MBA Journal

August 30, 2006

MBA Class, Day 1

Filed under: MBA,School — Poor Boy @ 11:54 am

I had my first in-class experience as an MBA student last night; I attended my “Effective Communication For Managers” class.

Things started rough for me; class started at 6:00 PM and I had to sneak out of work at 5:45 to arrive at class five minutes late.  When I arrived at the school I found that I forgot to check on the room number, so I had no idea where I needed to be.  But, I did find the class, was only a few minutes late, and things went well from there.

The professor, Turner White, is a Former CEO of Union Station in Kansas City, is a current board member for a major public firm, and was a high ranking executive with Wal-Mart as well.  He is a graduate of Rockhurst University (MBA) and is a true believer in the schools methods/mission.  He was engaging and demanding and I can tell I’ll get a lot out of his class.

The students were varied and interesting.  Some students, like myself, were earning our MBAs with emphasis in administration or accounting, and we behaved in similar manners to one-and-other (more laid back, quieter than some other students), those students who were pursuing their MBA finance tended to be more aggressive and competitive.  Everyone, though, was descent and seemed truly hopeful at the endeavor that we were all undertaking (we are all first semester MBAs, as this class is required for all new MBA students).

The Syllabus for the communications class is  32 pages long, with three pages of appendices.  The class will require much more work than I had imagined; I really expected the class to be a bit of a blow-off, given my previous experience with communication/public speaking classes.  I was very excited to see that the class will be challenging and that the professor has such an impressive resume; I feel that my choice of Rockhurst University has been affirmed as the best choice I could make for my individual circumstance.

Tonight: My first day in accounting class, since I missed the first day of class last week.

August 25, 2006


Filed under: Life,Non-MBA — Poor Boy @ 5:06 pm

Sorry for ignoring you all for the better part of this week. I’ve not only been very busy, but most of what I’ve been busy with has little to do with MBA classes, enrollment, or anything else vaguely associated with such things.

I did, however, find and purchase a notebook computer. I got a refurbished Compaq Presario that is really the best thing I’ve seen yet (in my price range). This dude has a 2.2 gig processor, 15.4″ monitor, 333 MHz bus, 100gig hard drive (!), 4 USB ports, Firewire, S-Video, and all for $400.00. The computer is a 2005 model, but it’s much better than other brand-new notebooks that I’ve found for twice, or even three times, the money I spent on this bad-boy. I won’t get the thing until next week, but I’m already really happy with it. The only drawbacks, at least in the numbers, are the rather low RAM (512 MB) and the weight of nearly 8 lbs. I’m sure I’ll be extremely happy.

Alright, I was also thinking about economics. I love economics, and would be an economist if there were any way to get paid really fat as an economist without working in academia. The Wall Street Journal says that “the market” is worried that the Fed has been a little over-eager in raising interest rates over the last couple of years (17 times), and is starting to think that we may now be headed for a recession. Quick question: didn’t we learn that lesson in the late 90s when the Fed raised rates 16 times in a row, which culminated in the death of the go-go 90s? Shouldn’t, at some point, the Fed take the risk that inflation will occur but that the market will take care of it itself, rather than throwing rate increases at the problem without ever waiting to see how they are working? Again, I’m not an economist, just a fan of economics…so if someone has a reason why it’s necessary to raise rates until a recession occurs, please let me know.

August 21, 2006

The Joys of Working & Going To School

Filed under: Career,Life — Poor Boy @ 10:24 am

So, school starts on Wednesday of this week, and I’ve been very, very excited to get started.  However, my boss walked in to my office this morning and told me that I was leaving town with one of the VPs on Wednesday, so I’ll be missing the first day of school.  What a bummer.

X-Treme(!) Textbooks!

Filed under: Basics — Poor Boy @ 9:34 am

Textbooks are like the ultimate multi-media experience.  More visually stimulating than a Pink Floyd laser-light show, more technologically savvy than most people born prior to 1970, the books today do more than simply convey information in a useful way; they indulge our national attention deficit disorder.

The accounting book that I picked up for this semester is officially the most expensive book I’ve ever purchased, totaling something like $184.00.  This bad-boy is more than just a book, though.  It should really be described as a “Professor in a Box”.  It came with a card (looks just like a credit card) that gives me access to McGraw-Hill’s Homework Manager (Plus) website; the site has everything!  The chapters are already condensed and annotated for my reading convenience, there are slide shows with audio guides, self-test quizzes, digital flash cards, and much, much more!

