Going to business school, for many, is a life-changing experience. Often, it means transferring to a new town or city (for some a new continent or country), meeting new people—and learning to work with them—and choosing an entirely different career than the one previously launched. It means learning to be a student again, from cramming for tests and philosophizing with classmates to choosing free pizza at the finance club's open house instead of a five-star gourmet meal. Whether you are the student or you are the husband, wife, or child of the student, life feels brand new.
Every year, BusinessWeek calls for MBA applicants, incoming first-year students, and the spouses of incoming students to share their unique business school journeys with readers. After reading writing samples from hundreds of applicants, editors chose just 10 new people to write for the popular MBA Journals column in 2009. (Of course, in addition, the writers who were introduced in 2008 will continue to document their business school and job-hunting experiences as they always have.)
In recent weeks, many people have asked about this new crop of MBA Journal writers. Who are they? What will they reveal? When will they begin writing? Until this story hits the Web, not even the writers themselves will know who won this voluntary but coveted writing gig. Judging from past journals, the writers will reveal lots about the state of business school and themselves. Their application includes the first entry that will eventually get posted on the site—and you can get a preview of each journal below.
Drum roll please. Without further ado, meet the new first-year MBA Journal writers, who will pour out their souls periodically throughout the year as they crack case studies, work in teams, seek internships and jobs, and try to prove to themselves and the world that the MBA in all its forms is still relevant:
Incoming Student: Jeremy Dommu
Program: George Washington University Full-Time Global MBA Program (GW Full-Time MBA Profile)
A businessperson with heart, Dommu writes that he plans to study environmental sustainability with a goal of working somewhere that allows him to help measure and reduce carbon emissions to fight climate change. As a Global Leadership Fellow, Dommu won a full academic scholarship. Already a member of Net Impact, a nonprofit group seeking ways to use business to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world, he also earned a certificate in training in greenhouse gas accounting from the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute.
This isn't Dommu's first round at GW; he earned his undergraduate accounting degree at the university in 2004. Before entering the MBA program, Dommu was a senior associate at Reznick Group in Bethesda, Md., where, among other tasks, he led and executed audits for a variety of real estate and commercial and nonprofit clients and researched and wrote a 50-page accounting manual on investments in renewable energy that provides guidance to potential investors.
MBA Journal Preview: "I want to leave my job each day knowing that the work that I completed was not done solely for the benefit of financially enriching myself and my clients but rather to enrich the lives of people who are unable to hire the teams of lawyers, consultants, or lobbyists to champion their causes; and to protect our planet from the risks of climate change that is currently poised to have lasting and irreversible consequences."
Incoming Student: Christine Marie Shepherd
Program: HEC Paris (HEC Paris Full-Time MBA Profile)
A renaissance woman, Shepherd appears to have done it all—she was an au pair for a family in France, took a night job waiting tables in a diner, served as a tour guide in Washington, worked for her senator, organized a Moscow-based international research workshop, joined a startup consulting firm, and helped launch a nonprofit to boot. When she decided to go to business school, she sought a program with an international focus, coursework in corporate social responsibility, and partnerships with several international relations programs. She found what she wanted at HEC Paris, which also fulfilled her desire to live overseas.
At the Center on the U.S. & Europe at the Brookings Institution, where she held her last position, Shepherd managed about 100 conferences and events annually—both domestic and international—focused on transatlantic relations, Turkey, Italy, and France. She is fluent in French, which will come in handy in Paris. Earning her undergraduate business degree at the University of Georgia Terry College of Business, she graduated cum laude with honors in 2005.
MBA Journal Preview: "After graduation, to recharge my battery, collect my thoughts, and improve my French, I crossed the Atlantic to the west coast of France to be an au pair for a family I had never met. At summer's end, four French friends richer, renewed in spirit, and ready to take on the world, I headed to Washington, which in my view provided the perfect stomping ground to explore the nexus of business, politics, and international relations."
Incoming Student: Rusmir Musić
Program: Georgetown University McDonough School of Business (McDonough Full-Time MBA Profile)
A war refugee, Musić and his family fled their home in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992. At 13, Musić thought of himself as without home or country, he writes. He came to the U.S. on his own at 17. Since then, despite struggles with visa and green card applications, he earned a bachelor of arts in chemistry in 2001 from the College of Holy Cross and a master of arts in humanities and social thought in 2003 from New York University's Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Now a quarter-life crisis had led him to graduate business school.
