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Countdown

I graduate on August 28. What’s left? Five classes, two case studies to write, and then one final exam. I plan on participating in commencement, which means the purchase of a cap, gown and hood is planned for this weekend.

It’s a bittersweet feeling. There are some things I will miss from my experience as an MBA student. There are also some I’m glad to be leaving behind. Want to know what they are? Well, here are a couple of lists, one for the good, and one for the not-so-good.

First, the not-so good:

  • Studying on the weekend. After my daughter goes to bed for the night, I’m just too tired to think. I find I concentrate much better in the morning (like most people, I guess), but I have to work, so I spent most of my weekends for the last two years studying and working on projects with my groups.
  • Freezing classrooms. My office is also freezing in the summer, so I’m walking around carrying a sweater when the heat index is 110. Perhaps one is more productive when one is cold?
  • Exit 2B on I-670 westbound onto 315 north. One lane of traffic, and always jammed at 5pm on weekdays.
  • Poor writing in case studies. Okay, I majored in English as an undergrad, so I am probably a literary snob. But I can’t tell you how many cases began: “John Doe, a newly minted MBA, looked out of his office window as he contemplated a momentous decision he must make about Company X.” Bo-ring! It’s much better when a case sticks to the facts and doesn’t try to be a narrative.
  • First day of class every quarter. I’m always a bit anxious about it. With the quarter system, you jump right on in and usually have to get a group assembled the first day.

And now for the good:

  • First day of class every quarter. Sounds weird, since it’s also not-so-good, but I truly enjoy learning, and every new class has been eye-opening in some way.
  • My classmates. Some people make really good friends during their time at Fisher. I didn’t make any BFFs, but some people do (and more)! Besides that, they’re all in the same boat with you. They want good grades like you do, and your group members don’t want to let you down.
  • The RPAC. Especially the pool! It’s such a great facility—I’m jealous of all the students who live on campus. I’d have been so much thinner at age 20. Maybe.
  • Being a student at Ohio State. Partly because it’s a trip down memory lane—I’m already among the Buckeye alumni—but also seeing how the campus has changed has been fascinating.
  • Tai’s Asian Bistro. My fast-food dinner of choice. They’re opening up a sushi bar too!

Spring Quarter Recap—Summer Quarter Intro

Well, I was really busy during last quarter and didn’t post much here on the blog. Sorry! My workload toward the end was pretty heavy; I had 3 group projects due in about a two week time frame. So I’ll tell you a bit about each of them. Enough with the excuses already, right?

Spring Quarter was great; I really enjoyed my classes. One of which, Global Marketing and Sustainability, won’t be offered next year, according to our professor, Scott Griffin. As is the case with some of my classes, Prof. Griffin does not work in academia, but the actual working world (he works for Greif), and he thinks his travel schedule isn’t going to allow him to teach next year. It’s disappointing for me, as this was a very inspiring class. My project here was for a nonprofit organization called Brand Aid, which works with Macy’s to sell Haitian artwork. After the horrible earthquake last year, the artisan community in Haiti has been trying to continue business, mostly by selling to overseas markets, which is where Macy’s comes in. You can buy it on Macy’s website—they call the initiative “Heart of Haiti”. The artwork made from reused steel oil drums is something I particularly like. We examined how Macy’s could improve the Heart of Haiti program and keep the struggles of Haiti in consumers’ minds.

Next up is my project for my Government Regulation and Business Strategy course with Prof. Lance Schneier. Like Prof. Griffin, Prof. Schneier is not also in academia full-time; he is retired from the energy industry. Our group examined the obesity epidemic among children and found that the regulations for determining what is served in federally-funded school lunch programs do not cover beverages. Kids could be drinking many calories in flavored milk or soda that don’t need to be there; sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are the culprits. We examined how the soft drink industry could be incentivized to help schools eliminate sugary drinks from their cafeteria and encourage schoolchildren to be more active.

Last but not least was my class in Lean Enterprise Leadership, co-taught by Professors Peg Pennington and Peter Ward. They are part of Fisher’s Center for Operational Excellence, which partners with businesses to improve their operations management. This was not a class where we sat around and listened to the professor lecture.  There were day and night sections for this course, and we all spent one day on-site at several local businesses (Coca-Cola, OSU Medical Center and Exterior Portfolio by Crane) to examine one business process that could be improved through value stream mapping. This is a process developed by Toyota as part of the Toyota Production System. I first learned about this in the Operations core MBA course. You draw a map of the current process and this allows you to see waste. My group examined the international shipping order process for Exterior Portfolio and found some ways that this process could be streamlined, eliminating some delays. The day we spent with them, we were told this process needed to be done once a week or so. Exterior Portfolio, however, had been acquired and just recently began shipping many more products internationally!

