Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I've got no class

I stroll off campus after my last class of the first year of my MBA. As I walked off campus after my last class today, I couldn't help but wonder: Why am I wearing jeans and a heavy short-sleeve shirt over a white tee? Am I vying for New Haven's Sweatiest Student?

Anyway, I'm not totally out of woods -- two more projects must be completed, plus a take-home exam. But it still feels nice to know I won't be setting my alarm much over the next few weeks ... I can stay up to the wee hours with a clear conscience.

Tonight it is my turn to host a "Lost" viewing party, which is a nice way to cap off the last day of class, since lost is often how I felt in class. Today I was cold-called twice in the same class! I expressed my opinion that this was entirely unjust. But I answered anyway. Come to think of it, though, my answer was that I didn't know. Can't win 'em all.

Here's a look back at my fourth-quarter classes, and a bit of what I felt about them:

1. Innovator. This was a pretty interesting class, really. When I visited SOM last year, I sat in on this one. Some of the main ideas were that innovation is a process that needs to be supported by management, organizational structure and finances ... it's not just some mysterious burst of creative genius. And then we looked at how to practically execute innovation, like through experimenting. We had a lot of case reading in the class and some pop quizzes, which no other class had, but the assignments were especially fun; in the same group of four we went through the process of moving forward with a new idea. My group explored ways to improve women's purses. For our final project we can pick from a different list of business plans, and since one member of our group is in fact doing something entrepreneurial this summer, we're going to help her out by making her business the focus of our project. What she's up to is delicious.

2. State & Society. This was an entirely discussion-based class with tons of reading, run rather ruthlessly via the Socratic method, with a great deal of cold-calling and roleplay. So coming prepared was essential. We really only had one assignment, though: A group presentation having to do with aspects of our International Experience trip. We also have a take-home final, which will be released tomorrow and due Sunday. Not sure what to expect there. The subject matter of the class was a whirlwind of law, ethics, governance, politics and the role states play in business practices (and how businesses can work with governments to shape policies favorable to them, or to all).

3. Integrated Leadership Perspective, or ILP. This is the capstone of our integrated curriculum and is designed to bring all the classes together in one place. It met for 2 1/2 hours once a week. Its objective is pretty ambitious, so you can imagine it didn't entirely succeed. We looked at a different, complex case every week. What I wrote in our course evaluation is what I will say here, which is that the class may have been better had we focused on maybe two cases over the quarter instead of seven, going much deeper into them and examining them from all perspectives. But nevertheless it was a pretty good refresher ... it was the kind of class where you really got out of it what you put into it, and I certainly could have put more into it.

4. Managing Marketing Programs. This was my elective. One of our core classes, second quarter, was called Customer, and that was sort of an intro into marketing. Managing Marketing Programs was more or less a refresher and slight extension of Customer, with a bit more focus on cases and, specifically, pricing. I preferred it to Customer, but I would like to have learned more about the actual management of marketing programs; this was more of an analysis of previous marketing decisions, which I realize are important to study if one is to manage a marketing program. But our final project, for example, is to analyze a marketing decision. Shouldn't the final project have been to design a marketing program and discuss how we might manage it?

I should add here that the professors this quarter were, as usual, very good, all the way around. Our dean really emphasizes teaching quality, and it shows -- each professor naturally has his or her own style, but the caliber of professor here really is outstanding, far better than I experienced in undergrad, where I barely remember a single professor. I don't think I'll soon forget the SOM faculty.

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