As a recent graduate of Fuqua’s Class of 2023, I have had ample time to reflect on the experiences that made my years at Duke truly special. Whilst the people of Fuqua drive the main highlights I would often mention, it’s the experiential learning opportunities that spark the stories of development outside the classroom. I cannot rave enough about the different ways to gain experience at Fuqua that are non-traditional and highly rewarding.
A Trip Over the Pond
Underlined by the direct flight from Raleigh to London, a partnership between Fuqua’s International Programs Office and London Business School (LBS) allowed me the opportunity to live in London for three months and engross myself in the LBS community. The teaching style of faculty at an internationally located school contrasted in many ways with what I was familiar with at Fuqua and by participating in classes that also had executive MBAs, I gained exposure to senior global perspective I otherwise would not have seen.
From an educational standpoint, the optionality of taking block week classes (an all-day, week-long class) allowed for a higher level of interaction with the exchange community, second-year students, and executive MBAs. The sense of community and closeness fostered in these interactions allowed for more honest conversations around tough topics like discussing the influence of sovereign nations in 2022. Whilst the academic platform at LBS is rewarding, it’s everything else about the school that made being an exchange student so incredibly gratifying. This brings me to the best part of my time at LBS—the international travel with 60 other students from the Class of 2023! In November 2022, I joined the LBS second-year MBA Trek to Namibia and South Africa. It was an amazing experience that started with us hiking “Big Daddy” in the Sossusvlei and ended with us at Stellenbosch for a wine tour in Cape Town.
Four MBAs and a Private Jet
It would be nice to suggest that this segment ends with me discussing my experience on a private jet, and although that is not the case, it still was quite an amazing experience to learn more about the business of them! Through a program called the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP), I joined three other classmates at Fuqua to partner with the fourth-largest private jet company in the United States. Based out of nearby Kinston, North Carolina, it was interesting to work with a “small” team committed to growth in such a niche segment! I remember the excitement as we got started with a market analysis project for their executive team. Although we could not physically make it to the site of the client, we made sure to get together on Zoom on a regular basis and had a direct line of contact with their team.
It was interesting to understand the company’s short and long-term goals and to have real conversations with their chief operating officer about how we could provide meaningful insight to the team. Opportunities like this allowed me to vet my desire to work in certain industries and within certain topical areas whilst continuing to develop skills that I wanted to improve.
Mentored by Those Forging New Directions
Mentored Study is a great way for you to get exposure to something new, whilst also being a resource to a team in exchange for knowledge transfer. You’re usually partnering with a smaller team that is concentrated on a specific engagement or project. For me, this manifested itself by way of an introduction to two co-founders of a startup named CyberAlliance. CyberAlliance is a cybersecurity startup with a wide remit of providing transparency and security to global markets. Founded by Fuqua alum Kendrall Felder and North Carolina native Larry Yon, it was great to be integrated into their team to learn their roadmap to building their business. Both Kendrall and Larry have experience at larger tech organizations and were able to share with me how they started their new endeavor and the lessons learned along the way. It was also great to get firsthand perspectives of the parallels in building their business and their corporate careers. Ben Thomason, who facilitates the program, was critical in connecting me with opportunities that fit what I was looking for.
A GATEway to Europe
Finally, GATE, or Global Academic Travel Experience, is a great way to experience another country with your classmates in a structured fashion. The course is faculty-led and run by the International Programs Office. About 20 of my classmates and I traveled to three cities in Germany—Frankfurt, Cologne, and Berlin—over a 10-day period. There, we met with Deloitte Germany to discuss the evolution of diversity’s impact on business in the country. We also met with a startup incubator to understand how they drive startup success within the major technology hubs in the country and companies across many other industries.
In closing, I would highly recommend looking into experiential learning opportunities at Fuqua once you get your feet underneath you from an academic and recruiting perspective. There are numerous opportunities available for you to take advantage of and whilst some are blatantly obvious, others may take a bit more effort to understand the opportunity and more importantly, what you want out of it.