B-School Insider Interview: First-Year Student, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

This first-year student at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business started the MBA program with a number of years of health care experience, having entered the industry soon after graduating from Vanderbilt University. Her enthusiasm for health care and desire to expand her career within the industry drew her to Fuqua’s Health Sector Management (HSM) program.

mbaMission: Why did you decide to pursue an MBA in the first place?

Fuqua First Year: I worked for a provider in the health industry for a long time. I started working in health care when I was really young, and I just wanted to work in a different health care sector. Right now, I’m recruiting for pharma and medical devices. So, basically I wanted to work in a different sector in the health care industry, and I really wanted to go back to California. Actually, I didn’t really think I would get into any MBA programs when I applied. I called a lot of the [MBA admissions] consulting companies, and they told me that I was really young. I was 24 when I entered Fuqua.

I’m 25 now. A lot of the [MBA admissions] consulting companies said I should work for a year or two more first, but I went ahead and applied anyway. And I got into Fuqua, which was the only school I actually applied to, because I wasn’t sure if I would get in. I did early action, and now I’m in the HSM program. It’s a wonderful program. I don’t have any other experience to compare it to, but as someone who has quite a bit of health care experienceand coming from Nashville, which is a big health care areaI just think it’s been wonderful. And I really like all the professors in the program.

mbaMission: That’s great. Did Fuqua have any other appeal to you beyond the HSM program, or was that really your primary focus?

FFY: Honestly, tech is really big at Fuqua, so I also explored that for about two months, but I realized it wasn’t for me. And health care is really big at Fuqua, so it’s like consulting, tech, finance, all that stuff. So, it’s definitely not exclusively HSM.

mbaMission: Right. Fuqua sends its graduates into a lot of different industrieswe see that every year. How do you like living in Durham?

FFY: Well, I don’t love it, because the city’s really small. But I know other people enjoy it. I live in a really nice apartment. Most of the Fuqua students live in either Station 9 or where I live, which is Berkshire Ninth. So the two apartment buildings are right next to each other. There’s a Harris Teeter [grocery store] between the two. It’s like a little community in this corner of Durham, and we see each other all the time.

mbaMission: Are you close enough to campus to walk there, or do you have to drive?

FFY: I drive. I guess, I think if I lived maybe five blocks closer, I might not. Most people drive, but there are people who take a bike. I don’t know anyone who walks. You definitely want a car if you go to Fuqua. It’s just easier. If you live in this Fuqua community, you could share rides and stuff, but if you have access to a car, it’s more beneficial.

mbaMission: Sure. What’s the most surprising thing you’ve encountered while you’ve been at Fuqua?

FFY: I didn’t know how busy it was going to be. People said, “You know, it’s crazy,” but until you experience it, you don’t really believe it. You have to be there. But it’s insanely busy. I don’t even notice the city much, because, especially the first semester, like last semester, we would often enter Fuqua at 7:00 a.m. and not leave until about 10:00 or 11:00 p.m. I mean, it’s a good kind of busy, and a part of it is intentional, by design. They do that to keep constantly challenging you. But we’re also busy with recruiting, academics, clubs, extracurricular activities. And you can do a lot of consulting projects here. I am doing consulting work for Duke Hospital.

There’s a program called FCCP, basically the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum. I didn’t do it myself, but if you join that, then you can consult for a local company or basically any company that wants Fuqua students to consult for them. I have a friend who was a consultant for Medtronic, so it doesn’t have to be a Durham company. They put you in a team, and you can do consulting for organizations like Duke Energy or Duke Recycle. So I didn’t do FCCP, but I was still able to consult through the Duke Hospital Learning Experience Program. You can consult directly for the hospital, and they only select seven students a semester. There’s just basically a lot of activities you’re involved in. It’s really crazy.

mbaMission: One part of the Fuqua curriculum that isn’t always readily clear to candidates is the Global Institute (GI). Can you tell me a little more about that?

