Getting Into the ‘Swing’ of Things

From navigating the city-like campus of The Ohio State University, to making new friends and participating in on and off-campus events, the past week has been full of excitement and filled with new firsts! I’d be totally fooling myself if I said that my first week of grad school hasn’t been an adventure.

To cap off an already enjoyable week, the MHRM first-years and second-years participated in Summit Vision, an indoor and outdoor education center in Westerville, Ohio. We were given the opportunity to participate in activities that truly challenged our ability to work collaboratively in a team, communicate with each other, and rely on one another -all essential skills for future HR leaders!

On an individual level, we were all challenged to step outside of our comfort zone. For some, that was an easy task. But for me, stepping outside of my comfort zone required a great deal of courageousness, self-confidence, and outward trust. This manifested itself when it was my turn to climb up a 50-foot pole and jump off of the ledge.

The entire time leading up to the jump, I was nervous. In fact, I was among the last people in my team to climb up. But as I stood, gawking up at my daring teammates taking the plunge before me, I found myself more and more inspired to accomplish the same feat. “If they can do it, why can’t I?”

Just as that thought crept in, the beginning of a mental shift took place. I reminded myself that stepping outside of my comfort zone was supposed to be uncomfortable, scary, and maybe even a bit risky.

So I did it. I climbed up the pole and took the jump -which was more like a backwards side step- and went in full swing, high among the trees, screaming at the top of my lungs with my eyes closed as tight as possible while clenching firmly onto the swinging rope.

After several oscillations, I finally opened my eyes and my screaming sharply turned into deafening laughter. I felt so happy and shocked that I had taken the jump and grateful that I had been surrounded by a team of supportive people, cheering me on as I did so.

As I reflect on the underlying meaning of this activity and the implications it has for me as I navigate grad school, my career, and the rest of my life, I am reminded of a speech that Steve Harvey gave on an episode of Family Feud.

In his speech, Harvey states that the one thing every successful person has done at some point is jump. He goes on to say, “You cannot just exist in this life. You have got to try to live. If you are waking up thinking there has got to be more to your life than there is, man believe that there is. But to get to that life, you’re gonna have to jump.” Harvey then goes on to say that it is our gifts, our unique skills and talents, that act as a parachute to break the fall once we take the jump.

Now that I’ve physically taken the jump, throughout the next phase of my life, starting with my time here at Fisher, I want to take the jump academically, professionally, and socially. I want to get even more comfortable with being uncomfortable; for I now know that it is only when I am outside of my comfort zone that I am able to soar higher than I’ve ever imagined, utilize my gifts to their fullest potential, and truly understand what it means to be successful.

So here’s to taking a step away from the mundane and leaping into the exciting, frightening, and unknown reality that lies ahead of me. I think I can get into the swing of that! 😉

Better the Devil You Know…


In the weeks leading up to my arrival at OSU, I was filled with a potent mix of anticipation and anxiety.

The anticipation came from the nerdy schoolboy in me jumping for joy at the prospect of being back in a classroom. “Imagine all I’ll get to learn!” “I wonder what interesting people I’ll meet!” “I can’t wait for football games!”

The anxiety came from my inner skittish recluse pulling his hair out at the prospect of being back in a classroom. “What if I can’t keep up with what they’re teaching?” “What if people don’t think I’m interesting?” “I don’t even like sports!”

I suppose this anxiety would be a little more palpable if I explained my background. I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ School of Filmmaking in 2014 with a focus on film directing. I moved back home to Youngstown, OH after graduation where I did a mix of videography, editing, volunteering at a ballet company, participating in community theater both on- and off-stage and working a variety of part time gigs. I decided an MBA was the right choice after my experiences told me that my passion for film had grown to all arts. I decided I wanted to be the guy who could talk to the stuffy suits as well as the airy artists.

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My mom made me take this photo!

No time in a big corporation. No use of what math skills I had. No sports. Does that anxiety make sense now?

Fast forward two weeks and that potent mix has been replaced with something much more powerful.

Coming back to school has felt more like a coming home. I had been to OSU only twice before, but within 48 hours, I felt like a prodigal son returned to his joyous father. Being here has felt like digging an old baseball glove out of a dusty attic and finding that it still fits after all this time (sports!).

I don’t know what a pivot table is or what exactly a consultant does, but orientation at Fisher has made me feel like I’m going to be the best businessman the world has ever seen. The faculty and upperclassmen have not been stingy in telling me how hard I’m going to have to work to make it through the next two years, but without attending a single class yet, they’ve managed to make me feel like I’ve learned a lifetime’s worth of information.

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My core group and I during our preterm scavenger hunt.

