If my best friend were to ask me, after working for a few years on Wall Street, why I stepped out on faith to pursue an MBA degree at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business; the first two words that come to mind are, “change” and “legacy.” No matter who you are, we all have taken a pause and wondered if we are pursuing the right path in life.
When reflecting on my career, there was always something missing that kept me wanting more. As a woman of color (WoC) working in corporate America always gave me an urge to make an impact. This feeling to continue to aim for excellence became increasingly stronger as I added more experience to my resume, and I knew I wanted change.
As an academic institution, Duke has always intrigued me for its global brand, immersive curriculum, and rich alumni network. As women, we often wrestle with self-doubts in chasing our goals that help us define our purpose on earth. When I decided that I wanted Duke’s Fuqua School of Business to be part of my legacy, the “head noise” of doubt silently crept in. For a brief period, self-sabotaging did take place.
However, I quickly snapped out of this cycle and refused to let the noise define my capabilities of achieving my Weekend Executive MBA. Therefore, I was more determined to apply to Fuqua, so I could accomplish my future goal of becoming a student.
Prior to applying, I attended informational sessions, which were helpful with learning about the Fuqua experience virtually. From there, I located and met with alumni and current students to learn about their Fuqua experience. Speaking with alumni and current students helped me to connect the dots with my story, and as a WoC, I was able to better understand why Fuqua was a perfect business school for me. At the right time, I received an acceptance letter requesting to be part of the Fuqua Weekend Executive MBA Class of 2020.
Before arriving to campus for orientation week, the imposter syndrome illness may pay you a visit. This is where you are asking yourself if you are capable of succeeding at Fuqua. Those are the times where you must remember who you are and continue to make deposits into your confidence well.
The first two terms at Fuqua were challenging but equally rewarding. Being a minority student, it is imperative to not isolate yourself because that is when the skeptic committee in your head becomes loud. Halfway through the program, I developed relationships with allies outside of my core team. I formed lasting friendships that eventually became my foundation at Fuqua, and I strengthened my leadership capabilities.
Through shared conversations, I realized my peers often felt unbalanced and we all were trying to find our equilibrium in the program. After completing two semesters, I learned the importance of self-advocacy so that I can write and own my story at Fuqua. I constantly reminded myself that I am not the first WoC to graduate from Fuqua and I was certainly not going to be the last. So I just had to keep pushing forward. Earning an MBA was not about me, but the accreditation gives homage to the WoC that came before me, who graduated from Fuqua. Moreover, the MBA serves as a reminder to future Fuqua WoC candidates that it is possible to obtain a business graduate degree from Fuqua.
The year 2020 was out of the ordinary because of COVID-19 and the wide recognition of racial injustices occurring in the U. S. The collision of these two events was a perfect storm for a Fuquan because it reinforced how pivotal it is to learn the principles of business leadership during a crisis.
Fuqua teaches you to embrace complex situations while maintaining decency. Therefore, I was well equipped to have those courageous conversations on existing health disparities and racial inequality with my work and school peers. With fondness, no one can ever take away the Fuqua experience from me and I am so grateful to forever be a part of the Fuqua family.
I have also learned that community will be the essence of your success at Fuqua. Therefore, do not minimize the power of relationships. The individuals you connect with at business school can perhaps be the same individuals funding your future venture.
The imposter syndrome is inevitable in life. However, I came to learn that I will not let it hinder me from reaching my dreams.