Going Back to School - the View from an Evening MBA Scholar

As it has been several years since undergrad and as I don’t yet have kids, the annual Back-to-School season has been more of a reminder to get the grill used a couple more times before winter rears its’ snowy head, to squeeze in some last summery fun and get a head-start on Halloween candy consumption. (Lord knows Target wouldn’t hit their numbers without me stocking up on Scotch Tape and Bite-Size Snickers.)

But this year is different, as “Back-to School” actually means going back to school, not just fresh office supplies and candy I shouldn’t eat. Starting school at the graduate level is obviously a world apart from the undergrad experience; for myself and for most of the incoming Evening MBA program students, we are not moving to new cities and campuses or setting up in dorm rooms. For those of you who are, welcome to the Twin Cities! But we are going through that same process of meeting our newfound colleagues and feeling out our professors for responsiveness and senses of humor. (Happy to report that both are present so far.) Instead of homesickness, most of us are figuring out how to fit this new challenge into our already-filled lives, and how long it will actually take to finish a 155-page reading assignment before next week.

To that end, there have been two pieces of advice in the buildup to these first classes that have stuck with me. One was from the new student orientation in our breakout group, when the Evening MBA Program Director, Corey Eakins, suggested we “act like scholars.” Get out of the house, go to the library, establish study habits and academic patterns that are different from our usual routines. The other was from Dr. Thomas Ressler in Statistical Methods for Decision Making who admonished us not to think of ourselves as customers anymore. We were customers when choosing the program, he noted, but now that we are in the Evening MBA program, we are scholars.

We signed up for the challenge, so we should embrace it, along with our fellow students. In this first week of class, the most common icebreaker, beyond just a name, has been, “So where do you work?” and it’s a question that has yielded a host of interesting answers. It’s one of the reasons that many of us chose St. Thomas- the chance to be in the same classroom as, and learn from, folks in all sorts of environments, from the 3-person company to the multi-national corporation with 220,000 employees in 60 countries. It’s also a question that immediately sets up interests and allegiances- Do we work for the same company? Maybe competing companies in the same field? Are you somebody who can help me with my Stats homework? Are you happy at your job? With that in mind, and although it has only been one week of school so far, but maybe we should be introducing ourselves with our name and our dream job, where we see ourselves working. That is, after all, why we are here at St. Thomas.

Evening UST MBA student Carl Swanson runs an arts and culture blog, CakeIn15 and can also be found on Twitter at @catiyas.