Business school has definitely met my expectations so far. When I started at New York University's Stern School of Business, I had two goals: first, to develop the "hard" business skills that my liberal arts education and communications-based career emphasized less than others; and second, to switch careers from foreign affairs in the federal government to marketing in the private sector.
After one year at Stern, my goals are well on their way to being met. In light of the first goal, I chose to take all of the core courses, even though only five were required. Those courses provided a good grounding in key business concepts, especially the accounting, statistics, and microeconomics courses. The only core course I was less satisfied with was strategy. I had a professor who was new to Stern and who took a somewhat unorthodox, non-framework-based approach to strategy. I believe his game theory-based approach would have been a good rounding out of a basic strategic framework, but as a stand-alone it was a bit too high level for a core course. That was one of my only disappointments academically, and overall I was impressed with the rigor at Stern and the commitment, knowledge, and passion our professors brought to the classroom.
With regard to my second goal, I am excited to be heading to a summer internship at the Washington Post Co. The position sits at the intersection of marketing, media, and entrepreneurship. Specifically, I'll be responsible for launching a new product at the paper, which will allow me to see whether this less traditional marketing role is a better fit for me or if I should focus on moving into consumer packaged-goods brand management after business school. Either way, I know Stern has prepared me for both roles, with a strong core marketing course and an excellent elective I took in the second semester dedicated to marketing planning.
It's interesting to note, as I reflect on my first year, that the business school experience has not fundamentally altered the values I held when I started at Stern last fall. What it has done, however, is given me the tools and confidence to pursue a path that honors and reflects those values. I think I had steeled myself for a business school experience, internship included, that might require at least temporarily putting some of those values aside while I established myself in the business world. In contrast, just to cite two examples, I have found that I've included an element of public service or double-bottom-line thinking in my school activities and internship, and that I have been able to maintain a reasonable work-life balance during the school year (and hopefully this summer as well, to some extent).
All that said, there were a few other disappointments this year, but Stern is working to remedy many of those over the summer. For example, because of construction in the undergraduate building, we have been short on space in the graduate building this year, especially during the second semester. A large part of that construction is scheduled to be completed by the fall, so we hope to have a little more breathing room next year. Stern will also be taking steps over the summer to improve our IT infrastructure, whose shaky state in 2008-2009 caused more than one panicky moment of not being able to print an assignment on the day it was due. These two improvements, plus a planned renovation of one of the social lounges in the building's lower level, will add much to the Stern experience.
I just submitted my course requests for next semester (though I have not yet received the outcome), and I was surprised by how interdisciplinary they are. Before I started business school, I thought I would take primarily marketing courses. Due in large part to advice from Stern administrators and second-year students, I have realized that to take only marketing classes would be a poor choice given this singular opportunity to expand the breadth of my business knowledge. So while two of the classes I hope to take are within the marketing specialization, my requests also include Decision Models, a Doing Business In&hellip two-week course in Hong Kong over winter break, Managing Change, and Managing Growing Companies.
I look forward to seeing how these courses build on the foundation of my first year at business school and the knowledge they will add to my business toolkit. While the thought of having just one more year between me and the "real world" is somewhat stress-inducing, I am confident that business school will leave me well-prepared to face the challenges.