What the hell?  There’s no way in the world that I could possibly make use of a quarter of the information that McGraw-Hill has put at my disposal and  still hope to keep up with the class work that I need to do.  Besides, what’s left for my professor?  I’m sure that I’m getting something for the tens-of-thousands of dollars that I’m putting out for tuition, so why does the textbook publisher think that they need to take responsibility for both providing documentation on a subject, and teaching it to me?

It’s all of these full color pages of graphs and homework manager plus websites (with free, live, homework help!  Seriously!) that create the requirement for me to pay $500 or more per semester buying books.  That’s terrible, I don’t need all this stuff.  They are going to have to start selling books like car dealers sell their product (since they cost nearly the same amount); we need trim packages for textbooks.  The economy level will get you a black and white textbook with the required information for like $20.00.  You could have a mid-market model with some color photos and maybe some slide shows for $40.00.  Then, perhaps, the Hummer of textbooks with all this crap that I currently have for $180.00.  Just as people buy Hummer H2s even though gas is $3.50 a gallon, some people will also buy the Hummer of textbooks even though they’re under-paid college students; but as we aren’t all forced to buy $40,000 cars if we want a ride, why should be have to buy $200.00 books if we just want to read?

August 18, 2006

Last Week of Summer Vacation

Filed under: MBA,School — Poor Boy @ 7:43 am

At my school, Rockhurst University, the semester starts on August 23rd.  My first class, Principles of Accounting, will be on the 23rd at 6:00pm.  I’ve been preparing for class for the last week, going through the first three chapters of my accounting and communications books and doing exercises in anticipation of likely assignments.  I feel ready!

MBAjournal will also change a bit once school starts.  As some may have noticed, I’ve been forced to sort of ramble about various topics for lack of anything new on the MBA front.  Now, I’ll be recapping my classes, how I’ve structured my time for studying, working, playing with the kids and being with the wife; things that will help other MBA students who find themselves similarly positioned to me.

One of the things that I’m most interested in finding out is whether there’s a discernible difference between MBA classes and those classes I took in my undergraduate program.  I have a certain vision of MBA classes (gleaned from television?) that leads me to believe that we’ll be doing lots of group work, lots of projects, and fewer lectures than I’m used to.

My school is among those which, to my understanding, are moving away from the case-study dependence that b-schools have found themselves in.  I would love to say that I know exactly what that means for me, but I don’t.  My lack of knowledge in exactly what we’ll be doing day-to-day is a bit of an embarrassment and a source of anxiety for me.  I’m embarrassed because I feel that many of my fellow MBA bloggers are perfectly aware of what they’ll be doing in class; they seem more prepared than I, from that stand point.  The business school offered information sessions, which I’m sure would have made all of this very clear had I gone.

August 16, 2006

Making Contacts Without Being a Schemer

Filed under: Life,School — Poor Boy @ 9:51 am

One of the things that I am most looking forward to in regards to the MBA program is the chance to meet some like-minded people and (without sounding too cheesy) to make some new friends.  

I think it’s well accepted that most of us hope to make some important contacts at our respective schools.  As MBA students, most of us hope to make important contacts everywhere, but I am concerned about my ability to make friends, and contacts at the same time.  I don’t know about every one else, but I act differently toward someone I see as a current or future business contact than I act toward a potential friend.  I’d go clubbing with friends, get drunk with friends, act like a fool with friends.  I view business contacts as professional relationships, people around whom I can’t quite “be myself”.  

So I am nervous about the idea of appearing like a scheming manipulative type in school who is only interested in using people for my own advancement.  At the same time, I’d hate to accept an invitation to the local strip club with a guy who may one day be my manager (or worse, who could work for me one day). 

I’m sure some of you out there are good at making friends who can also be contacts.  Do you worry about letting in all hang out in front of classmates?  Perhaps other people just don’t hang out quite as much as me?  Am I over-thinking the issue?

August 15, 2006

Foriegn Grad Students Having a Hard Time With Citations

Filed under: School — Poor Boy @ 4:20 pm

The Wall Street Journal has a story today about (mostly) foreign students at Ohio University who are having a difficult time grasping the use of citations in their theses.

Vipul Ranatunga was apparently the first “caught”, after it was found that he did not use “quotation marks or footnotes to indicate that, with only slight variations, he had taken about seven pages directly from [another student’s] thesis…”.  Mr. Ranatunga is now a professor of Engineering at Miami University of Ohio.