FFY: Basically, you come to Fuqua, you move in, and it says that the official first day of class is July 29, but really, the GI is a whole semester; it’s basically the whole month of August. So, you take courses like “Leadership, Ethics, Organizations” and “Global Institutions and Environment.” These are mandatory classes.

This is basically the first month that you’re going to be with your section. And all you do in that month is get acquainted with your CLEAD [Consequential Leadership, another mandatory component of the GI] team, discussing a lot what it means to be a leader, what’s ethical, a lot of kind of abstract concepts. If you’re from finance or something, you probably wouldn’t like it. I know people who were from very quantitative fields and didn’t enjoy it, because it was very “You should be this kind of leader; you should lead with this kind of mind-set; your organization should be like this.” It was those kinds of lessons, so some people didn’t really like it.

But the real takeaway from that month of August is just getting used to your section and getting to know your CLEAD team. Because it’s the easiest semester out of all the semesters we have, there’s also lots of partying. I would say that’s been the only month so far where we could do well in school and still play pretty hard. And there’s no recruiting.

mbaMission: That doesn’t start until September or October, right?

FFY: Yeah, and also because the second years haven’t come back yet. So, there’s no recruiting, and so the month of August, for GI, is when you just get really acquainted. And during that month, you get to do things like volunteer for Durham Habitat [for Humanity]. They take you out to do a lot of team bonding. Like I said, the whole month is all about connecting to your section, connecting to your team, meeting people, without that extreme academic pressure. I mean, we worked in those two classes, but it was not extremely hard.

mbaMission: That makes sense. What’s your impression so far of Fuqua’s core curriculum?

FFY: Well, classes are two and half hours long. We get breaks, so it’s not too bad. I don’t think I’d say it’s either too hard or too easy. It’s all interesting to me, because I came from health care. They make us take classes like strategy and marketing, and I never had any formal education in those kinds of areas. The core curriculum, it’s good, but you’ll sometimes have bad classesand by bad, I just mean maybe a professor didn’t lead the discussion very well. But in terms of difficulty, definitely quant classes are really hard, like decision modeling. Those classes can be very hard. The rest is manageable. I know people for whom it’s a challenge, and I know people who think it’s not that big of a deal.

mbaMission: Have you done any traveling yet as part of your MBA experience, or do you plan on doing any traveling, either for a class or just for fun?

FFY: Yeah, in the fallyou’ve probably heard about thisthe Fuqua professional clubs organize a lot of Week in Cities trips. The reason I knew tech wasn’t for me was because I went to the Week in City in the Bay Area for the Tech Club. We visited companies like Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Cisco, Intel, and all the people who received us were Fuqua alums. That’s how the club reaches out; they connect with Fuqua alumni at those companies, and they receive us, they give us a tour, they tell us what the internship program there is like, and that’s when I realized that tech wasn’t for me. But there’s a Week in City for health care, a Week in City for luxury and retail, like I say, for all the professional clubs.

mbaMission: Do you think you’ll do any other traveling going forward?

FFY: Right now, I’m doing a lot of traveling, but it’s all related to my second-round [internship] interviews. But once I get an offer with my first-choice company, what I’ll do is stay here in the fall to help the first years. But probably in the last part of my second year, I’m going to go study abroad in Japan.

As far as other traveling you can do at Fuqua, lots of people do GATE [Global Academic Travel Experience courses]. Fuqua has lots of GATE programs. There’s one in China, one in South Africa. And this is unique, because it’s not school run, but all the students from Japan this year decided to host a Japan trek. So it’s a self-organized and -managed trip by the Japanese international students, where they’ll take a group of 20 students to Japan during spring break.

mbaMission: Nice. How would you describe or characterize your Fuqua classmates?

FFY: I want to say it’s connected to Team Fuqua, but there’s definitely a type of person that Fuqua admits. Basically when students interview [for a job] at Fuqua, people walk out of the interviews and say things like, “Hey, that interviewer is going to throw you a case” or “She’s going to ask you this question, so be prepared for it.” But at the other schools, the students don’t talk to each other; they’re like competitors.

