There’s no doubt that Weekend Executive MBA (WEMBA) students rigorously study, absorb and ultimately, master, the quantitative aspects of the program. Early on the emphasis is geared toward accounting, finance, statistics and the like. However, Fuqua offers a softer side as well. But do not equate “soft” with “easy.” Soft, in this context, refers to the soft skills we practice and master, in a variety of environments.

Notably, we participate in a two-phased leadership development program wherein we hone our interpersonal leadership skills. The first phase occurs during Term 1 and the second during Term 5 when we participate in Fuqua’s leadership development courses. These courses enhance our ability to influence, lead, and motivate not only in a professional environment but also in personal and social contexts. All areas of leadership are addressed, from presentation techniques to inspiring peers, subordinates, and seniors to follow our lead. Professor Sim Sitkin, who instructs both phases of the leadership development program, inspires us to rigorously examine our leadership attributes and take corrective action where necessary. Self-reflection is encouraged by completing personality assessments along with peer evaluations of our ability to present and demonstrate leadership attributes. This self and peer analysis is honest, insightful and practical and, for me, long overdue. I have progressed from assuming I understood all there was to know about leadership to recognizing that my leadership skills require refinement.

The interpersonal skills are learned outside of the traditional classroom setting. For instance, many assignments are team based and require the ability to negotiate, navigate, and ultimately serve as a member of a high-performing team with representatives from diverse industries and backgrounds. These team assignments include complex case studies, and often, at least one (but sometimes more than one) team member has expertise in the subject area. We have to discuss everyone’s insight and we all have to work together (and sometimes negotiate) our final prognosis of the case.

Lastly, there are opportunities to hone interpersonal skills outside of the curriculum. Weekends at Fuqua, well … are weekends. And despite the academic demands, we regularly build lasting relationships and expand our networks while enjoying the bars and restaurants of Durham and the surrounding hot spots.

All of these opportunities have diversified my skill set. The WEMBA program is not just a rigorous academic experience. It’s also about developing interpersonal skills – soft skills – and creating a network of like-minded and supportive friends who enrich your life beyond the traditional academic and professional settings.