What is Change?

What is Change?

This is the question Professor Jeff Ford posed to us during our first class. Most of us took a stab at answering and the usual responses surfaced–a process of making something different than it was before, an equation of addition or subtraction, a state of transformation. No single answer seemed to entirely encompass the definition of “change.” And like most philosophical questions, the concept seemed to slip through our fingers like fine sand as we tried to wrap our arms all the way around it. I knew immediately that I was going to love this class.

During the second 7-week session of the first semester, all 1st year MHRM students take Organizational Development & Change with Professor Jeff Ford. The course is structured around a series of short cases that we explore each week. We are given a simple question that we work together to answer. The first week, we defined change. This past week, we talked about how to identify–exactly– what we want to accomplish and how, specifically, we would know if we accomplished it.

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Professor Ford’s teaching style is exactly what I envisioned of a graduate-level class. He challenges us to tease out the essence of what we are saying. In undergrad, I felt it was much easier to get away with saying a bunch of pretty words and hoping my main points and ideas would materialize for my audience. But, when forced to focus on word choice and detail the way Ford urges, I find that stripping away all the excess is the best way to solve any complicated problem. He doesn’t lead you into the answer or finish your sentences; he waits for you to distill your message down to the very essence. I think it is so important to practice thinking like this in a world littered with so much information to sift through.

Another unique feature of Ford’s class is that his wife, Dr. Laurie Ford (an experienced consultant), sits in on class and contributes her insights. This is fantastic–Laurie shares real-life examples of how she has initiated change from diagnosis to implementation in organizations she has worked with. With a concept as cloudy as change, I’ve found it is tremendously helpful to have access to multiple perspectives to help us apply what we are learning to real cases that we analyze from start to finish. I also think Laurie’s involvement is such a palpable example of how Professors at Fisher (and their spouses in this case!) truly invest their heart and soul in their students.

Last week, we studied an example of a utility company struggling to complete installations accurately according to the specs provided by the engineers, leading to delays and complaints. We were asked by Professor(s) Ford to get into small groups and provide recommendations for what we would “change,” how we would change it, and how we would know if we succeeded.

Many of us fell victim to the “action imperative”–doing too much too soon and all at once. We suggested lofty ideas like streamlining the communication systems, instituting various task forces (what are those anyway?), implementing and training and project managers, relationship-building among the installers and the engineers…all of which could have worked, but they very quickly became too abstract and unmanageable. Then we started to think about how we would know if our changes worked. Increase in revenues? More timely installations? And how would we implement the changes? Company-wide training initiatives, team-building, eLearning…at a point it began to feel like we were vomiting every HR-related word or phrase we had ever heard in a desperate attempt to hit the right answer. It turns out, we were overcomplicating things.

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This case study was actually a client that Laurie had worked with. She encouraged us to think about the “lines” that represent the connections between the different players. The issue clearly became the communication that was (or wasn’t) happening between the installers and the engineers. They weren’t speaking the same language, and directives were being lost in translation and leading to mistakes and delays in the work orders. Upon further discussion, we discovered that the work order template hadn’t been updated for over a decade. The simple solution was to update the template. Brilliant.

My takeaway from this class so far is to keep it simple. Change can be an intimidating concept for many organizations that need it, and so it is best to change as little as possible that still allows you to accomplish the goal. Tread lightly, and don’t rock the boat if you don’t have to. I’m sure these will be important lessons to remember after grad school when we will be brand new HR professionals trying to make our mark on the world. It will be a tough balance to strike, but I already feel more prepared to tackle it.

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Electives in the MAcc Pt. 2

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have interviewed several of my peers within the MAcc program about some of their favorite electives offered in the MAcc. Here are some of their responses:

Erica Yoder:

What is your favorite elective?

My favorite elective so far has been ACCTMIS 7620 Management of Corporate Data. It’s a 7-week session course, and each week you learn about a new data system.

Why did you decide to do this class?

