It’s amazing how life can change so quickly. A little over a year ago, I had started my application to the Weekend Executive MBA program, not thinking I had any chance of getting into Fuqua. Lo and behold, here I am sharing my experiences with you as a student on campus. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity, and I hope that the insights I share will help give you a better understanding of what makes this program so unique and valuable.

Making the Choice

When I had first decided to go to business school, I had no clue about the process or about why I even wanted to go back to school. At the time, I already had an undergraduate degree in finance, and I had worked in some impactful roles at a few prominent Fortune 500 companies. Most of my peers at those companies had an MBA degree from prestigious schools, and I thought that if they were doing it, I should do it. This was when the curiosity crept into my brain.

It’s important to note that I have somewhat of an obsessive part of my personality—but in a healthy and productive way. If something strikes me as interesting or worth learning about, I spend just about every waking minute doing research and mapping out my plan of attack. I had learned everything about the top 25 business schools—their names, where they rank, their location, and what programs each had offered. I even went ahead and categorized schools into “specialties” based on where their alumni had landed after the program (finance, energy, consulting, etc.). Still, I had NO idea where I would fit best.

Sharing the Goal with Leaders and Mentors

When I had joined my current organization, my director and I had a one-on-one discussion, and I told him that one of my personal and professional goals was to attend business school. Before that meeting, I was looking to attend either NYU, Columbia, Wharton, or Rutgers, being that I lived in northern New Jersey, which is about 15 miles outside of Manhattan. Never did I ever imagine that Duke would be on my radar. However, my director had graduated from Fuqua’s Global Executive MBA program a few years prior, and he encouraged me to look into the Weekend Executive program. I did not think that this conversation would change my life forever—but it did.

Mike with his other 5 team members during Triangle Training building exercises at the beginning of the executive MBA journey
My assigned learning team for the first few terms

Doing the Homework and Understanding What’s in Store

I began my research by reaching out to one of Fuqua’s executive MBA admissions counselors. We reviewed my background, and she encouraged me to attend an open house since she thought my experience could make me a good fit for the program. I had to see it myself—the culture, the flight to Durham from Newark (not the most fun, but still interesting), the classroom, and the staff—just to know what it would actually feel like to go through this process as a student. So I flew down to Durham and was welcomed with open arms (literally) by the admissions staff. The day included a program overview, lunch with students, alumni panels, a Q&A session with admissions, a campus tour, and an optional application interview with a member of the admissions team. I was immediately sold on what Duke had to offer. Nine months later, I got the phone call from admissions, and I was accepted into the Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2019!

The Power of the Duke and Fuqua Brand

My program started at the end of May 2018. In the months since then, I have formed several strong personal and professional connections within my cohort and beyond. My LinkedIn profile views have increased about tenfold since I included “Duke MBA Candidate” in my headline. Recruiters and hiring managers LOVE Duke students.

There is a reason why Fuqua is consistently at the top of the rankings when it comes to culture—it’s one of the greatest learning environments in the world. Fuqua students have a genuine interest in learning about each other, not just professionally, but also personally. The admissions staff does a fantastic job of selecting students with a high degree of emotional intelligence, and I believe it is this inherent trait that separates Fuqua from most of the other top business schools.

One Final Note…

My decision to attend Duke University was not merely just to add the MBA credential to my resume—I wanted to challenge my thinking and have a transformational leadership experience. Although I’m only a little more than halfway through my executive MBA journey, I can say that I have never felt more confidence and conviction about where I am headed. By no means do I have my life figured out or mapped out, but I know that Fuqua is giving me the tools to find those answers. Remember, if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not growing!

“There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.”

– Calvin Coolidge