Fisher Family Network

One of the first things the Class of 2016 learned about during our two weeks of orientation was the Fisher Family. Community was one of the top buzzwords of the faculty and staff who presented to us, and they emphasized that everyone at Fisher – faculty, staff, and students – is here to help us grow and learn both academically and professionally.

And over the past few weeks, our class has bonded and become a family – a real one. Half the time I don’t even have to ask for help – people offer before I can.  Last week, one of my classmates, Michael, gave me the contact information for one of his friends who had interned with a company I was interested in.  “E-mail him!” Michael said.  “He’ll definitely be able to tell you about the culture and what their internships are like.”  So I did.  His friend wrote me a detailed mini-essay about the company.  It was awesome, and it really helped me.

Then, during the weekend, another classmate, Vlad, spent over two hours helping a group of people (including myself) figure out an accounting case. Two.  Hours.  It was a struggle-fest, let me tell you, as we slowly pieced together how to complete the case with Vlad acting as safety net in case we wandered too far off-track.  That was two hours he could have been napping.  Naps are scarce and highly valued commodities in grad school.  But he helped us anyways.

And it isn’t just our class that has become a family – the Fisher Family extends outwards to past students, too.  On Sunday, I was talking to my friend, Jessi, who recently graduated from Fisher.  I mentioned that I was interviewing with a certain company.  “Oh!  You’ve got to talk to Brian!”  She gave me the contact information of one of her classmates who had interned with and was currently working for the company.

And when I e-mailed Brian?  He immediately suggested we set up a time to talk.  When he found out I was a career-switcher, and a little overwhelmed by the tough marketing questions asked in interviews, he offered to give me interviewing help and said to e-mail him anytime I have questions.

I’ve never had so many people helping me succeed.  It’s pretty amazing.  If you have a weakness, your career counselors, classmates, and professors will help you strengthen that skill set.  The people at Fisher – both past and present – support one another and want to see each other succeed.  The Fisher Family is one of the things that most defines Fisher, and what makes it so special.

Leadership Lessons

All first year students take a leadership course during their fall semester, which is taught by Dr. Tony Rucci. In this class, each team of five students is required to do a community service project and write a reflection paper about their experience.  My team chose to participate in Meals On Wheels.  Meals On Wheels is a program where volunteers deliver food to the homes of those who cannot afford to buy food, and who are either partially or completely house-bound.

My team of five was assigned to two delivery routes and given instructions on where and how to deliver the meals.  Some deliveries required signatures, and others did not.  Hot meals and cold meals were sealed inside individual trays, and hot meals came with a slice of bread and an apple.  Drink choices were skim or 2% milk.

I was prepared for the poverty we saw – probably better prepared than my teammates.  I grew up in a town where poverty is normative, and I was a volunteer tutor in an inner-city school while I was an undergrad.  I’ve seen hunger on children’s faces – in the ways they act and react – because I’ve studied next to and taught these children.  I was also prepared for the dirt and decay we encountered in some homes because I worked for a cleaning company in the summers.

But what I was not prepared for was the complete and total isolation we encountered.  Most of the people we brought meals to were elderly, and many were handicapped.  I wondered where their children were – their grandchildren.  I wondered it for at least the first hour.  That’s how long it took me to realize that they probably didn’t have children.  Or their children were dead.  Or lived in another state and couldn’t afford to visit often or financially support their aging parents.  And if you or your children can’t afford to hire an in-home nurse or move into assisted living or a nursing home, there isn’t much choice.  You’re stuck.

I was also unprepared for how little food we actually delivered. I greatly respect what Meals On Wheels does, and I think it’s a wonderful program.  I fully realize the funding and man-power limitations they face on a daily basis.  I also understand that, as an Italian, my beliefs in portion size are dramatically skewed.  But despite all of these things, the bottom line is that we only delivered one meal to each person.  One meal per person.  One meal per day.

Think about how much you eat in one day.

 

Our route took my team two hours to complete, from start to finish.  Two hours and we got to go home to full cupboards, clean floors, and air conditioning.  Two hours and we were back to being students, with all the academic, intellectual, social, and economic privileges that students have.

After an experience like that, you have to ask yourself what you’re doing with your life.  How are you helping anyone besides yourself?  And maybe you aren’t.  Maybe you’re just trying to survive grad school.  And maybe that’s the point.

Our leadership project was a good way for us to give back, to remind us of what is important, and to remember that despite the lengthy class discussions about profit margins, supply and demand curves, and increasing shareholders equity, money isn’t everything.  It isn’t even close.

 

The Buddy Program

This year the Fisher MBA has a new program: The Buddy Program.  This program was spear-headed by the Class of 2015, who felt it would be beneficial to the incoming first year class to have a second year mentor – someone to ask where the quiet study room is (in the basement, across from the lockers), or where the best place to grab lunch is (the verdict is still out), or to ask questions about major classes, clubs, conferences, and the internship search.

But the Buddy Program is also about friendship.  “We want you all to feel included,” Edwin, a second year leadership and organizational behavior major said. “We want you to be part of the program and help you in any way we can.”  Edwin’s attitude has been echoed in the actions of every second year I have met – and I’ve met the majority of them.  The second years have made a point to be involved in our orientation and to invite us to club and social events.  At Fisher, you don’t come in with 120 friends, you come in with 240.

The first Buddy Program event of the year was this past Friday.  Everyone who signed up for the Buddy Program met at the Varsity Club.  My buddy, Doris, e-mailed me before the event to introduce herself and to reassure me that she would be at the event.  When I got to the Varsity Club, it was packed with MBA’s.

“We didn’t know how many people would show up,” I overheard someone say.  A lot. A lot showed up.  In fact, so many first years signed up for the program that several second years, Doris included, had two first year buddies.  I managed to find Doris and Coralia, another first year, and we talked about our backgrounds, potential majors and career paths, and Doris’s insights on her two (Yes, two.  Did I mention that my buddy is brilliant?) summer internships for what felt like five minutes, but was really almost an hour and a half.  We left the event with plans to meet for lunch, and word on the street is that there might be a second Buddy event later this semester.

To say the Buddy Program is a success would be an understatement, and although this is a new program, I think it’s one my class, and the classes that come after us, will continue.