These projects were fun, but it can be difficult to coordinate with my group members sometimes to meet. In the Working Professional program, my groups have generally gotten together on Saturdays. My group for the Haiti project, however, was made up of mostly full-time MBA students (I was the only one in the WPMBA program), so we tended to meet during the week. What’s great about group projects, though, is that you don’t have to do the whole thing yourself. Also, group members have differing strengths. A finance-oriented type can do the NPV analysis; another person with good PowerPoint skills can put together the presentation, and so on. I have good language skills, so I’ll often volunteer to edit the whole report once everyone’s sent in their write-ups.

Summer Quarter is my last before I graduate in August. I am taking the final two core MBA courses, one at a time over two five-week spans. First up: Global Environment of Business, then Strategy Formulation and Implementation. It will be nice to be able to concentrate on only one subject at a time, and since I have had global business and strategy courses already in the electives I have taken, I feel like I will be ahead of the game a little. My reading load is doubled for each class, essentially, but it also means that I don’t have to worry about making sure one class’s work doesn’t dominate the other’s.

Many in the Working Professional program are just starting their very first classes now, taking Accounting and Organizational Behavior this summer. They’ll enjoy easier parking on campus during this quarter, and hopefully will be able to find time to enjoy themselves in between work and school. My advice is to take it slow and don’t run yourself ragged. Stressing out over grades won’t do anyone any good. Do your best and you’ll be just fine.


Free Time

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, hasn’t it? Just too busy, I guess.

Well, as you probably know, it’s the first week of spring quarter. I’m very excited about my classes. I’m in class four nights a week, but on Monday and Wednesday I only have one class at 8:00pm. So I can put my daughter to bed and then it’s off to campus, leaving my house at about 7:30. Any extra time I can spend with her is a bonus.

I’m taking Global Marketing and Sustainability, Government Regulation and Business Strategy, and Lean Enterprise Leadership. The Lean class is graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory (i.e. pass/fail). While I certainly expect to work for my “satisfactory” score, it feels less stressful for me to not have to worry about getting a specific grade. Also, we get a field trip on April 15th, which should be fun. I’ll be sure to report on that later.

My daughter and I have been attending swimming lessons once a week at the RPAC; I get a discount because I’m a student member. We start a new session this weekend. She loves the “bubbles” (an area of water jets) and the slide. Getting Mommy wet is fun too! There’s also a very shallow area where she can actually stand, but it kind of freaks her out. We’re working on it. My daughter is getting less afraid to put her face in the water, though! Hooray! Winter quarter was a rough time to start, though, because it’s so cold and when you’re out of the pool you’re freezing. Once spring decides to arrive, it will be so much better!

Meanwhile, we got our tax refund from Uncle Sam and decided to buy a digital SLR camera with the extra dough. Our little point-and-shoot is nice, but it can’t take very good pictures indoors without a flash. I’m excited to have a new way to spend my free time once I’m out of school; learning more about photography will be fun. (I did some film work as an undergraduate, but it is a different world now that digital has taken over.)

I used to think I had no free time before I started the MBA program. I was so wrong! I had tons! Who knew?


Midterms!

I took the day off work today to study for my Securities Markets & Investments midterm tonight. I know a lot of students in the WPMBA program can’t always take a day off when they want to, but I find my life much less stressful this way. Especially when a test is 30% of my grade! Besides, I have class on Monday and Tuesday so there’s no way I can effectively study after Sunday night. I’d forget too much before the test. So I slept in a little, ate some breakfast, and I’m typing this up before I hit the books. I plan on visiting my daughter at daycare this afternoon before I head over to Gerlach. I can’t go all day without seeing my precious little girl!

I’m going to use the prior year’s midterm that our professor posted on Carmen as my main study guide. It’s helpful because every professor has a different way of asking questions, and I get a good idea of the kinds of things I will need to know for the midterm tonight. Even after more than a year of grad school, I still get nervous before exams. You’d think they’d stop bothering me after a while, but they still do. I don’t remember worrying about tests so much as an undergrad, but I hardly think I cared as much about my education then as I do now.

Yesterday I registered for classes for spring quarter. It’s my last quarter of electives, and again it was a tough decision. There were a few classes I was interested in that were scheduled at the same time. I decided on M&L 845 (Global Market Management and Sustainability), MHR 894.66 (Group Studies–Government Regulation and Business Strategy; rather apropos for me as I work for a government-created entity), and MGT 840.01 (Lean Enterprise Leadership). I’ll be in class four days a week, but on Mondays and Wednesdays I will actually be able to put my daughter to bed! Class starts at 8pm and she goes to sleep around 7-7:30. She puts up with mommy being at school and studying very well, but I’m looking forward to the extra time with her.

