I have never questioned if I should complete an MBA, it was merely a matter of when and where it would take place.
Like most people who have a tendency to be overly organized, I began the process by completing an exhaustive list comparing universities and their programs to my interests and objectives. This was particularly challenging for me considering that I live and work in Saudi Arabia. I was looking for MBA programs that would accommodate the fact that I would not be able to quit my full-time job. However, I did not want a program that was fully delivered online. It was important to find a program that would be comprehensive and robust enough for me to get a meaningful education and experience—a program that would not be just another ‘check-the-box’ degree.
“Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” – Daniel J. Boorstin, Historian
I went through the exercise of comparing university programs from all over the world, and I quickly learned something. If I wanted to visualize myself in a program, I would need to hear firsthand accounts from students who had gone through it themselves. Rankings were definitely a factor, as I wanted to be in a university that carried significant credibility through its reputation. After all, whether we choose to admit it or not, the prestige of graduating from certain universities carries significant weight for future career endeavors.
However, that doesn’t measure student satisfaction or quantify what my experience as a student would be. Statistics from rankings, citations, publications, and institutional income are unable to reflect the broader picture of how I might fair in a particular university, and what my educational experience as a whole might be like. Additionally, program courses, curricula, and professor profiles that I investigated were also, as expected, superior yet relatively similar across the schools.
Duke University became my first-choice school among several ranked universities to which I was accepted. One of the unique and distinguished factors that set Duke apart from the rest was The Fuqua School of Business and its Cross Continent MBA program (CCMBA). This accelerated full-time MBA program is one of the most internationally-focused offered by a U.S. school, taking students to five different global cities during the program.
In your research, you’re going to come across a colossal amount of information that you’ll need to interpret and analyze to make one of the biggest decisions of your life. In considering this major financial, time, and personal commitment, I want to leave you with a few considerations that were major parts of my decision-making process. These are three factors that now, almost halfway through the CCMBA program, I can speak on very confidently.
Fuqua’s Amazing Student Personas
This program has been a place where I have had the opportunity to meet very smart and well-rounded young men and women who are some of the most motivated and accomplished individuals from all around the world. These individuals excel in their workplace and also in the classroom—which is only to be expected at an academically challenging university like Duke where there is a high degree of pressure to achieve.
However, while my cohort is highly competitive and strives to earn top marks, we are not cutthroat in doing so. Students remain immensely helpful to one another and understand that working as a team carries much more value than working independently. This competitive and yet collaborative atmosphere is conducive to learning at the highest degree.
Duke wants to produce graduates “who can drink champagne with the rich and famous and can drink chai with those who that’s all they can afford.” – Blair Sheppard, Former Fuqua Dean
#TeamFuqua: The Philosophy Fueling the Program
In your research on Fuqua, you’ll come across “Team Fuqua” dozens of times. Anyone that has been through the program will vouch that Team Fuqua is not just how we refer to ourselves as a community, or a cheesy marketing strategy—it is a philosophy and a way of working together that we all follow.
It’s based on six fundamental principles, each of which are built into all components of student life and curricula at Fuqua, creating a culture that you carry with you even after graduation. If you have not read or do not know of these principles, read them. They are one of the top three reasons why I enrolled.
“Each member of any team is selected for his or her specific attributes and capabilities. I like to think of each as a separate finger on the fist. Any one individually is important. But all of them together are unbeatable.” – Mike Krzyzewski, Duke Men’s Basketball Coach
The culture of teams and collaborative leadership at Fuqua is one of the most distinct features of the school’s degree programs. In most universities, students are taught to be independent and work for his or her own success. That can lead to cutthroat instincts, yet as soon as we’re let into the professional world we’re told to work in teams to accomplish a mutual goal.
Instead, abiding by the Team Fuqua principles means that you can become a leader of true consequence. Dean Bill Boulding defines this kind of leadership well by saying that you must “have a sense of purpose to make a difference in the lives of others; engage across barriers to create collaboration and innovation; do not take positions on issues through the lens of simplistic and narrow self-interest, and be a global citizen.”
Duke Alumni: Not Just A Network, A Family
My tenure as a Blue Devil is not just for the 17 months that I am enrolled at the university, it is for a lifetime. The Duke alumni network is ranked as one of the best in the world. During my MBA search, I was able to connect with several alumni over LinkedIn and other social media platforms and those interactions confirmed my feelings that Duke should be my alma mater. Even today in the program I continuously see the power of the Duke network. For example, just within the CCMBA program you’ll meet and interact with several alumni during each class residency.
Joe Chien, managing director of Blackstone China and a Duke alumnus, said at the beginning of his talk with our cohort in Shanghai that he values being able to give back to the Duke community and stay involved. To be able to seek advice and guidance from such an accomplished individual is invaluable, and the open-door sessions like the one with Joe make it very comfortable to approach alumni and to collaborate on opportunities or exchange information. How Duke alumni disseminate valuable information is worthy of an entire blog itself.
Whether you’re looking to move forward in your career or begin a new one, targeting and growing a network is crucial, and the alumni network that Duke University fosters is an especially effective one. It will increase your chances of developing the right opportunities for yourself, while maintaining lifelong friendships.
“The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” – Robert Kiyosaki, Author
In closing, if you’re considering Fuqua’s CCMBA program, then you’ve probably already decided that you don’t want to quit your full-time job, that you want to have the classroom face-to-face experience, and that you’d like to have virtually no free time for 17 months while you take on one of the most challenging, but rewarding educational experiences of your life. I salute you.