Adoration has replaced anticipation and until class starts, the anxiety still exists. Now, though, I know better what I’m getting myself into. I know who to turn to for help. I know what boundless resources I have at my disposal. I know who Urban Meyer is (sports!!).

I feel I’m staring into the abyss and the abyss is staring back, hungry. You know what I have to say to it, though?

Bring it.

 

Live Career Fair is Here

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I would like to take more time to savor the past, but things are changing so fast here. I just want to quickly go over the wonderful first quarter of this semester. Before I arrived here, some people told me I was going to be in a village with a lot of Chinese people. When I walked into Columbus, I did see Chinese people frequently, but when school really got started, it completely changed my impression.

The international student orientation was taken up by Chinese students and I was expecting the same situation in the MHRM program. However,  that orientation really surprised me! There are 57 students in our program, and except for Americans, there are some students from India, Pakistan, Germany, and Dubai. The welcome video with the professor and director was more funny than serious, although we didn’t get the American jokes well. We switched tables every few minutes so that we could get to know more classmates. One of the professors mentioned that we were going to have a lot of info sessions which provides food, and we should go. Why not. But then another professor said to eat before you go there, because you are there to network. This word appears frequently here. People used to think that Chinese count on “guanxi” to do business, but it seems it’s even more common here. And in the following weeks, we really get involved with all kind of info sessions and food…Rolls Royce, Procter & Gamble, Shell, and KPMG. At first I was not quite familiar with some of the names, but when I knew the Chinese translation, I am really shocked. As customers, we see some of them as luxury and when thinking about working for them, it feels incredible.

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Dressed in business professional, standing in the queue of the dream company, I felt like lingering between really being in HR and wandering into fantasy. A formal career fair which happens so soon really makes me anxious. But one thing I learned in the roundtable discussion for international students with our career consultant helped a lot. The recruiters in the ballroom could be as nervous as us. They really want to know us and we just need to help them know us. The practice of an elevator pitch with classmates is also helpful. The moment you start to do something, you may know its not that bad.

As an international student, all the recruiters seem nice. Some companies “Generally can’t offer sponsorship, but who knows what will happen.” Actually, we understand why the employer don’t want to bear the trouble and we study abroad to learn the American style, and then help them run better in our country and contribute to our own country in the future. Although I failed to get any interviews from these career fairs, I still benefited from it and see some hope. There are good resources for us to learn what to expect in the real work and form further relationships with them. One interesting thing is that most of the professors or recruiters will tell us to make ourselves uncomfortable, so that we can make some breakthrough, but Gallup actually told me that people were hard to change and they would give the best performance when they were doing the things they were good at. Actually, these 2 theories don’t always contradict to each other. Sometimes, only when we try out something can we know if we are really good or bad at it. I’m grateful for all these possibilities around this place. Like the professor said, “soak in as much as you can”.

My first month at Fisher

It’s been almost a month since our MBA classes began. I thought this would be a nice time to highlight some of the activities I was involved with in the last month to help you better understand student life in the Fisher MBA Program.

  • Pre-Term: In the 2 weeks before our MBA officially started, we had our pre-term where we got to learn more about the program structure, professors, resources, and fellow classmates among many other things. Over many creative team bonding exercises, we were able to understand our key strengths (and weaknesses) and make new friends along the way! We also had a few career foundation seminars that helped us get a better picture of the different career paths ahead of us. The pre-term ended with the ’Fisher Challenge’ where each team had to present a case analysis with their core team, which was extremely exciting primarily because it is your first group exercise with your team. As an International student, we also had an additional 3 days of orientation that helped us in our transition. My favorite part was a workshop on American Football 101, conducted by a couple of ex NFL players (and Fisher Alums)! In a nut shell, the pre-term helped the students understand what it means to be a part of the larger Fisher community.
My Core team: Team 22 (that should explain the hand signs) From Left: Lucy Liu, Sarang Nampoothiri, Andrew Wolff, Adriana Castro and Rob Harrison.
My Core team: Team 22 (that should explain the hand signs) From Left: Lucy Liu, Sarang Nampoothiri, Andrew Wolff, Adriana Castro, and Rob Harrison.
  • Career Management – The career management team at Fisher is one of our strongest assets. Within the last month, I have attended multiple career fairs and got to meet and network with many potential recruiters. We have Information Sessions conducted by companies on a daily basis. This is a great way to learn more about a company and meet their representatives in a bit more relaxed setting. Apart from these, we also have individual meetings with our career counselors. They help you streamline your job search and refine your approach.
Fisher College of Busines
Fisher College of Business
  • Student organizations – I think I might have gone a bit over the top here. I have signed up for 5 student organizations for the upcoming year even though I was advised to restrict it to 3 by many second year students! But in my defense, I found value in all 5 of these organizations! Career specific student organizations help conduct some of the company information sessions. They also help their members prepare for interviews and can be a great resource for networking.
  • The Ohio State University – I joined Fisher because it was a small program within a very large university. There is always something amazing happening around you. I have signed up with the Buckeye Leadership Fellows program for some of their Luncheon Sessions, where they invite outstanding community leaders to interact with a group of students in a small and intimate environment. As a fan of music, I also volunteered for a Music experiment conducted at the School of Music!
  • Mid Terms – Here at Fisher, we have our semesters divided into two terms. One month into the program and I have already finished most of my Mid-terms! In a way, this is good as it always keeps you on your toes. 🙂
  • Calendar App – I think this point sums up my first month at Fisher perfectly. A few days into the program and you will soon realize the true value of the mobile calendar app! This one app is going to be a life saver here as it helps you keep a track of all the events every day.