The finding lead further investigation, and 39 students are currently being questioned for similar failures to properly site material in their theses.  Of the 39 who are being question, 36 are foreign students.

According to the article, the problem of lacking academic integrity is a serious one in both India and in China, where many of the foreign students who study in the U. S. are from.  Though, the article doesn’t go in to it, this issue may have something to do with a general cultural philosophy, especially in China, which doesn’t respect intellectual property rights outside of academia.   The Chinese have had no qualms about setting up entire cottage industries copying the products of other nations (China makes almost perfect copies of some General Motors cars, not to mention long lists of electronics).  It will be (and apparently has been) very difficult for American Universities to teach students, raised in such a culture of intellectual thievery, to respect the rules of our system.

August 14, 2006

Bought My Books Today

Filed under: Classes — Poor Boy @ 2:18 pm

As what feels like my first act as an actual MBA student (as opposed to an MBA applicant), I bought my books today for classes that start mid-way through next week.  Three books, $300.00, and I’m ready to rock!

I’ve already started reading my accounting book; it’s pretty dry and mostly review for the first couple of chapters, but that’s alright.  I haven’t cracked the other two, yet, which are a Written Communications book and another on Corporate Social Responsibility.

I understand that not every semester can be super-duper and full of things I’m eager to learn, but this semester actually seems extra bad!  I don’t want to re-learn basic accounting principles!  I already know how to communicate in written form!  Alright, given Enron and Worldcom and all that, I suppose that Corporate Social Responsibility is just a reality of modern business school.  Doesn’t mean I’ve got to like it.

Don’t let me fool you; I’m very excited and happy to have stuff to work on.  I tried to get my professors to send me the syllabus for each class prior to the start of the semester, but they won’t.  So, I’m sort of making up my own assignments based on what I assume they’ll have us doing.  I’ve got every intention of graduating at the top of my class, and I’m starting now.

August 10, 2006

Thanks England!

Filed under: Non-MBA,Uncategorized — Poor Boy @ 12:54 pm

It’s a little late in the day, but: Thanks England.  The English saved hundred if not thousands of lives today.  We should all feel indebted to them for their tenacious investigation of terror plots, some of us surely owe our lives or the lives of a friend/loved one to their great work.

On Wishing Not To Be A Target Market

Filed under: Life — Poor Boy @ 6:13 am

I’ve never been much of a ‘target market’.  Being a poor husband and father of two through my early 20s, I didn’t fall in to much of a sought after demographic during that time.  I’ve never had a lot of disposable income, I’m not a ‘gamer’, I tend to think more about my 401k than my choice of cars.  So, it’s with some surprise that I find myself being marketed to so heavily as an MBA student.

I didn’t notice at first the level to which marketers had their hat out to me.  I suppose it started when I did a Google search for the GMAT and found the first two results were paid advertisements for GMAT Test Preparation.  Business Week online will let me be an “MBA Insider”, for  price.  I can get books galore, on how to dress, to talk, how to find a job.  As an MBA hopeful, there are literally hundreds of universities lining up to take my money for online classes, correspondence classes, and other sites for homework help.  People want me to pay them to write entrance essays, and there are those who would be referrers, for a price.

How exciting!  I’m finally a desirable demographic.  I’m positive that in our culture, that makes me a full fledged member of society for the first time.  Lucky for me, I’ve got years of being ignored by the marketers behind me, so I’m used to generally ignoring them as well.  If advertisements aren’t really meant for you, then you learn to avoid wasting your time by reading advertisements.  When I see GMAT preparation classes, costing hundreds or thousands of dollars, I’m sure that they’ve targeted the wrong guy with their wares, and I move along.

But, I think I had the moment of doubt that the marketers wait for.  It must have been when I saw the interview with a recruiter from a company that I wanted to work for and realized I’d have to pay $20 to read it that my thinking shifted from one of avoidance of the marketing, to wondering if this is a necessary evil.  Perhaps I should pay for these interviews, market news, job tips and interview help, lest my MBA student peers become unstoppable machines eating information and evacuating opportunity while I twittle my thumbs at home.

In the end I decided that there was no great need for me to know what the recruiter has to say, and that magazine will be in the library next month anyway.  I did waken, though, to the level to which I’m being marketed to, and am a bit afraid of my ability to separate my jaded perception of marketing which will keep me from paying from most everything, and my ability to recognize good information or a good service when it’s presented, even if it is in an advertisement.

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