In 2019, The Fuqua School of Business announced a new graduate program called the Accelerated Daytime MBA (AMBA). This program is for students who have either completed Fuqua’s one-year master’s program (Master of Management Studies) or an equivalent program from another school. Because students have taken some business fundamentals courses already, the new Accelerated MBA allows qualified students to apply for and complete an MBA in a year, building on top of their first master’s degree. This past academic year, Fuqua enrolled its first AMBA class, myself included.

I graduated from Fuqua’s MMS program back in 2017 and have been working and living in New York ever since. In those three years after MMS, I have been able to apply the business toolkit that I acquired here at Duke to my product marketing job at The Trade Desk. That boots-on-the-ground work experience, in tandem with my academic and personal growth thanks to my MMS experience, led me to understand exactly where I want to take my career next. So when I learned about the opportunity to return to Fuqua in the AMBA program, I knew this extra year of informed focus and specialization would help me get there.

About the Program

I think this program offers a tremendous opportunity, allowing for more flexibility when it comes to people’s individual journeys—academic, personal and professional. It encourages and shows understanding towards the idea that every individual lives and learns differently, and your life shouldn’t have to fit in the conventional two-year MBA timeline. Instead, the MBA degree should work to fit into your timeline. And the AMBA program has unlocked that door.

As was the Fuqua MMS program, the AMBA program is a sprint. And I mean that in the best way possible—it is one fast year that is filled to the brim with incredible courses, networking opportunities and social activities, all of which contribute to the life-long friendships that Fuqua so thoughtfully fosters. But amongst all of these incredible experiences and learnings (both academic and personal), the thing that has stood out to me most this year has been watching the identity of the AMBA cohort develop and come into the light.

Our Cohort

Being the first year of the program, who we were as a cohort was a bit of mystery when we started back in the summer. But as the year has progressed and I’ve come to know my classmates, hear about their stories, and celebrate their incredible accomplishments, I’ve noticed a trend that has emerged amongst the AMBA students.

Before, I discussed the opportunity that the AMBA program presents, allowing individuals to better tailor their MBA experience to their life’s unique needs, on a non-traditional timeline. In many ways, it allows people to pave their own path, on their own terms. This bold independence and individuality, to me, has come to define what it means to be an AMBA student. Within my small 22-person cohort, I have witnessed time and time again, this tendency to courageously pursue and reimagine what is possible. Here are just a few examples:

Early on in the year I met my new AMBA classmate Morgan Hersh, who is a triple Dukie (working on her third degree from Duke) and a trailblazer to say the least. Since her freshman year at Duke she has worked tirelessly and passionately for the football team. Today, she is the only woman on the coaching and operations side of the business. Whether she realizes it or not, to be the “only” of anything requires a certain tenacity and leadership that I have always admired.

Another classmate of mine, Baran Melik, is unique in our program in that he is completing his degree from his home country of Turkey. This obstacle was of course caused by the pandemic, but his decision to move forward with the program, despite the 8-hour time difference, is an astonishing feat. But the really remarkable thing about Baran is that he has seamlessly overcome this 5,000-mile hurdle, still making time in his already-warped sleep schedule to create new friendships.

And last but not least is my friend and classmate Nazeela Nasseri who, like me, returned to Fuqua after a handful of years in the professional world. But unlike me, Nazeela chose to leverage the unique situation presented by the pandemic and continue working while being a full-time student. Her decision to do this is as uncommon as the discipline and capability required to pull off something so extraordinary—but she has proven that she has that discipline and that capability, redefining the realm of possibilities for both working professionals and students.

To join a second-year MBA class of approximately 400 students who have already had a year to bond is daunting, to say the least. But this natural tendency that I’ve seen in my peers, to push the boundaries and explore uncharted waters, not only makes facing this task a drop in the ocean, but also presents an exciting chance to network with the incredible group of people who make up the second-year class.

So Who Are the AMBAs Really?

On the surface, we’re really just second-year MBAs who took a different path. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find that we are a cohort filled with initiative, grit and independence and we revel in the chance to blaze our own trail. The confines of what is “conventional” are ones we chose to ignore. And above all, we have a clear vision of what we want and how Fuqua and the AMBA program will help us get there.

I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by my AMBA classmates, in the first year of the program. I have learned from their unique life experiences, been inspired by their stories and am so proud to be their friend. I look forward to seeing all that we will accomplish after graduating.