As I said, next quarter is my last for electives. I take my last two core courses in summer quarter (Strategy and Global Environment of Business–very interested in both!) and then I’m done! Graduation day will be August 28, only six months away. I can hardly believe it sometimes; I feel like I’m over the crest and it’s all downhill from here!


New Year, New Quarter

Winter Quarter 2011 has snuck up on me! I spent some quality time with family since finals, and the weeks have flown by. I got an ‘ukulele for my birthday, and I’ve been practicing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to sing with my daughter. (I’m going to need this new hobby to fill the spare time void left by graduating from the MBA program.) My daughter got a lot of loot for Christmas; tons of toys she doesn’t have to share with the other toddlers at daycare.

Tomorrow I go back to work and back to school. I’m taking three classes again; this time around I know I can handle the load, but it is certainly easier to manage the time needed to study for two classes instead of three. This summer I’ll be taking the last two core courses, and they’ll be offered one at a time in five-week segments. That will be quite a change for me.

What’s up for this quarter? Global Sourcing, Securities Markets, and Strategy Implementation. Should make life interesting for the next 10 weeks. Three more quarters and I’ll be set to graduate in August. I’m over the crest of the hill and it feels like the end is in sight.


Stress Relief

What do you do to relieve stress? One of my methods is to listen to music. I’m into a lot of different kinds, but since my honeymoon in Hawaii, I’ve been very much into music from the Aloha State. So much so that I hope to receive an ‘ukulele as a gift next month. I’ve learned to play the piano, clarinet and saxophone, and have picked up a guitar and my grandmother’s ‘ukulele a few times. I don’t expect learning to be super easy, but at least I won’t hurt my family’s ears like I did with all the honking and squeaking that comes out of a beginning clarinetist’s instrument. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to sing some songs to my daughter to entertain her, and in a few years she could learn to play herself.

What else do I do to relieve stress? Sometimes I just have to let myself get away from work and school and think about something totally unrelated. For example, I try to schedule a night off from studying when possible just so I can do something relaxing, like watching a movie. Oh, and sleep. Sleep is good. Sleep comes at a premium when you work full time, go to school full time and have a toddler. (But at least this toddler sleeps 13-14 hours per day.) I suppose I should exercise more, but I suppose everyone who isn’t a gym rat thinks that. I’ve taken a couple days off work to spend with my husband and my daughter, which was great. Funny how I can relax more when I feel like I’m playing hooky from work.

In two weeks, finals start, and then I have about four weeks off before winter quarter begins. Five down, three to go. Quarters fly by so much faster than semesters. I’d only be about halfway through the term if Fisher were a semester school (which, of course, it will be in 2012). But it will be nice to relax and enjoy my family. I’m not going away for Thanksgiving like I did last year. While I love visiting family, Thanksgiving is crunch time because it’s just before the big exams and final projects. So, it really will be less stressful for me staying home.

…by the way, guess who scored some FREE tickets to the Michigan game? Go Bucks! Beat Michigan.


Schedules

It’s hard picking electives. I have a couple of interests, namely Enterprise Sustainability and International Business. I am limited to taking evening classes; I don’t have the workplace flexibility to take any day courses. Fortunately for me, my work hours don’t change, I don’t travel and I am not permitted to take work home with me (I deal with sensitive information). Once work is done for the day, I am free! It would be much harder to choose electives if I were able to pick from the day classes as well. As it is, I think I changed my class choices for this quarter three or four times.

Next quarter, I’m taking three classes: Global Sourcing, Strategy Implementation & Execution, and Securities Markets & Investments. I’ll be in class on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday again, like I am now. I wasn’t expecting to like this schedule more than taking classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This way, my school week is over sooner, and since I have to have all studying/projects done by Sunday night, I don’t have the stress during the work week of making sure I have a chapter read or a paper typed up for the next day. I can relax more in the evenings on Thursday and Friday and just enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter.

One awesome benefit my employer has is an on-site daycare facility. I think it’s a great perk that more employers should adopt. I feel so much saner and can concentrate better because I know my daughter is nearby. If she’s sick or hurt or just needs me to give her some medicine, I can be there right away. She will be two years old in February, and she’s been at this center since she was three months old. (I started the MBA program when she was seven months old.) I visit my daughter during the day, too. Last Friday was costume day for Halloween, so I brought her over to my department to show her off in her duck outfit, which was fun.