If my next two years are as exciting as my first month at Fisher, I am sure this is going to be my most rewarding and enriching journey!

Summit Vision

One thing I enjoyed the most during Orientation would definitely be Summit Vision. It was full of team building activities and adventures. Summit Vision was the place where we started to build our friendship and helped each other. It was a place where we learned from mistakes and started to grow.

Here are some highlights:

In this activity, we had to move toward the end of the wood. In order to do that, we had to put our weights on each other and lean on each other. We had to trust each other.

 

Everyone had to go through the spider web in a different holes. Therefore, we had to lifted up each other.
Everyone had to go through the spider web in different holes. Therefore, we had to lift up each other.

 

We also had some fun with the zip line! Very encouraging when you heard your teammates cheered for you.
We also had some fun with the zip line! Very encouraging when you heard your teammates cheering for you.

 

In this activity, we had to lay down our integrity blocks to make a road to our goal place. All of us could only walk on the blocks and could not step on the ground. It was a very challenging activity where communication skills and a positive attitude were very important.
In this activity, we had to lay down our integrity blocks to make a path to our goal place. All of us could only walk on the blocks and could not step on the ground. It was a very challenging activity where communication skills and a positive attitude were the key to success.

 

Another picture from the integrity blocks activity.
Another picture from the integrity blocks activity.

 

AND....here is our group picture!
AND….here is our group picture! Welcome to the MAcc!

Jumping into the Full Time MBA World!

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A picture of my kitchen table on the first day of pre-term MBA program

I’m a 33-year-old (balding) dad of two young kids with 10 years of non-profit work experience.  How do I fit in at business school?

That was the gut-wrenching question in the back of my head as I entered into Fisher’s 1st year MBA pre-term program just one month ago. Little did I know that most of my peers were asking similar questions about their own identity and status.062515Greenawalt-18

It’s no secret that leaving your job as a budding young professional to pursue a degree will cause you to evaluate your identity.  We have left behind our previous jobs, social networks, and, in many cases, even family to live in Columbus and immerse ourselves in a world of academic, career, and personal growth.  While my first day jitters have subsided, it’s that very process of wrestling with issues of identity that I believe contributes to such a powerful experience here at Fisher.  When else in my adult life will I have another opportunity to jump a different direction in my career trajectory, and remove myself from my comfort zone for 20 months in order to learn, grow, and develop as a person and a professional.

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My CORE team of 5 along with some other 1st year MBAs

From my experience so far at Fisher and Ohio State, I’m so grateful for how our resources are pointed towards my personal (and our communal) growth, development, learning, and future career placement.  This university is vast and it’s set up to help many thrive.  From working with career management to tell my story and clarify my career direction, to networking among other MBAs and learning how they are wrestling with their identities, to reading case studies and engaging in class content that relates to my previous work experience and challenges my paradigms, it is nothing short of awesome to be a part of this program!  I’m one of many students here who is utilizing the MBA experience to shift career directions, know myself better, and have a great time doing it.

In the end, I’m thankful to be a 33-year-old balding dad with unique experience to bring to the table here.  Besides, balding gives you wisdom, right?

