No More Steady Paycheck

I am in my late twenties, I'm unemployed, and my limited savings from five years of employment are nearly depleted. Yet, unlike many victims of the recession, I actually put myself in this position voluntarily. Why? Because I have nearly two full years of my life to pursue whatever academic and career endeavors I choose. I'm on my own clock, and the only person I am accountable to is myself. It's an incredible opportunity, and I consider myself extremely fortunate to be in this position. Occasionally I look back and consider all that I gave up—a steady paycheck, a promising career in public accounting, a steady paycheck, five years of hard work and long hours, and a steady paycheck. But mostly, I relish this time, stay focused on my goals, and plan to reenter the workforce prepared significantly better than when I left it.

For some peers, their focus is primarily wrapped up in case studies, group meetings, test preparation, and class presentations—the assignments at a core of an MBA curriculum. For others, it's also quite simple to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel—the mythical six-figure salary, the Rolodex full of contacts earned from approaching industry experts under the innocent guise of a student, and whatever positive stigma still exists from simply being an MBA. For me, while those are incredibly important, I believe the projects I'm involved in outside of class are the most valuable and justify the time I'm putting into this degree. That is why I consistently remind myself to free up more of my time and effort for activities outside of class. I rarely turn down a learning opportunity I see as valuable, and I regularly remind my peers of how to get involved. I'd like to spend some time highlighting some of the projects I am most excited about, and I hope my activities outside of class help others realize the merits of a full-time MBA and motivate my peers to stay involved. After all, at the end of the day, the benefits of an MBA are measured based solely on how much each individual puts into it.

South Korea

One of the flagship components of George Washington's Global MBA program (GW Full-Time MBA Profile) is its International Residency. At the completion of our first year, all GW MBAs go abroad for a two-week consultancy project. What is unique about this project is that this isn't a field trip. We actually are developing critical recommendations and delivering them to an interested company or industry representatives. This year, our choices were India, Mexico, Serbia, Sweden, and South Korea—each project with a unique industry focus and area of business. In May, I will be joining a team of 20 GW MBAs in Seoul. Led by a former World Bank vice-president and Korean expert, we will prepare a strategic assessment of Korea's export prospects in the area of green technology and present our findings during a series of meetings to business, government, and think-tank organizations. The project begins with a seven-week course at GW and concludes with a two-week stay in South Korea. This is first-hand global learning.

GWSB Summit

The GW MBA program prides itself on student–run initiatives. If a student or group of students has an idea, then faculty, the administration, and dean empower and support that idea. I am a member of a new student club at GW, the GW Energy Group, and we, in collaboration with our Net Impact chapter, are putting this theory to the test with an ambitious plan to organize and run a half-day conference on business response to climate change. Using a combination of our own contacts, university sponsors, and our will-power and persistence, we are recruiting top business leaders, professionals, and students to come together on Apr. 8 at the Jack Morton Auditorium at GW to discuss the affects of climate change on business. Our goal, through a series of keynote speeches and panel discussions, is to paint a picture of a future clean-energy economy—and challenge future businesses leaders to make this vision a reality.

Net Impact Case Competition

Three of my classmates and I will represent GW at the Leeds Net Impact Case Competition in Boulder, Colo., on Feb. 19 and 20. The Leeds is the premier case format competition built around businesses facing sustainability challenges while succeeding financially. We are one of 20 semifinalist teams selected from a total of 68 entries in the first round of the competition. In this round, we spent roughly 80 combined hours on a case that challenged us to propose policy recommendations to the U.S. Agriculture Dept. to increase sustainability and local agricultural practices. Our recommendations to develop a sustainable food label, which would create tax subsidies for local and sustainable food, and to require percentages of food served in publicly funded venues to be from sustainable sources, clearly impressed. Now we are heading to Boulder to compete in a competition sponsored by Excel Energy. Given the goals of the competition and the sponsor, we envision a class focusing on renewable energy technology or energy efficiency. But we won't know the complete details of our case until about 12 hours before we are scheduled to deliver our presentation to the judges. We certainly don't plan on any shut-eye that night.

Washington Metro Area Transportation Authority

Simply put, D.C. public transportation is a mess. With significant budget overruns and in the wake of several horrific accidents, there is much room for improvement. Enter a team of 30 MBA students—a unique collaboration among GW, Georgetown, American, and John Hopkins students—to conduct a sustainability audit and advise the organization on energy, water, waste, and operational efficiency measures to trim costs, improve environmental impacts, and help earn the authority some much-needed positive press.

Internships and Classes

I'm approaching crunch time for internships, have several additional interviews lined up, and hope to find out good news in the coming month or two about where I will be spending my summer. I've applied to five incredible internship programs and would be honored to be accepted into any one of them. I plan on detailing the process in the next entry, so stay tuned for all the gory details.

After a successful completion of the first half of year one, this spring semester continues our core curriculum (now marketing, macroeconomics, finance, operations strategy, managerial accounting, and my first elective course—Worldwide Energy Challenges, taught by a vice-president at ICF International). While I have a great deal on my plate, there is a great deal to look forward to, with domestic and international trips on the horizon and the excitement of an unknown future.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.