The Benefits of Groups

One of the biggest concerns I had about the MAcc program was the emphasis on group work. Like most people, I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of poor academic groups. I’m in five classes this seven-week period, and each class has a group. Even though it’s early in the year, my groups are already meeting often. It’s not avoidable; you’ll work in groups.

The difference from undergrad is that I enjoy these groups. Yes, really!

gerlach hall
The graduate student lounge on the second floor of Gerlach Hall is a place where you can meet with your group.

In graduate school, throw away your preconceived notions about teams. Working with others is a great experience.

Here are a few things that make group work great in the MAcc:

  • Motivated students: There are no slackers here. Everyone made the choice to attend graduate school (no one is here “just to be here”) and is intelligent. People want to excel. In my groups, everyone pulls his or her weight, and we produce better results because of that.
  • Real world prep: Unlike many of my classmates, I had a year of work experience before entering the MAcc. I can attest: the professional world involves group work everyday. Working with teams in graduate school is a great way to prepare for the rest of your career.
  • Different perspectives: My groups are a mixture of students from different universities, countries and undergraduate degrees. This means for every case or project we discuss, a variety of viewpoints are presented. How I look at a case won’t be the same as how someone with an economics degree analyzes it. A variety of backgrounds also allows us to maximize each member’s strengths. As a journalism undergrad, I take the lead when it comes to producing written work, while some of my teammates who are stronger with raw calculations help me with the numbers. Working with students from different backgrounds also exposes me to different personalities and cultures; it’s important to learn how to get along and respect as many people as possible to prepare for career success, where more than a grade depends on successful team projects.
  • Get to know classmates: If you can believe it, not every second spent in a team room is spent working on the case at hand. There’s idle chatter and off-topic conversation–and I get to know my classmates as people. I look forward to working with my groups because they aren’t a forced administrative burden; they’re groups filled with people I know and respect.

I’ve enjoyed my experiences working in groups thus far in the MAcc and look forward to more successful meetings, case studies and projects over the next eight months.

Taking the Lead

Group projects are essential to nearly every class you will take in your first year as an MLHR graduate student.  They teach you how to operate in teams, and work with different individuals that you normally would not work with.  Though many times a hassle in coordinating everyone’s busy schedules (especially since every quarter I have been in a group with at least one working professional who has more outside responsibilities than the average full time graduate student) they are good for you as a student and future professional.  It is nice to interact with different students who have different ideas and experiences, but also great to interact with people you may not normally talk to, hangout with, or sit next to in class.

I will be the first one to tell you that though I have worked in a variety of teams as an undergraduate (through being involved in student organizations) I was not a fan of them in the classroom.  I was always the one who was “so busy”, and my major classes really did not consist of project work.  Journalism is a solo field, and it is rare for journalists to team up on a project (maybe two journalists and that’s it).  Technically, journalists do work on “teams” when you consider that your story has to go through a number of editors, but it is still very individualistic.  You give your editor your story, s/he looks over it, s/he sends it to the next editor, and so on.  The news runs on too tight of a deadline to really foster teamwork with journalists.  Anytime I was in a team in an organization, I had a designated role (Director of this or something this Chair) so I knew where my influence was on the team.

Fisher has been a different experience for me, due to the teamwork and the equal playing field that everyone in a group has.  No one is assigned as a “Team Lead” and no one’s opinions outweighs anyone else’s in the group.

For the most part, I am a pretty laid back person.  A lot of things that would stress out or bother the average individual don’t faze me.  Anyway, that is how I approached group assignments my first two quarters.  I provided support, gave feedback, gave my opinion when I thought it was necessary, and always asked how I could contribution more to what was going on.  However, I was not the first to email everyone about when we should meet, book a space in Gerlach Hall, or divvy up tasks to individual members of our team.  I normally helped to facilitate discussion though, because nothing irks me more than wasting the first 20 minutes of a meeting with useless banter.  Yet still, this wouldn’t have happened unless another person in one of my groups had not chosen to initially take the lead.