I decided to take this class because I had an interest in risk advisory and technology, and felt that this class would be beneficial in pursuing that as my future career.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual)

The format of the class is an interactive lecture. More often than not, half of the class is going over lecture material and the other half is walking through the data system of the week, following along on a personal computer. There is one assignment every week, to help you grasp the new data system that has been introduced.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

The class was fast-paced, but I thoroughly enjoyed getting to see a variety of different systems in such a short amount of time. I am taking data mining next, to expand on my knowledge and understanding of data systems and data usage.

Kate Sabin:

What is your favorite elective?

Sports Marketing.

Why did you decide to do this class?

I chose to do the class because I loved my Marketing class during undergrad and I am a huge sports fan.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual)

The class is primarily a lecture format, though we have had several guest speakers. All the speakers completed the Sport Management program at Ohio State and have gone on to work in various sectors of the sports industry. There is also a group project component. We were split into teams of 8-9 students and each team was responsible for doing the promotion for both a men’s and women’s hockey game. This included everything from pre-game marketing strategies to actually executing in-game promotions. I had actually never attended an ice hockey game before! Before the end of the semester, we will also create a social media plan for a sports paraphernalia item, as well as a marketing plan for a Columbus Clippers event that another class will go ahead and put into action during the spring semester.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

This class definitely got me out of my comfort zone. The Fisher College of Business can function a lot like a bubble and it is very easy to spend all of one’s time within the walls of Gerlach Hall. By taking a course outside of the “norm” for MAcc students, I have had the opportunity to interact with students who I might not have met otherwise.

Me interviewing one of my friends, Kate Sabin
Me interviewing one of my friends, Kate Sabin

Samantha Daugherty:

What is your favorite elective?

My favorite elective is my Negotiations class.

Why did you decide to do this class?

A friend who took this class in the MAcc program last year suggested I take this course.  In addition, I wanted to increase my negotiating skills and learn different tactics on how to negotiate certain topics.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual)

The format of this class is a little bit of everything.  On one day, we will break out and negotiate with a partner, each having our own set of information and needing to negotiate in order to receive a favorable outcome.  Once we finish this negotiating day, there will be a more lecture-based discussion debriefing the negotiation and talking about the different tactics and takeaways from the negotiation.  In addition to these individual negotiations, we have an ongoing three-step group negotiation, where we negotiate with a different group in order to receive a favorable group outcome.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

So far, my favorite thing I am learning is how to confront certain situations that would otherwise be uncomfortable.  For example, a salary increase or a lower purchase price.  I have learned how to interact and work with different personalities, which I believe is an important takeaway when I enter the workforce.

Chloe Lam:

What is your favorite elective? 

Managing Product and Process Innovation is my favorite elective. The compelling factor about the MACC program here at OSU is that students are encouraged to take classes that interest them. I knew from the start that I wanted to take more management classes to broaden my general business skills and learn from the MBA students.

Why did you decide to do this class?

The topic of innovation has always intrigued me – I wanted to learn more about how big companies, like Siemens and 3M, have succeeded/failed through innovation.

What is the format of the class? (i.e. lecture, cases, group/individual) 

Primarily lecture and group cases.

Favorite thing you learned/biggest takeaway from the course:

The biggest takeaway from this course is to not be afraid of speaking up to share your ideas/opinions. I tend to shy away from participating in classes, but management classes encourage students to participate and learn from each other. Through participating, I was able to learn so much more.

Organizational Development: Lines, Nodes, Agreements, and Deliverables

So, let’s say you want to make a change in your life– in any aspect. You want to change your job, your spouse (yikes), your relationship with your next-door neighbor, your health. Big changes. Small changes. We all want to change and grow in new ways… especially in the upcoming New Year.

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This was near the beginning of one class… before the board got much messier.

But how do you actually make the change happen? Introducing BUSMHR 7308 Organizational Development and Change. This class really makes me think and has real-world application. Therefore, it’s my absolute favorite so far! It’s taught by Professor Emeritus Jeff Ford. Professor Ford is extraordinarily accomplished and well-respected in the area of organizational behavior, specifically change management (a hot topic, particularly in HR). He’s written a book which we use in class, The Four Conversations: Daily Communication That Gets Results. And he has a very specific framework about which teaches. I won’t get too into it, but… in short order…

You have to know what you want to accomplish and how you’re going to do it. And you have to make agreements regarding what you’re going to get from who and by when. It’s something you need to map out–using lines and nodes. This is the extremely high-altitude summary; there are obviously much more nuanced and granular details to the process that require a lot of deep thinking during class. It sounds logical– and it is. He’s able to take the abstract complaint of “miscommunication” and dissect specifically why it occurs and how to avoid it.

