Echoes From Fisher – David Clark on “THE QUARTER SYSTEM”

This week I will introduce you to my MBA classmate and my teammate in Fisher Professional Services – David Joseph Clark.

He is a very talented individual and I have learned a lot from him over the last couple of months. He is a lawyer and wants to pursue a career in Finance post his MBA. He is an excellent presenter and his knowledge is unparalleled in almost everything.

The Ohio State University has decided to switch to the semester system from the quarter system by 2012. David is going to tell you his thoughts about The Quarter System.


David and Mr. Buffett

A Brief Article about a Major Competitive Advantage at Fisher: The Quarter System.

The quarter system: a clear advantage over semester MBA programs. Is he serious?

I know, I know, it sounds crazy. Before I got to Fisher, that was my 2nd largest concern (my first was securing a dog-friendly apartment, incidentally which is why I do not live in Fisher Commons, but in a little place off of Tuttle Park).

I haven’t seen quarters since … oh, I don’t know …  I guess high school. So anyway, the quarter system has certain clear advantages and disadvantages, and at Fisher, the advantages prove to be advantageous, and the disadvantages are largely mitigated.

The Strengths:

At week 14, you have complete 5 classes and are half way through another 5. In a semester program, after 14 weeks you have final exams.

So to what degree is depth an advantage in this scenario? I propose that the MBA degree is generalist. The depth necessary is mastery of core concepts and competency in dealing with mainstream issues in the spectrum of available business subjects. Clearly a graduate degree in economics or finance or accounting would delve further into the subjects, but I propose that 10 weeks with one of these introductory classes maximizes core concepts and minimizes subjects that offer diminishing returns to a non-specialist. These returns compound over with time, allowing a Fisher student to take 30 classes in 6 quarters, while semester programs such as University of Texas McCombs allows students to take 24 classes over 4 semesters, and Wharton requires 21 courses. I argue that the 9 additional courses that I take will provide me a sustainable advantage in my career.

The strength of starting the second quarter sooner is also tremendously important in the job hunt. Not having a finance background, yet pursuing a finance and investment career, in many of my interviews, including those 2 weeks into my Corporate Finance class, played on subjects that I would not yet have been exposed to in a semester curriculum. It is true that after the first year is over, I would have been on comparable ground with most other top MBA programs, but on for internships in tight markets, those are key advantages, and the true advantages take place at the margin.

The first weakness was starting in mid-September. Everyone else I knew had been in school for two weeks, and had had their books for those two weeks. Here I was, 3rd week of September starting a 10 week marathon. Learning unfamiliar subjects in 10 weeks is a very different proposition than 14 weeks. I had become accustomed to allowing a subject to marinate in mind for weeks before congealing. Fisher took me to task, forcing a new learning style that pushed me out of my comfort zone. This discomfort, however, has proved invaluable for the consulting projects I have since undertaken through Fisher Professional Services and My Emerging Markets Field study. It has taught me the ability to learn at the rate of the information stream rather than at the rate of my reception. This is crucial to assessing any situation and designing strategic solutions.

The second weakness is that my peers in other MBA programs started their job hunt three weeks earlier. While I think this played to their advantage, my impression has been that most of the recruiting action did not take place until Late October-February. Similarly, national internships tend to start in early June. Still, Fisher students have consistently been able to negotiate start dates for internships to coincide with the academic calendar.

So those are the primary strengths weaknesses of the quarter system: on one hand you can take more classes, and will interview with more class experience, and on the other hand, you will be forced to digest vast subjects in only 10 weeks, and you will be 3 weeks late to the internship hunt.

On balance, I believe that the additional classes are a tremendous plus, that the ability to adapt to a quarter teaching system is a lesson in flexibility, and that the late start in job hunting with slightly more class experience is essentially a push.

And finally, if you start the Third week of September, make sure to relax during that second week — and not to get caught up in the
frenzy of your peers at semester schools. Your trials will take place soon enough, and you should enjoy the extra time you have to move in and figure out your game plan.

Yours truly,

David Clark-Joseph
Fisher MBA Class of 2011