Every day after work, my husband picks our daughter up and takes her home, while I drive straight to Fisher. On the days I don’t have class, he drives us all in together and picks us up after work. On the days I do go to class, I drive my daughter and myself in to work, and then I hang out with her in her classroom for a little while. It takes about 3-5 minutes to get to my desk from her classroom. So far, the whole school/work schedule has worked out well for us. I wish I had more time on the weekends to spend with my daughter, and I can’t make her understand where I am or why I’m in the office so much when I’m home, but she’ll be two and a half when I graduate. She won’t even remember that I was in school. I think the separations are harder on me than on her.


OSU vs. Purdue

My husband and I went to the game last Saturday. Professor Jay Dial was there, too, being recognized for receiving the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching earlier this year. Unfortunately, he flashed by too quickly on the scoreboard for me to get a picture.

The game was great, if a little repetitive. Touchdown after touchdown after touchdown. (Ha!) The Bucks made Purdue look like a hapless high school junior varsity squad at times. Too bad they didn’t do so well against their previous opponent. We’ll see if the new #1 falls yet again this weekend. I suppose if Ole Miss scores a touchdown against Auburn on their first kickoff return, we’ll find out!

We sat in the nosebleed section, almost directly below the Iowa pennant. It was unfortunately the away side, which meant we didn’t get the full effect of the halftime show and Elvis dotting the “i”–in “Elvis,” not “Ohio.” I thought it was a bit silly to dedicate a whole halftime show to the King, but it was funny. The Elvis impersonator was only okay. If this were Las Vegas, you’d have a better crop of those dudes to pick from.

After the game, we made the trek from the stadium to the southeast corner of Lane and High, passing the massive street party that forms along Lane Avenue during home games. Where were we going? To eat at a taco truck: El Manantial Latino. My husband works at Ohio State and frequents this truck for lunch. He had a huge order: two empanadas (beef and chicken), one cheese arepa and plantains. I, being a vegetarian, opted for the arepa and plantains. The arepa was like a flat cheese tamale, but griddled instead of steamed. The plantains were deep fried–health food!–and oh so delicious. You can see a picture of the taco truck itself in the gallery below. The menu can be seen in a larger picture here. It was much better than any of the humongous chain restaurant options nearby; and the truck really wasn’t busy after the game. In contrast, the BW3 across the way was jam-packed. Well, Buffalo Wild Wings opened its first restaurant in Columbus, so you could argue that it’s “local”. It is awesome how some local restaurants can “make it big” and start taking over the world, but at the same time I think eating in locally-owned restaurants is better than choosing from homogenized menus intended for large regions of the country.

I hope everyone has a happy Halloween weekend!


Homecoming

Two tests on Monday, a paper due Tuesday, and a PowerPoint presentation due on top of that! Whew! …Some weekends are busier than others, and this was one of the busy ones. I will be happy when Wednesday is over.

In more entertaining news, I’m going to the Purdue game this weekend! It’s the first OSU football game I’ve attended since 2002. (You know, the year we went to the national championship game and actually won it.) I never went to one single game here as an undergrad. I just wasn’t that into football; probably because I had my fill in high school. I attended every game because I was in the marching band. Yeah. I’m a band geek. I played the clarinet.

I’m sure the Buckeyes will crush the Boilermakers on Saturday. I’m not nervous about this game as I was before the loss to Wisconsin. And it’s homecoming! There’s a lot of stuff going on Friday night. On Saturday, we’re going to get to campus early and check out the festivities beforehand. There’s always something going on before the game. My dad is babysitting the kiddo; hopefully she’ll take a nice long power nap like she did last Saturday and make it easy on him. She has a lot of energy.


Didn’t major in business? No problem.

I majored in English as an undergrad …well, initially I majored in English, then switched to Cinema and Photography, then switched back to English in junior year when I transferred from Ithaca College to Ohio State. (In 1996, Ithaca had eliminated the BS in Film Studies major to focus on the BFA in Film Production, which did not interest me.) To sum it up, I never took a single business class as an undergrad. I took an honors math course my freshman year and at Ohio State I took Statistics, but that’s about all that I could apply directly to MBA knowledge. I can tell you all about Shakespeare and film history, though.

I worried a little about how I’d do in the MBA program, that I’d be behind all of the other students and totally clueless. I wasn’t worried about my math skills, but my business knowledge. Kind of like Harry Potter going off to Hogwarts for the first time, worrying that growing up in the Muggle world instead of the wizarding one would put him at a disadvantage. I didn’t need to worry. We all have our specialties in the business world. I’m in class with engineers, doctors, and fellow humanities majors who also likely never stepped foot into a business class or read a case before. That’s what makes class discussion so interesting. The varying business worlds we inhabit help inform our studies and add to the conversations we have together.


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