Best of all, he’s… intense in class. Quite a bit of the discussions focus on case studies that are rife with detail about an organizaton’s woes: lack of communication, unrealistic goals, blame, politics and game-playing, sexism– you name it. And our job as students is to come up with solutions to fix the organizations and get them on the right path. Professor Ford analyzes every word we utter and firmly asks for clarity, disagrees, or otherwise challenges our assertions. This is not a class for the thin-skinned (I’ve made a few observations about which he’s disagreed; it hasn’t felt good, but his willigness to question students is what forces impactful thinking). And his approach is a gift; those without any or much work experience haven’t learned the sometimes harsh realities of the professional world– and his candor is a good primer.

Now… let’s talk about that decision to apply for the MHRM program at Fisher. What’s your “from” state? And how will you know when you’ve arrived at your “to”? Is your “to” admission to Fisher or is your “to” a certain GPA or certain thing you want to learn? What agreements do you need to secure from others? How will you know you have the agreements? And what outputs will you need to generate? And what inputs must you secure? Decisions, decisions…

‘How Did I Get Here?’

Those who know me well learn (sometimes to their dismay) that I have a soft spot for 80’s movies. From the classic to the cringe-worthy, I am unable to resist the nostalgic and synthesizer-tinged siren song of the MTV era. The genre has taken on new meaning to me recently, as I feel ever increasingly that I have been plucked from real life and dropped into the middle of a John Hughes montage:

Look at protagonist Michael go—he’s taking classes, doing homework, interviewing for jobs—working hard with his gang of friends towards their common goal! The days are flying off his Page-a-Day calendar as his Trapper Keeper fills with HBR articles! (Music fades as Michael’s car pulls into student parking lot).

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Time and Change: Not even Mirror Lake is immune to the fast pace of life on campus.

This morning I had such a montage moment when through my car radio, I heard David Byrne of the Talking Heads squelch “…and you may ask yourself—‘how did I get here?’” ‘Here’ in this case, meaning week eight of the semester. It was a sobering realization that my academic MBA experience at Fisher is already 1/8 of the way done. I took a moment to reflect as the chorus chanted in the background, “Letting the days go by…”

It truly feels like yesterday that I walked into orientation. Yet somehow here I am, eight weeks in and already finished with the seven-week long Economics and Marketing courses. My only explanation (aside from the possibility that we are in fact sentient beings trapped inside the b-roll of a teen movie), is that time flies when you’re having fun. And boy, have I been having fun.

The 12-, 15-, sometimes 18-hour days that I have become accustomed to as a business student fly by more quickly than eight-hour days during some of my past endeavors. There’s no time in this fast-paced program for busy work. As such, every lecture, every assignment, every group project is intensely enriching and clearly builds towards the goal of becoming an effective business leader. This makes it so easy to stay engaged and motivated. Add to this the limitless opportunities for professional development, networking, and exposure to companies and there truly is never a dull moment. The greatest challenge is forcing yourself to go home and go to bed at the end of the day. It wouldn’t be difficult to fill 24 hours a day with MBA-related activities.

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A sample time warp agenda

Sure, there is plenty to be stressed about in business school, but there’s always equally as much to be excited about. Ultimately, I think that is what separates my MBA experience thus far from my previous academic endeavors. I walk into Gerlach Hall each day excited, knowing that new lessons, new skills, and new challenges await me. I am never bored, I am never sitting still, and I am constantly challenged– and as such, the weeks quickly wash over me in a wave of intense activity. I have lots to learn and I’m far from mastering the many facets of graduate school, but I look forward to the new challenges ahead.

And so a new montage begins. Will protagonist Michael get a summer internship? Will the football team win the big game against their rivals? What misadventures and mischief await our lovable band of buddies? Cue the music—let’s find out.

