Sunday, August 31, 2008

And so it begins...

After all of the orientation days, the Accounting boot camp, and the team workshops, this has been the first full week of "real" classes. After getting a taste of MBA life, I now know why many first year MBA students liken the first semester to drinking water from a fire hose. It's been pretty crazy. For example, my team was given data on Monday and we were expected to perform an analysis and present our findings on Wednesday. I finished my last 2 years of undergrad in a year and a half, taking 6 classes per semester while working full time and still managed to maintain an A average. Before the MBA program began I thought, "Well, even though I will be completing Master's level coursework, I won't be working. It should be cake compared to working 40 hours per week and going to school full time." Although I am no stranger to hard work and am not one to complain about having to put forth an extra effort, I have to admit that this semester is going to be taxing. The core semester at Carlson is broken up into 2 halves and 19 credits are crammed into 18 weeks. For the first half of the semester we take 4 classes and in the second half we take 3 more classes. 4 classes might not sound like much, but try doing it in half the time, topping it off with group projects sprinkled here and there along with required leadership seminars. I've got my work cut out for me, that's for sure.

A quick recap of what's gone on so far:

My group
Carlson breaks up the class into groups of 5 or 6 and these teams stay together for the duration of the core semester. I would venture to say that my team is pretty sweet. We've got 2 internationals AND 2 women in our group, 2 groups that are pretty scarce in this year's class. In all we've got a Finance guy, a think-tank guy, a techie guy, a marketing girl, a JD/MBA girl, and an "other" (me). Not only is my group made up of people that I can get along with, but more importantly it is devoid of slackers. All of us are shooting for A's, which is pretty important to me. I think we are going to work well together this semester.

Data Analysis for Managers
This class is taught by Norman Chervany, and so far the class has been interesting. He utilizes something he calls "In Progress Learning Assignment". It's kind of like a pop quiz, but much better. He gives us a 3 problem quiz and around 20 minutes to solve the problems on our own. After completing the quiz on our own, we then get into our groups and try to come to a consensus on which are the correct answers. After the group decides on the answers, we then scratch off our choices on something that resembles lottery ticket you can buy in a gas station. If we are correct, you can see a star. The group gets 4 points for a correct answer on the first try, and 2 points if it is correct on the second guess. The grade for the assignment is 75% individual and 25% group. The benefits of this method are two-fold: First, we get to hash it out as a group when deciding on the correct answer. This enhances our ability to work in a group. Secondly, we get instant feedback, so the learning process is a lot smoother. On top of that we get to use Minitab statistical software to perform statistical analysis. All I have to say is.....where the heck was this when I was in undergrad??? Rather than having to work out all those cumbersome equations by hand, now I can just enter the observations into Minitab and it spits out a nice statistical summary. Nice...

Financial Accounting

Well, what can I say about this class? The teacher, Frank Gigler, seems like an intelligent guy that is capable of cracking an occasional joke, but accounting is accounting. No matter how you present it, accounting is about as exciting as brushing your teeth. I've got to give the professor an A for effort, though.

I must say, I have freaking nightmares about this class. A large portion of our grade is based on class participation and how well we prepare for the cases we discuss. This means that we must wave our hands fiercely in the air and hope to god that he calls on us when we are confident about a certain topic and cower in fear while praying that he doesn't call on us if he brings up a topic we aren't so sure about. I swear, after that class I feel like I just completed 2 hours of aerobic exercise because the class is 2 hours of non-stop pressure to produce a few substantive comments or insights. The fact that I feel like this is not the professor's fault at all, it is just my nature. In reality, the professor, Aks Zaheer, is very positive and supportive in class. If a student gives an answer that is totally off base he says, "Yes, and...," rather than ripping into said student. Dr. Zaheer is a very well traveled man, having taught in China, Poland, and something like 3 or 4 other countries that I can't remember. He has a deep baritone voice with a high class European-type accent. I think if the whole "professor thing" doesn't work out for him, he can definitely make a lucrative career out of doing voice overs for PBS history specials. All joking aside, he is a great teacher and a world renowned researcher. I'm going to learn a lot from him.

Take the vibe from Strategy class and reverse it and you will get the Marketing class. The professor, Wayne Mueller, is extremely laid back. His class feels like a 2 hour chat with a friend.
One interesting tidbit is that the professor is a 9-11 survivor. He was actually across the street from the towers when the planes hit. Crazy.

The first week of classes have been interesting. I'm curious to see how the semester progresses...


Anonymous said...

your posts are very informative. I think this is the first time someone from carlson is blogging about their MBA experiences. Needless to say that your posts are oozing with your enthusiasm about the program.

Keep posting and provide insights about the program to your loyal readers.

BTW,I might about apply to Carlson this year.

-A loyal reader

Unconventional Applicant said...

Thanks for the kind words! If you need any help with the application process, feel free to email me. I'll try to help if I can.