But at Fuqua, we’re very team oriented. In HSM, we are all recruiting with the same health care companies, but I’ve never felt like it was cutthroat or competitive. We definitely walk out of the interview and say, “Head’s up” about whatever happened. We’re more open to saying how it was; we’re not trying to keep secrets from each other. Basically, the type of student at Fuqua is very community oriented, very involved, very willing to help others. I have never reached out to anyone at Fuqua for help and been rejected, ever.

And the first years, we reach out to second years who interned at our dream company to ask them what their experience was like. We seek lots of help from the second years. And everyone is very, very, very Team Fuqua. Even the alumni, as we go through recruitinga lot of people who do informational interviews are alums. And I’ve never emailed someone and asked for information, and they said no. I even emailed this guy who is a very high-ranking VP [vice-president], and he still spared like 40 minutes to talk to me. It wasn’t just a yes-no kind of interview, either. He was very engaging and gave me lots of advice. So it’s not just the student body; even the alumni are very Team Fuqua oriented.

mbaMission: That’s great. Have you had any particularly standout professors so far, anybody who has particularly impressed you?

FFY: Yeah, I like David Ridley. He teaches some of the health care classes. He’s really passionate about health care, and I’m really passionate about health care, so I never want to miss any part of his class. In fact, I have an interview next week that will make me miss the first half, and I’m kind of frustrated about that. He just knows a lot. He wrote articles that became law, health care law. He’s established, he consults to tons of pharma companies, and he’s just overall a great source of knowledge.

mbaMission: Have you had any interaction with the dean?

FFY: We see him at Fuqua Fridays when he’s not traveling the world. He’s a really nice man. We students are definitely closer to Russell [Morgan]. He’s our associate dean, and he’s around a lot more. I went through a really difficult experience my first semester, and my econ professor told me, “You need to go talk to Russell.” I literally walked up and got an appointment with him the next day, and he helped me through the experience, got me in touch with people who could support me, and helped me with some of the things I really needed help on. He’s wonderful. He’s very approachable. In fact, all the faculty are extremely approachable; they’re all helpful in that aspect. You can definitely walk in anytime and ask for help.

mbaMission: That’s great. I’m sorry you went through that, but I’m glad somebody was there to help you. Are you part of any of the clubs at Fuqua?

FFY: Yeah. You can join as many clubs as you want at Fuqua. There are two types of clubs: professional clubs and hobby clubs. So, professional clubs are like the consulting club, health care club, marketing club, entrepreneurial club, and the hobby clubs are like the outdoor activity club, culinary club, wine clubjust whatever you’re interested in, there’s a club for it here.

mbaMission: How do you have time to fit it all in with your studies?

FFY: Well, that’s why we literally don’t leave Fuqua until about 11:00 p.m. sometimes!

mbaMission: Sure. It still sounds like it could be a lot of fun.

FFY: It is.

mbaMission: Good. When people think about Duke, I think most people think basketball and sports. So, have you caught sports fever since you started the MBA program, or did you come to Fuqua as a sports fan already?

FFY: Well, I didn’t care about sports at first, but once you come here, you have to care. I don’t really watch TV, to be honest, but the whole basketball and football thing at Duke, it’s very, very much a part of your life, and it’s actually quite fun. So, as someone who has been a nerd all her life, I think it would be hard to reject the sports aspect of life here, and it’s actually great. I don’t think there’s anyone here that would tell you, “Oh, basketball is not my thing.” Even if people don’t really like it, they still think it’s fun to be part of it.

mbaMission: I see. What do you think are the best parts of Fuqua’s facilities? Or is there anything you’d like to change or think is missing?

FFY: I think because we spend so much time at Fuqua, everything has just become normal for us, you know? Well, one thing is that they don’t serve dinner at Fuqua. That can be a pain. Last semester, there were company presentations at night, and the companies would always order food. So that’s how we got dinner.