 

Undergraduate vs. Graduate

In a lot of ways, the Master of Accounting program functions like a fifth-year of undergrad. The majority of the students earn their undergraduate degree mere months before starting the program and therefore have less than a year of work experience. Because of this, I did not anticipate any challenges in adjusting to graduate school. As the end of my first term nears, I feel qualified to say that my expectations were very wrong.

So how is the MAcc different from my undergraduate accounting experience?

1. GROUP WORK. I am part of a group in every class. During high school and college, I did everything in my power to avoid working in a group setting, preferring to complete projects on my own. At Fisher, that is not an option– and I could not be more grateful! I am currently enrolled in four courses, and each one has some kind of group component. I think what sets these groups apart from those I have been a part of in the past is the fact that everybody cares about the outcome and our objectives all align.

2. THE CURRICULUM. Because I did not declare my accounting major until the beginning of my junior year, I experienced a bit of a time crunch in satisfying all of the course requirements. As a result, I was unable to take as many electives as I would have liked. Within the MAcc program, there are only 4 required courses that make up 10 of the 31 required hours; I have the flexibility to fill the rest of my schedule with classes that really interest me. Having so many different options is intimidating, but I am so thankful for the opportunity.

3. THE MATERIAL. It makes sense that the concepts we are covering in class are more advanced than those I learned during undergrad. The work is far less mechanical in nature and requires more critical reasoning skills. One of the core courses is Financial Reporting, which builds upon the concepts taught in Intermediate Accounting. Unlike Intermediate, where the bulk of the workload was comprised of practice problems, Financial Reporting involves actually applying the principles to various cases. There are definitely days when I miss the simplicity of the practice exercises, journal entries, and comprehensive problems, but there is also something incredibly rewarding about applying my knowledge to real-life financial statements.

It is crazy to think that I am about a quarter of the way through my MAcc journey. It has been overwhelming at times, but that is all part of the experience!

“Undergraduate Buckeye” vs. “Graduate Buckeye” So Far….

I am about one month into the MHRM program. It is crazy how fast it has gone by! We are already almost at the halfway point of the first semester. That means 1/8th of grad school is almost done and we are finishing two of our half-semester core courses. It’s exciting!

After reflecting on the past few weeks, there have been a few ways that being a graduate student at Ohio State has been different from being an undergraduate Ohio State student.

Here are the comparisons that I came up with:

1. My MHRM classmates vs. Psychology classmates: Even just knowing these people for a few weeks, I already have gotten to know more people at a faster rate than some of the people I took classes with as an undergraduate. Though I still have a few close friends in my Psychology program, it’s cool to have this type of community in the graduate-school classroom environment.

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2. Group projects. Group Projects. Group Projects: Classes in undergrad are very much lecture-based. It worked for large Psychology classes. In my MHRM classes so far, we have done a lot of group work already. It’s beneficial because it’s allowed me to work with a variety of people in many different capacities.

3. The importance and joy of reading for class: I am looking at reading for classes a bit differently now. It has been awesome to “go deep” into such a specialized topic and to know that I am gaining knowledge in a field to equip me for my future. At the same time, I loved my Psychology classes because of their broad scope; they helped me get a “big picture” and gave me enough knowledge to apply much of what I learned to graduate school now. In my MHRM classes, it is important to come to class prepared and the reading has actually be quite enjoyable!

4. The Internship Search: Psychology was pretty broad and internships needed to be actively sought out. Here at Fisher, there are a multitude of opportunities and support to help us find our summer internship (a large part of our curriculum!). It has been a bit overwhelming with job applications, information sessions, and networking but hopefully it will soon pay off.

5. Buckeye Spirit: If one thing is the same, it’s the Buckeye spirit! What I love about Ohio State is the intense school pride that we all possess. I’m happy to share that with all my graduate school classmates, too. 🙂

With even just a few weeks done in the program, I have already learned so much. I am excited for all that is yet to come!

Go Bucks,
Nikki Villoria

Building our Team!

"We're always better when we're together"
“Always better when we’re together”

It’s hard to believe it’s September. As August wrapped up, our SMF class excitedly looked toward the start of new projects and classes in our autumn term– and now, we’re in the thick of things. We spent the last month getting to know both our fellow SMF candidates and program alumni. As this team grows together, we anticipate great results both on campus and during our career search.