Fisher Grad Buckeyes

Since I’ve been in Columbus for almost five weeks I feel like I’m settling into Fisher and what it means to be a graduate student as well as an Ohio State Buckeye. First, grad school is NOT undergrad. They told us this during orientation but I don’t think it really hit home until the first two weeks of classes came and gone, very quickly. We are held accountable to reading because students need to be a value-added body in the classroom that’s prepared to contribute. Grad school means not sitting in a classroom for an hour and fifteen minutes listening to a lecture twice a week, then taking tests to earn your grade. However, both components I love and each lecture you hear another perspective that you may not have originally thought of. You get to know your classmates, professors, and most importantly, yourself, better. Professors and faculty alike also told us at orientation that in grad school we need to possess a certain level of “intellectual curiosity” because of the opportunities ahead and I feel like I am so fortunate to be welcomed into Fisher’s pool of resources. I finished undergrad in May at the University of Georgia and I can honestly say this a whole different ball of wax because of the standard and caliber. Second, being a student at THE Ohio State University means when someone says, “O-H,” you say, “I-O” (still working on my reflexes with this one). I love when I fly home to Atlanta I’m almost always able to find one Fisher alumnus on the plane ride back to Columbus, and we have an instant and special comradery about campus and football season. Being a Buckeye means Saturdays are now committed to cheering on the Bucks on and off the field. I LOVE football season, so this was a major component when I considered where I wanted to further my education. Could it get any better than winning a National Championship the season before? Not in my eyes. Needless to say, I love Fisher grad life and the Buckeyes!

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New Beginnings

Life is full of transitions.

As a married military veteran with a family, I view transitions as endeavors to personally and professionally grow while taking advantage of new opportunities.  Leaving the private sector for full-time graduate school is a long-term investment.  The Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University has so much to offer.  I’m proud to be a Buckeye.

FullSizeRender[1]Dedication to lifelong learning seems to be a theme in our household.  I began a graduate degree program, my wife completed hers (while working), and my daughter started Kindergarten – all in the same week!  As a father and a husband, I am so proud of them both.

As the fall semester begins to pick up momentum, we must remember who we are in order to prioritize what is most important in our lives.  I, like most of my classmates, am attracted to pretty much everything that the Fisher College of Business has to offer.  There are so many clubs, organizations, employer info sessions, events, and activities competing over our most precious resource – time.  If we view time as a resource, how do we allocate it?

FullSizeRenderOne place to start is to identify who we are in relation to others (I am a father, husband, son, brother, student, uncle, employee, job-seeker, club member, mentor, mentee, veteran, coach, blogger, etc.).  The list is long for many of us.  Prioritizing this list can also be difficult with so many competing factors taking place simultaneously.  We realize that we cannot be everything to everyone all the time, but we can deliberately plan those aspects that are most important into our lives if we choose to do so.  This process becomes critically important during major transitions when we are faced with new situations, changing conditions, and increasing obligations. It can be difficult deciding what not to do, at least temporarily, during transitions.  Ultimately, our decisions are about trade-offs intended to maximize value.

What we choose to do with our time is ultimately what we value most.  Many of us have roles and responsibilities within our personal, professional, and even spiritual lives.  Intellectual curiosity, respect for diversity of thought, and continual growth and development are important to me in a professional context.  This is why I chose to invest my time at The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.FullSizeRender[2]

 

 

 

 

 

Jitters

Classes are soon starting and I feel like I did when I was a kid going to the first day of school.  There is a definite uncertainty of the future twisted with the excitement of the beginning of a new adventure.  Being an untraditional graduate student, I had anticipated a certain type of distancing that would occur because of my unique background.  My theory was completely demolished by the welcome provided at orientation.  Professors and advisors all made me feel welcome and that I both belonged and deserved to be there.  Even though orientation was only a day and a half, by the end of it, I already felt like I have known some of my classmates for a long time!

Pre-MAcc and Orientation

As someone with almost no background in accounting (or economics…or business…), I was a little apprehensive about jumping into a Masters of Accounting program. I graduated from law school back in 2012, so I had experience with graduate level work, but I hadn’t taken a math class since high school. No worries, I was told, Fisher has a program for those who are new to accounting – the Pre-MAcc, which packs Intermediate Accounting I & II into a 2.5 week accounting bootcamp.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the Pre-MAcc is intense. Packing that much accounting into that short of a timeframe is definitely a grind, but it’s also a great opportunity to get to know some of the other students before the full contingent arrives. Seeing familiar faces on the first day of MAcc Orientation was definitely a plus, and professors Stephanie Lewis and Marc Smith are both excellent teachers who somehow managed to keep six-days-a-week, nine-to-five accounting classes engaging and interesting throughout the program.

As soon as the Pre-MAcc ended, we jumped into orientation with the other MAcc students. Along with the typical introductions from faculty and mixers to meet the other students, we all participated in a group trip to Summit Vision for team-building exercises and zip-lining – a laid back way to get to know some of our fellow MAcc students, and a welcome break from the Pre-MAcc workload before classes got started!

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