The clubs, too, if you have a club meeting, they’ll order pizza. Lots of people pack food, as well. You can also order your own pizza, or you can walk over to the undergrad side of campus where they serve dinner. I come back here to my apartment to eat. I mean, it would be nice if they served dinner, but there’s always something going on where they give us food, so it’s really not that big of a deal. But you definitely gain a lot of weight the first semester.

mbaMission: Like the Fuqua 15 or something?

FFY: Yeah.

mbaMission: Interesting.  Has the school’s career development office been helpful to you so far in your internship search?

FFY: Yeah, they’re pretty helpful. Whatever you need help with, they’ll help with, whether it’s therapy for your stress, or someone to look at your resume or cover letter, or do a mock interview with you. The extensiveness of the career management center is very wide; they are very helpful. I have no real complaints, though I think there are maybe some management operation issues. Some of us think that the career center might be a little bit outdated in terms of understanding how certain companies operate, but I think a lot of it is a kind of black hole, too. But if you need to refine yourself as a candidate, they have all sorts of things to help, like guest speakers, all types of career sessions.

Depending on your industry, there is probably a person in the career center that specializes in that industry. I talked to the health care career specialist, and she helped me. You can go to her and just say, “I don’t know what company to apply to” or “I really want to work for this company” or “Do you know anyone who works with this company that doesn’t recruit at Fuqua?” They have decades of experience.

mbaMission: Great. So, which social events or extracurricular activities have you really liked so far?

FFY: Honestly, I really like Fuqua Fridays. It’s just a really great event where you can just sit down, eat, and share a beer with your professors. You can even share a beer with the dean if he’s there. It’s really fun. But I also like Fuqua Vision, which is basically a comedy and satire group, and they make fun of life at Fuqua. It’s a really good source of relief for us when we’re stressed. But a lot of things that I think of most are events that were organized by my section. So aside from the official Fuqua stuff, I’ve just really liked all the events that have to do with my section. It’s a lot of bonding, and they help us get to know each other better.

mbaMission: What kind of social things do you do as a section?

FFY: Well, we have a section holiday party. But mostly, we just text each other and say something like “Hey, does anyone feel like going to see such-and-such movie tonight? There’s a showing at 7:20. Message me if you’re interested.” Or people will say, “Hope to see you tonight at Tavern.” That’s a bar. Or, “A couple of us are going out. Come join us if you’re free.” Just little things like that. Not all of us have to get together, but a lot of us will let each other know what we’re doing. Even small things, like we also have like a section for dog lovers on GroupMeet , and they’ll be like, “I’m at X dog park right now. Feel free to join me.” And I have a dog, so I like that. Really just little things, like drinking, eating, or getting together with your dogs. Basically, the more inclusive your section is, the closer you are.

mbaMission: Right. I’ll finish with one of our standard questions: what do you think more people should know about the Fuqua MBA program that they probably don’t know?

FFY: Well, I know that living in Durham maybe sounds like a terrible idea to some people, but I would say that as someone who is still not in love with Durham, I honestly like living here, because Fuqua has such a wonderful community. If you come visit Fuqua, and you feel that you love the students and the professors and the community, don’t let Durham be any kind of deal breaker for you, because you can overcome that. You spend so much time with your Fuqua classmates and at school. I know international people who moved here from Tokyo and huge cities like San Francisco, and they still have a great time here because of how inclusive and wonderful the Fuqua community is.

And aside from that, I was just thinking that fit is really important to Fuqua. That’s why we have second-year students interview prospective students, because ultimately, what they’re looking for is “Do I want you on my team? Can I see you at Fuqua Friday? Are you the type of person that will walk out of an interview and be willing to share your experience?” They’re looking for people who enjoy being in an inclusive community.

mbaMission: Thank you. I really appreciate your taking the time to provide some insight into the Fuqua experience.

FFY: Sure. Thank you.

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