Getting to Know Our Classmates

The SMF class spends time getting to know each other both inside and outside the classroom. After class, we frequently play soccer (or football, as some of us call it!) and badminton. Besides playing games, a group of SMFs and I cheered on the Columbus Crew Major League Soccer Team and another group attended a concert with Kesha. There’s a lot do do here! These events, and many more throughout the year, are free to all Ohio State students. Events are fun, but often the best way to build relationships is over food. The past three weekends, about 15 to 20 of us have met for dinner each Friday evening. This has been a time for us to share favorite international dishes and explore new restaurants.

Building strong bonds among the SMF candidates will pay dividends as we finish the month of September developing a company analysis report. This week, our team finalized our collective “story” of where our company is and where we see them heading. This project is a tangible report that we can discuss with potential employers. As we begin our job search, it is important to know that not only do we work well together–we are also building our network with alumni.

Getting to know Alumni

A great part about being in the SMF program, is that the team extends beyond the walls of Fisher College of Business. About 30 alumni attended an August alumni reception. This event allowed the current class to learn about different careers in Finance and ask questions. Alumni also come back to visit during career fairs and panel discussions. I’ve talked to a number of them already. Coming to Ohio State from a smaller school, I was not used to calling people that I had not met in person; but, after many friendly phone calls, I know that there are a lot of professionals cheering us on and offering their support.

Two Weeks Down, 54 To Go

Although I am in the initial phase of my MBA experience, I can report with confidence that Fisher has already exceeded my expectations in many respects. From the multi-faceted academic modules that all incoming students complete before arriving on campus to the intensive two-week Pre-Term program, the experiential learning at Fisher begins even before a candidate sets foot inside of a classroom.

As a resident of central Ohio, I was fortunate enough to not only visit the campus during my admission interview but to also take part in many invitation-only activities for admitted students after I successfully completed the interview process. At these initial gatherings that occurred in the Fall of ’15 and Spring of ’16, I met quite a few other admitted students as well as faculty, admissions, and other members of the Fisher family: an impressive group of people. However, it was at the beginning of the Pre-Term program (which all incoming students are required to attend) that I truly appreciated the caliber and the diversity in all of its glorious forms that is embodied by the Fisher MBA class of 2018. There are 14 countries represented in our class, but that is only one aspect of the innumerable dimensions of diversity that can be found in my class. Random interactions with my classmates in between lectures or at lunch have given me opportunities to learn from their experiences, and it’s only been two weeks since classes started!

MBA Class of 2018

My experience has so far been full of challenges and ‘aha’ moments. The course load is heavy and the material is challenging. Add this to all of the other wonderful opportunities outside of the classroom that a student would be remiss not to take advantage of, and it becomes easy to see why time management and maintaining an agile schedule are crucial. The first year in general and the first semester in particular is specifically designed to stretch students’ abilities both in and out of the classroom and for that reason, organization is paramount. I should, however, make it clear that a great deal of effort and thought goes into the design of the curriculum at Fisher and admitted students have already proven through the rigorous admission process that they have what it takes to thrive at this school and to represent the Fisher College of Business well in the future. Having said that, the school also does a fantastic job in the selection of core team members. No matter the subject matter or topic, there will be at least one member of your core team who is particularly strong in that area. This, I believe, forms the basis of the great student-led learning that occurs outside of the classroom and augments the structured in-class learning.

I am sure there will be many challenges ahead of me but I really look forward to taking them on, one and all. After all, challenges are nothing but opportunities in disguise!

Core Team

“Shape the Game”

Well, I am hot ‘n’ heavy into my first semester! I must admit that I feel a bit overwhelmed. It’s a manageable “overwhelment,” but it’s become clear to me that time will be precious while in the MHRM program. In addition to the core courses, I’m taking two electives this session (and probably one elective next session) and serving as a graduate administrative assistant for the college. I also am going to try to re-launch the Fisher LGBT affinity group (called “Out in Business”) sometime soon if I can get the time to do it! (For a myriad of reasons, the group is currently inactive, although Fisher is absolutely inclusive and welcoming with LGBT students.

