When I decided to go back to school for my MBA, I had three goals: improve my leadership skills, expand my knowledge of business, and meet new people. When I applied to Fuqua, I was attracted to the curriculum that would allow me to improve my leadership and business acumen in a weekend format convenient for working professionals. However, I was skeptical of the number of networking opportunities I would have in the Weekend Executive MBA program and grew concerned about the quality of relationships that could be formed among a cohort that only met in person once per month.

When I arrived on campus for our first in-person residency, what I thought would be a week filled with lectures and coursework, was instead a week of meaningful networking and team-building opportunities that allowed our cohort to connect, learn, and grow with mere strangers. One of the early exercises in our Integrated Leadership Experience was presenting an introductory story about ourselves to a group of our cohort. During that exercise, we all shared stories of personal hardships and experiences that made us who we are. This exercise, although incredibly intimidating to do in front of a group of people I had just met, uncovered our similarities, and more importantly, uncovered our differences.

We were all different people, with diverse careers, backgrounds, interests, strengths, and weaknesses, but we all had at least one thing in common—we were embarking on the same, exciting journey together as Team Fuqua. Much of that week was spent outside of our comfort zone as we were encouraged to share our weaknesses, ask for and provide feedback, and be vulnerable. The intention was to break down our individual walls and form a cohesive bond among the cohort that would enable us to persevere in any environment, virtually or in-person.

The bonds that were formed that week only grew broader and deeper with each weeknight spent with teammates working on assignments via Zoom, every hybrid Saturday dialing into class from my home, and every in-person residency that followed. In these moments, you learn so much more than business, you learn about your teammates—their stories, their families, and their interests—and deep friendships begin to form.

My early concern of only meeting in person once per month drifted away with the quantity and quality of interactions that I’d have with my teammates as we worked through the most challenging, but rewarding experiences of our professional lives.

As I reflect on my time in the Fuqua, I’ve learned that our professional interests bring us together in the program, but our personal interests keep us together after the program. Those who embark on the Fuqua Weekend Executive MBA share a unique and challenging experience that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives that alone forms a strong bond among the cohort.

The same people who you only meet in person once per month are the same people who will invite you into their homes for dinner, invite you to their weddings, and check in on you when you’re having a rough week. They are your teammates when you arrive at Fuqua, but they are your friends for years to come once you leave Fuqua.