As the assistant director of experiential programs at the Hiatt Career Center at Brandeis University, Musić initiated a sophomore-year internship and established a job shadow program for students. Now, he has turned his attention to renewable energy. He expects two years at business school will help him solidify his goals.
MBA Journal Preview: "Who would have thought that my family would be forced to leave our urban apartment and live for four years in a rural, abandoned house with no indoor plumbing but with plenty of rats? Or that I would leave my family behind, arriving in the U.S. by myself at age 17? That I would then be fortunate enough to live in some of the world's greatest cities, including San Francisco, New York, Boston, and now D.C.? That America, this land of opportunity, would make me feel incredibly accepted, having been essentially adopted by friends and their families? Or that this same America, burdened by post 9/11 fears, would reject me, as I continue to struggle with harsh immigration policies?"
Wife of an Incoming Student: Bonni Bohn
Program: Bohn's husband, Mark, is attending INSEAD (INSEAD Full-Time MBA Profile)
This mom to one- and three-year-old children may not be the one going to business school, but she still has quite the accomplished résumé. Having come from a small oil refinery town in Texas, Bohn was set to become a broadcast journalist, before snagging a post at the San Francisco Center for Economic Development, a small nonprofit organization dedicated to attracting and retaining business in the city. But motherhood called, and she stopped working to raise her first child, a boy, full-time.
Moving two young children and setting up house, while her husband deals with the pressures of business school and leaves her to keep the family organized in a brand new country will surely make for some interesting journal entries. The fact that she lists full-time mother on her résumé, with bullet points about the experience she gains on the job—from maintaining the daily calendar and domestic and international travel for the family to managing the family's budgeting and finances—will win your heart and score points for moms everywhere.
MBA Journal Preview: "My work was fascinating—investor relations, grant writing, and public/private sector partnerships energized me. However, the harangue of questions and glares came abruptly when I had my first child during my early 20s. I indefinitely paused my successful, budding career to raise our son, full-time. My associates questioned me, stupefied by my choice to serve society in the way I felt best. I acknowledged their concerns but regret nothing regarding my new, less glamorous 'career' choice. My happy little boy knew his alphabet at age 15 months and began playing violin at age 2. I figure I must be doing something right."
Incoming Student: Andrew William Rinehart
Program: Wake Forest Schools of Business (Wake Forest Full-Time MBA Profile)
Hoping to become a JD/MBA candidate at Wake Forest, Rinehart might have four years of school ahead of him, instead of the two most of his classmates must complete. But he is different from his classmates in other ways, too. He personally led more than 50 combat missions in Baghdad and took part in non-combat activities including local economic assessments and fuel ration distributions.
Now that Rinehart has put behind him eight years of military service—which began in the ROTC program at Wake Forest, where he graduated magna cum laude in 2005 with a bachelor's in computer science and a minor in theater—he hopes to find his right career path. As a nontraditional student, he prepped for business school by studying financial accounting over the summer.
MBA Journal Preview: "While I don't know the first thing about holding a 'real' job (seriously, I got to drive tanks and jump out of planes in the Army; how can you call that work?), I do know that there are a few industries out there that seem interesting to me at the moment, such as health care and management consulting. [Wake Forest] offers program concentrations in both those fields, so I'll try to take electives in each during my first year."
Second-Year Student: Megan Lum
Program: University of Washington Foster School of Business, Executive MBA Program
Half way through her EMBA program, and after surviving a first round of layoffs, Lum lost her job as a senior environmental manager at Weyerhaeuser Company (WY), one of millions to fall victim to the economic downturn. Without corporate funding, she and her husband made the difficult decision to stick with her EMBA while she looked for another job.
Keeping a positive attitude, Lum saw this job loss as a way to put her newfound skills to work more quickly to find a better job. With an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Windsor in Canada, she is not your typical EMBA student. But her leadership experience, which includes overseeing eight senior scientific and engineering professionals, undoubtedly helps her feel at home among her classmates.
MBA Journal Preview: "My employer, which was extremely dependent on the housing industry, started hemorrhaging money. The company sold several divisions. There was talk of massive layoffs. The very week after I started my MBA classes, the department in which I worked was cut by 70%. I was one of the lucky ones—I survived. Not that my employer was alone in this plight. In my class, there were a dozen students who deferred enrolling in the program by a year due to the economy. Many conversations in class started with the query, 'How is your company doing?'"
