I came into my first day in the Tippie MBA program a little on edge. Iowa’s Tippie program is highly ranked (#21 as of the 2012 Forbes rankings), and with a class size of under 60, my “real world” experience (a combination of my time as a novelist and entrepreneur, mixed in with having watched too many horror movies) had led me to expect a few things:
- Intelligent, but dangerously hyper-competitive fellow students would not be friendly. My books would be set on fire. Somebody might try to shiv me with their calculator. During a key moment before a job interview, one of my enemies would kidnap my son, wife, and/or dog.
- The malevolent professors, bored by a life in academia, would delight in mocking us during classes. They would set up cage fights, which they would call “case presentations,” and rob us of our self-esteem through “constructive criticism.” And, of course, they would assign mountains of homework, then laugh maniacally when students fell to the ground whimpering, minds dangerously overloaded with material that had no real use in the business world.
So far, nothing terrible has happened. I have to admit that I’m really excited about what’s to come and am enjoying my classes. Just like every other incoming MBA student, my first 8 weeks are filled with course work on Business Analytics, Marketing Management, and Corporate Financial Reporting. Shockingly, the classes aren’t torture. I like the homework, the reading, the discussions in class, and how all of this is affecting how I think about business when I’m outside the class, when I’m reading the newspaper, or when I hear a snippet about a company on the radio.
I am business-geeking out and proud of it.
I haven’t been shived yet by any of my classmates, but I have taken a few sharp elbows. That’s all happening outside the classroom, though, in a weekly pick-up basketball game that’s developed as a good old-fashioned sweaty male-bonding ritual. So far I think I’ve been the one to take the most damage during the games, but that’s due to my own clumsiness and not any maliciousness on the part of my fellow students.
And those malevolent professors? Well, disappointingly, they’ve been exceedingly helpful so far. I came into the program unsure what academy I wanted to focus on, and the heads of each department sat down with me and spoke at length, helping me to understand my options. They explained that it was okay that I hadn’t come in with my mind made up, that, in fact, it was better to take the core classes in the first semester and make an informed decision on what academy I wanted to focus on: Finance, Marketing, or Strategic Innovation. I quickly realized that what I thought I knew about each of the academies was only a pale shadow of what those educational tracts could actually provide. They’ve helped me narrow my choices without pressuring me in any way, and I’m grateful for that assistance and for the assistance I’m sure they’ll provide as I face other challenges in the program.
If I were in a horror movie, this is the part where I would need to be at my most vigilant, because when things feel too good to be true, it’s usually because a nefarious villain is about to come flying from the shadows. Thing is, I don’t feel too worried right now. I’ve got professors watching my back, and my fellow students walking the same path as me. As scary as this journey can be, one thing is certain: I’m not facing the uncertainties of the future alone, or without help.