The Master of Management Studies program is 10 months long, and there aren’t many who get to experience the excitement of going through orientation twice. But as a recent graduate, and the current intern with the Career Services team, I’m at Fuqua this month to welcome the MMS Class of 2015 exactly a year after my own orientation.

It all starts at MMS Program Launch. A year ago, I was still astonished about how the twists of my choices brought me to the program and was nervous about classes and teams and everything I didn’t know. Thankfully I had met a few people leading up to orientation, but there were so many still to meet!

This year the familiar tunes of “Wagon Wheel,” “Happy,” and a few other pump-up song staples sing out from the speakers to set the mood, but it wasn’t necessary. I feel the students’ excitement, anxiety, and eagerness that mirrored my own when I was in their place as they file into HCA auditorium, looking for the spot with their name among the sea of 145 seats—the most in MMS history with the addition of the inaugural Duke Kunshan University (DKU) class.

Dean Bill Boulding formally welcomes the newest members of Team Fuqua. Bill and the MMS Orientation team, including Program Directors, members of Admissions and the Career Management Center, explain the paired principles we hold at our core as members of the Fuqua community: authentic engagement, loyal community, collective diversity, impactful stewardship, supportive ambition, and uncompromising integrity. I reflect on my peers and our shared experiences that gave those principles value beyond their weight in words this past year. I remember planning a documentary film viewing with my classmates Ashima and Audrey to raise awareness on the impact of girls’ education, cheering on wildly gifted MMS dancers and singers performing at the Fuqua’s Got Talent competition, and proudly representing MMS with 10 others at the MBA Games to raise money for NC Special Olympics. I look around the room and wonder how this next class will leave their mark at Fuqua.

Program launch has begun
Program launch has begun

Because I am the most recent MMS graduate, many students ask me questions that I remember asking a year ago. Teams and sections are a big uncertainty early on and there is a lot of build-up to when you find out who you’ll be working with for the next few terms. As always the big reveal of the teams was exciting, but even more fun with insights from students’ 25 Random Things application essays. After a rough showing last year, I am happy to watch the Blue Section, my own as a student, win the first event and later the honor of the overall Section Olympics championship.

Section Blue preparing for the Section Olympics
Section Blue preparing for the Section Olympics

I also reassure many to power through the summer term. At a networking workshop social at 6 p.m. after their first day of classes, I empathize with them on the long days and the difficult work. I think back to my long hours in team rooms and in the library, deciphering accounting language and working on quantitative cases without any prior knowledge. I hint to those with science and social backgrounds that hard work eventually pays off and encourage the more experienced business folks to start practicing leadership through tutoring early.

Looking back I can’t help but laugh at how foreign everything about Fuqua felt just a year ago.

How these first few weeks of summer term felt lonely and quiet on campus, but how quickly things filled up as First Year MBA students started their orientation, and how warm it felt watching Second Years greet each other.

How I didn’t know the best places to study or to eat or to have fun, although I’m sure that one year really hasn’t been long enough to experience everything the area has to offer.

How I wasn’t sure how I fit into this Team Fuqua, trying so hard to hide whatever it was that kept me from feeling comfortable at first.

But now it’s nothing like that. As one of the lucky ones here to help the Class of 2015 get acquainted, I feel at ease saying: Welcome Home.