Anyway, one of my favorite courses thus far is called “Organizational Turnarounds.” The crux is: how do you turnaround failing organizations? Senior Lecturer Jeff Rodek teaches the (popular) course. We’re learning that this difficult task requires a lot of structured, but quick decision-making. In addition to a textbook, we’re gleaning insight from case studies and articles… AND Mr. Rodek himself. He’s a former CEO of Hyperion Solutions– and he was charged with doing his own turnaround of the company. You can read quite a bit online about his time there. What’s awesome about the class is that the students are required to analyze and assess HIS performance at Hyperion– the good, bad, and ugly. It’s part of our first group paper.

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Mr. Rodek himself

He’s incredibly open and honest about his experience as CEO. He doesn’t sugarcoat it. He’s reflective of things he did well and things he’d like to go back and change. And he wants us to learn from it. How cool is that? This isn’t some professor who’s been buried in research for years; he’s been in the thick of things and he’s sharing his insight and knowledge with us. He also has a great sense of humor and really tries to spark good conversation in the classroom.

One thing he said in class this week– and this was really a very small comment related to the topic at hand, but immediately hit me– is the need to “shape the game” as leaders (particularly during a turnaround), not just “play the game.” As someone who’s told friends and colleagues many times to play the game, I really appreciated his revision of this mantra. It resonated with me. Shape your experiences and relationships in the way you want them to be shaped; take change of your own destiny rather than being a willing bystander.

And it applies to what I’m doing now as a student. Despite the stress, I’ve reminded myself that I am here because I want a challenge. I’m here to grow. I’m here to be the best. So, I’m going to work hard, build relationships, and learn as much as I can to shape my professional and personal life in the way I want it to be. O-H-I-O!

The Most Popular Course: Negotiation

This semester, I decided to take what may be the most popular course at Fisher: Negotiation. It’s taught by Associate Professor Lount. Many Fisher students (in all programs) rave about it and our program director also highly recommended it to me. I’m beginning to understand why!

After the course introduction and our self-introductions, the first class actually began with a negotiation. Every student was assigned to a role: either a seller or a buyer. We picked up confidential information based on our roles. I was so nervous for my first negotiation because I believed I was not good at negotiating. I would rather obey what the other party said than start a negotiation. Due to my nervousness, I did not say much during the negotiation– which may press my partner (the one with whom I was negotiating) to rise his offered price (I was a seller and my partner was a buyer). To my surprise, I got the second highest price in the class! I learned from the first negotiation: be comfortable with silence. More importantly, I started to gain confidence.

After we learned basic concepts of negotiation, we started to learn some useful negotiation tactics. For example: providing several offers which are of the same value can show our flexibility as well as learn give the chance to learn the other party’s needs and wants. I’ve already conducted this tactic in one of my negotiations. In this negotiation, we had four roles: buyer, buyer’s agent, seller, and seller’s agent. My role was as seller’s agent and my task was to negotiate with the buyer’s agent and help my client sell her house at a reasonable price. We had several rounds of back-and-forth. Every round, I offered 2-3 offers with different prices, closing costs, and pay methods. After the negotiation, I counted my offers: I provided almost 10 offers in a negotiation. Although we did not reach a deal at last, both my client and the buyer’s agent were satisfied with me. It was a tough exercise– conducted via e-mail, so most time I just waited for a reply and when I heard from my client or the buyer’s agent, I had to consider my target and then different offers I would like to provide. Also, because we couldn’t talk face-to-face, I had to consider my words and tone in the emails carefully.

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As the course went on, the negotiation became more complicated and more people were involved. For example, 4-6 people with different roles may have been involved in a negotiation and each would have had different interests and targets. Or it was likely that we had to solve 3-5 issues in a negotiation and each issue was not independent. But after practicing in the class, I was more comfortable and confident to deal with different negotiations.

Negotiation is a practical skill. Therefore, we spent much time in the class practicing. Every time after a negotiation, we would conclude with what happened in the negotiation and what we learned. I think that by the time the class is over this semester, my negotiation skills will be much improved!