic environment. The variety of events is what I loved the most about orientation as it feels like you’re on an excursion. This 3-day roller-coaster ride is put together by Fuqua’s Orientation Team (O-Team). O-Team consists of second-year students (SYs), who took leaves from their summer internships and traveled at their own expense to welcome FYs to the Fuqua family. Need I say more on Fuquans’ selflessness? 🙂
As I entered the orientation auditorium, I was thrilled to see FYs roaring, “LET’S GO DUKE! LET’S GO DUKE! LET’S GO DUKE!” Dean Bill Boulding, commenced the orientation by welcoming all FYs with a motivating speech. Then representatives from the Career Management Center and the Faculty, including Professor Joe LeBoeuf, a Center on Leadership and Ethics (COLE) Scholar, explained their roles. As an international student, I was anxious how I would perform in this new environment but candid introductions and the reassurance of support put me at ease. Soon after, the section for each FY was announced and in a rush of excitement, everyone logged into the website to find their section. 440 FYs are put (“divided” doesn’t fit the Fuqua environment) into 6 sections. Each section developed its own chant and going forward, before every orientation activity, each section chanted loud enough to outdo the others. This is what ‘cut-throat competition’ at Fuqua looks like. 🙂
Daytime MBA Dean Russ Morgan is a friendly and welcoming person as witnessed when he took the podium. SYs chanted his name in unison to show how much they appreciate his collegiality. He introduced FYs to Fuqua culture and enthusiastically agreed to do the ALS IceBucket Challenge and put himself in a dunk tank during the orientation carnival. Seeing him do these activities was definitely a “wow” moment. In my life of 10,000 days, I have never met anyone who holds such an elite position yet relates so well with people half his age. I won’t forget that once, we were walking across the alley and he stopped only to ask me “how I feel here.” And, I am not a special case, he engages with students like this on a regular basis. People here, irrespective of their designation, care for each other. I feel that thousands of miles away, I have found my second home at Fuqua.
Part of Fuqua indoctrination (as I like to call it) is Section Olympics. All 6 sections participated in competitions such as dancing, arm wrestling, tug of war, and a treasure hunt. These team events helped break the glass walls a few FYs had in interacting with people across cultures. It is part of becoming the Fuqua, and eventually Duke, family. Spending so much time and effort on indoctrination showed me how much Fuqua values its culture. I was flabbergasted to see that there was no proctor when we took our exams later in the term. However, students started and stopped on time. Being true to yourself and following the honor code is the 1st priority for everyone. If you still doubt, I won’t blame you, but trust me. And this integrity and camaraderie goes beyond the classroom. Emails and Facebook posts letting people know about lost Ray-Bans, cellphones and wallets are not uncommon.
Soon, FYs were in for another surprise. Leadership is an integral part of the Fuqua experience and orientation reflected that. Alison Levine, Daytime ’00 and President of Climb High Foundation, shared the experiences related to leadership that she had while ascending the highest peaks on every continent. What differentiates her talk was the message that sometimes taking a step back, when everyone is enticed to go forward and might consider you a coward, is true leadership. When she said “fear is okay, complacency will kill you,” I thought it is just another quote, but over the days, I realized how simple yet profound those words are. Just think, isn’t complacency the reason for many wrong doings: be it breaking rules, cheating, even the financial crisis!
Orientation culminated as each sections thanked the O-Team with posters that are still on display in Fox Center weeks later. Every time I walk by them, I am reminded how much SYs have done for FYs and that I have to outdo their contribution to the Fuqua community next year when it’s my turn. There is that ‘cut-throat competition’ again. 🙂
Crux: The value of ‘fit’ that you hear every time from admissions is so relevant and you realize its value once you arrive here.
Do your research diligently and feel free to post questions in the comments below. I am here to help you!