Now into my third quarter, I am starting to see the reverse.  I have THREE group projects this quarter.  As much I detested statistics I almost would rather do a chi square than have to coordinate the schedule with a whole new group of people…almost.  Anyway, I have found myself taking the lead more this quarter in my groups.  In one of my groups, I am the only full-time first-year student, and in another, I am the only first-year student.  Though I do not know the second-years very well, I do have a LinkedIn account.  From what I have been able to derive from social networking, many of them have been going to school for 6 straight years, a, have been going on a part-time basis for 3 or 5 years, and had work experience and then went back to school and are getting at that age where they are just tired of school.  To top all of that, they just got done with their master’s case (which is a requirement of graduation and basically proves that you learned something in the program).  On top of all of that, most of these individuals are still trying to find jobs after graduation.  Needless to say, group projects are not on the very top of their list.   I have now found myself as the person getting the ball rolling, getting people to together, and taking those first steps, where I normally would have allowed someone else to do that.

It is not to say that I lack the initiative to do this.  One of the things I have learned in my life that being a good follower is just as important as being a good leader.  You cannot always be the one who takes charge (or may not be meant to), and it’s good to share both the roles.  I am glad that I am able to step out of my “go with the flow” attitude, and switch up the way I approach my work in teams.


Power in Numbers

Whenever I tell friends outside of MLHR that the program has an emphasis on group work, the usual response is something to the effective of, “Ugggg I HATE group work.” or “I don’t know how you handle group work all the time. Isn’t that so hard to find time with your schedules?” Now, I must admit, I came into the program with a similar attitude when they told us we would be working in groups for most of our time here. However, I think I might have come to rather enjoy group work. Here are a few reasons why group work isn’t as bad as people think:

1. It’s a great opportunity to get to know people in the program. Last quarter, was the beginning of a new program with new people. Our group projects facilitated a way for us to get to know each other. As with every group project there are times when we get off topic, and it is really nice to actually have the opportunity to get to know the AMAZINGLY TALENTED people in our program.

2. Divide and conquer. I know sometimes solo projects can move a little quicker because you are not dealing with a group, but you still have to do all that work by yourself. I love being able to divide up the work for the project knowing that each person in our group will do an excellent job.

3. Meeting in different places and getting away from campus. Like many people, being in Fisher at night during the week and on many Sundays is not my idea of a good time after awhile. Don’t get me wrong, Gerlach is a beautiful, dare I say, high-tech building, but it gets old. Especially in the winter when all anyone wants to do is go outside in warm weather. This is why winter has been a great time to get out and meet at other places. Today, my group met at a Panera in Upper Arlington. New scenery and not as crowded as the one by campus. You can explore different parts of Columbus and get work done at the same time. How about that?

4. This may go along with divide and conquer, but less presenting time. It’s great having people stand up there with you when you are presenting your work. Unlike many other programs, you have to do the work by yourself and then stand up and present it on your own. Then, you have to talk for at least 20 minutes. Can you say SCARY? It give me so much more confidence when you have people with you as you present and you don’t have to speak for very long when there are 3-4 members that all need to do some of the talking. Literally, power in numbers.

Of course, there are some downsides to group work. It can be challenging finding time to meet with people, especially as more people get jobs during the school year (myself included), but it’s worth it. Now that many of us know each other’s schedules it is not that bad. One thing to do though, is be up front with your schedule at your first group meeting. This sets the tone if you will, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to meetings.

MLHR has made a believer out of me when it comes to group work. Go Team!

The most random post ever

I would just like to throw this out there that Staples is amazing. If I ever become a millionaire, I would love to waste my money at that store. I received an email today telling me I’ve received a $5 off coupon for staples if I buy $15 of the OXO brand. Now, for anyone who knows me, they would tell you that my kitchen is littered with OXO kitchen utensils. Yes, I have 3 different kinds of flat, none-slotted spatulas. But now, there are office supplies in my favorite kitchen utensil brand?!?! What?!?! I may or may not be stopping by Staples before I go to an interview today.

Anyway, back to relevant updates about my life. My third major group project is done. We’ll be presenting tomorrow, giving a marketing pitch about a new HR program. Sounds very interesting, doesn’t it? Interviews are continuing today for my MHR851 group project. We’re about half done with our preliminary work, then on to writing our 25 page paper and putting together our 30 minute presentation. Not too shabby. I love it when groups actually complete the work that everyone says they’re going to do.

For now, it’s time to get back to work. Happy Wednesday!