I was seven months pregnant when I attended Weekend for Women, and I decided to come to Fuqua when my daughter was two months old.
Going into my MBA program as a new mom, I knew I’d have the unwavering support of my partner, but I wasn’t counting on finding so many Fuquan parents eager to help. I was especially blown away by my fellow super-human mamas of Fuqua. I’m in constant awe of their smarts and insights in the classroom, their dedication to leadership in their community, and of course, their incredible love and patience with their families at home. I feel privileged to be their classmate and friend.
These moms sat down with me to share their stories, as well as how Fuqua has supported them through motherhood at business school.
Xinjue Cao is a second-year MBA and proud mom of a 4-year-old girl and an 8-month-old boy (who was born right after Xinjue’s Fall Term 2 finals!).
“Fuqua’s Mentored Study program was an excellent choice for me during the spring term,” Xinjue says. “I worked with Verity Investment Partners and used concepts I learned in my finance courses to analyze potential stocks for the portfolio. Not only was I excited to get this hands-on, real-world experience where I could apply what I’d learned, but I was also able to take advantage of work-from-home arrangements offered by Verity so I could attend to the needs of my baby without sacrificing school time.”
“When I’m at Fuqua, the mother’s room offers a comfortable and convenient space—an essential for nursing moms like me!” Xinjue continued. “I’m proud that institutions like Fuqua and Verity create opportunities for Fuquans with diverse family backgrounds to thrive.”
Second-year Sarah Arnio is the mother to two boys: a 16-year-old and 2-year-old. She says Fuqua has helped her be more intentional about her interests and splitting her time between her family and her work and school life.
“It was important to me to prioritize my activities and pick the things that I most wanted to participate in, like the Tech Trek and being on the Association of Women in Business cabinet,” Sarah says. “Also, I’ve found the Fuqua network—including students, partners, and other moms—to be more supportive than I could have imagined. For example, I reached out to the moms’ group for pediatrician recommendations, and when my husband had to go out of town last minute, my teammate’s partner stepped in to watch my youngest son for the day on less than 12 hours’ notice. Being at Fuqua has led me to genuinely believe the childrearing mantra ‘it takes a village.’”
Second-year mom Swati Tiwari kind of knew what she was signing up for when she accepted her admission offer at Fuqua—after all, her husband graduated from the same MBA program a few years ago. This time around, Fuqua was a family affair, as they were returning to Durham with a 2-year-old.
“This experience has challenged my husband and me in new ways but has also given me a fresh perspective on time management and prioritization,” Swati says. “During my first year, while I focused on classes and recruiting, my husband took over daycare dropoff and pickup duties. Because we worked together in the Team Fuqua spirit, the first year was a success on all fronts!”
“I’m also the chair of parenthood for the Association of Women in Business, meaning that I am responsible for making the lives of Fuqua parents a bit easier,” Swati continued. “I organize meet-ups every term for fellow moms to exchange notes and have playdates with their kids. I also babysit during finals to ensure my fellow moms get some library or ‘me’ time. My focus this year is to bring more prospective moms to Fuqua, and to foster even stronger camaraderie between first-year and second-year Fuqua moms.”
Fuqua is a student-led organization that affords students the opportunity to partner with faculty and administration in numerous leadership positions as they work to shape and enhance the student experience. That story is no different for second-year mom, Tuokpe Ajuyah, who has a 2-year-old daughter and whose husband is also a second-year MBA student at Fuqua.
“I’ve embraced my goal of developing my inclusive leadership skills while at Fuqua,” Tuokpe says. “This summer, I had the opportunity to lead the Class of 2020 Orientation as I temporarily played single mom while completing my 10-week internship in a different location than my husband’s.”
“I couldn’t be successful in any of this without the support of Mofe, my husband, and the resilience of Tsolaye, my daughter, who is the life of every room she enters and remains unfazed by keeping up with our busy MBA schedules. Being at a place like Fuqua has afforded me the opportunity to juggle my academic, leadership, and family obligations in a community that allows me to bring my entire self to the MBA program, and it has been an amazing experience.”
First-year Stefanie Bailey is a dual degree student studying environmental management (MEM/MBA) and concentrating in Strategy and Finance at Fuqua. When she decided it was time to go to business school, the community around the school was as important to her as the school itself.
“It was while visiting Duke that I realized how valuable Team Fuqua culture would be to me as a mother of five striving to reach my goals,” Stefanie says. “I spent my Weekend for Women visit speaking with Fuqua student parents as well as Fuqua partners to understand more about how they meet their family and school responsibilities. All the feedback I got was positive, and I was also given concrete suggestions to make communication key to group harmony. Once I arrived at Fuqua, I realized that all of what I’d heard was true—this is such a safe place to prepare for leadership in the business world.”
The Fuqua moms and dads community is an invaluable resource, one that first-year Anne Song relied on heavily before even setting foot on Fuqua’s campus.
“Relocating from the west coast to the east coast with my husband and 2-year-old son was a challenge, but Fuqua moms and dads offered advice on daycares to consider, helped me find family-friendly housing, and provided recommendations on local family-friendly events and activities,” Anne says.
“One of the first things I learned as a first-year MBA student and a mom was not to be afraid to ask for help. Balancing school, the career search, extra-curriculars, and being a wife and mother is challenging, but speaking up when you need help and knowing you have a network of family and Fuquans to support you makes all the difference. My son, Noah, already loves all his Fuqua aunties and uncles who spoil him!”
Recruiting for a consulting job is notoriously time-consuming, challenging, and stressful. I am often asked how I was able to get through it while juggling Fall Term 1 classes and a baby. Believe it or not, having Maya, my now-2-year-old daughter, made the process more bearable. Maya opened up a world of connection points to recruiters and company representatives. When I found myself swapping pictures of our kids in their Halloween costumes with a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) partner, I realized that Maya is helping me find genuine common ground with the recruiting community. And in instances when things didn’t work out, Maya’s laugh gave me instant and much-needed perspective. Seeing parenthood as an advantage instead of an extra burden made all the difference to me.
I couldn’t make this happen without the support of others. My partner took care of all household duties during my summer internship at BCG. My Consequential Leadership team was so good about letting Maya crash our study meetings. Ultimately, my strong network of family, Fuqua, and community support makes the process not only manageable but a fun and rewarding journey.