Incoming Student: Prem Chandrasekaran
Program: Rice University, Jones Graduate School of Business (Jones Full-Time MBA Profile)
Chandrasekaran is a people person. He is drawn to people all over the world—from Japan to India. Chandrasekaran's main purpose in earning an MBA is to help the "invisible people"—the destitute and ignored—to be seen.
Before entering the Jones School, Chandrasekaran worked at Accenture (ACN) in Austin, where he last served as a production support consultant. He is fluent in Tamil and has a working knowledge of Hindi, according to his résumé. A Jones academic scholarship recipient, Chandrasekaran earned an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004.
MBA Journal Preview: "Improving the problems faced by this group of 'invisibles' is one of my personal goals in life. While seemingly better suited to be a student of cultural studies or public policy, I feel it to be an important issue for business students. After all, a sick society cannot harbor healthy companies."
Incoming Student: Urshala Brown-Bowles
Program: University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Chicago Booth Full-Time MBA Profile)
Armed with an undergraduate degree in computer science that she earned in 2000 from Fayetteville State University, Brown-Bowles' last position before starting business school was as a senior software engineer at L-3 Communications (LLL). Like most engineers who enter business school, she is looking for a career change.
What led her down this other fork in the road? Curiosity in financial investments that would help her prepare for retirement. Brown-Bowles' dream is to open a financial advisement firm to educate minorities about markets and investment products and help them avoid unsavory investments that could separate them from their savings.
MBA Journal Preview: "Someone once told me, 'If passion is your driving force, then nothing can stop you.' It is my passion for finance, markets, and creating wealth that led me to the decision that now is the right time for me to switch from an engineering career to investment management."
Incoming Student: Jonathan Stern
Program: University of California at Los Angeles Anderson School of Business (UCLA Anderson Full-Time MBA Profile)
Anyone in journalism knows that the industry is having an identity crisis, and there's little money in it, especially if you ever plan on retiring. When Stern realized that his career in journalism wasn't going anywhere—he was laid off from MTV Radio (VIA) in December 2008—he chose between law and business schools. Business won when he noticed that he didn't know any happy lawyers.
Earning his undergraduate degree in U.S. history at Columbia University in 2003, Stern is what you'd call a nontraditional business student. A boy who once dreamed of playing in the big leagues and then writing scripts in Hollywood is now aiming to use newly acquired business skills to find his niche in new media, according to Stern's first journal entry. Having supervised and edited the work of the staff at MTV Radio, he already has some leadership experience under his belt to get him started.
MBA Journal Preview: "Like myself, most of the people I encountered in the media world had never heard of MTV's radio department. In fact, neither had the majority of employees within MTV. That did not bode well for my future at the company. Working in the radio business in general didn't seem to be so fruitful either. Four years into my tenure, I was beginning to realize that in an industry evolving at a breakneck speed, it probably wasn't the best idea to toil in one of the oldest technologies within the field."
Incoming Student: Lorena Sánchez García
Program: MBA and Master of Engineering Management program at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management (Kellogg Full-Time MBA Profile)
Unlike the other MBA Journal applicants, Sánchez García writes that she sees the opportunity to write this column as a way to pay back BusinessWeek for the admissions resources on the site that she used while applying to programs and to keep in touch with her family while attending school. As an internal consultant in a Mexican company, Sánchez García felt drawn to the cosmetics industry, a sentiment she carried from an internship with L'Oréal in Germany. This desire to move to a different field motivated her to apply to business school.
A citizen of the world, Sánchez García earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering with a minor in industrial engineering from ITESM at Campus Monterrey in Mexico in 2004 and has lived in many different countries. She writes that the business school application was exciting, mostly for the opportunity it afforded to meet new people.
MBA Journal Preview: "I have always been a social person, and explaining to my interviewer why Kellogg was the best place for me was fairly easy. My connection to Chicago was the next logical step after spending the past 10 years in industrial cities, such as Monterrey, Mexico; Toronto, Canada; Hamburg, Germany; Barcelona, Spain; and Birmingham, England. I love the buzzing of business cities, and the explanation of my stories in those places strengthened my relation to Kellogg's SMART values: Social, Modest, Academic, Responsible, and Team-workers."
Stay tuned to the BusinessWeek Business Schools channel for complete journal entries from the new crew and the second-year MBA Journal writers you've already gotten to know.