Biz School

Biz School @ 2 Years: Hitting the Wall?

I think I may have hit the wall after 2 years in the evening MBA program at Santa Clara University. 

Bear in mind that, as an evening program I, like many of my classmates, work all day long, then go to 1.5-3 hours of classes at night.  Generally we either go for 1.5 hours 4 nights a week or 3 hours 2 nights a week.  We then do homework on the nights in between and I generally dedicate one whole weekend day to make sure I get everything done.  I juggle a lot of things.

I started the program Spring 2007 so I am literally 2 years in.  I am just about finished, as well.  I decided to wait a bit to maximize my odds of taking the final class, dubbed Capstone, along with a group of people that would make a good team.  

For some reason, I am struggling far more this quarter than in previous ones.  Below 70% on one midterm (though exam percentage for the class is cumulative over 3 tests), about 80% on the true midterm (25% of grade) in my other class.  In both cases, I clearly knew the material but just didn’t focus enough on the test.  That’s a sign of being lazy and/or getting tired.  

I know it’s difficult to work and go to school (and run a business).  But I have handled it so far so I’m a bit surprised.  And while there is a part of me that is frustrated at not excelling, I am now worried about getting dual low-B’s…which means I need to be worried about the possibility of C’s.  

Hopefully things will pick back up in the Summer, when I take only one class, and then in the Fall when I’m hopefully rejuvenated from the Summer break.  But that’s a hope.

allan’s top 5 MBA courses @ LSB

The post title is formatted for Twitter :-).  These are my picks, thus far, for the top 5, “must take” elective courses at the Leavey School of Business at Santa Clara University.  I’ll detail them more later but let’s get this list put together.

  1. Management 516 – Organization Politics, Professor Dennis Moberg
  2. Management 524 – Managing Technology and Innovation, Professor Del Mank
  3. IDIS 696 – Social Benefit Entrepreneurship, Professor Eric Carlson
  4. Management 512 – Psychology of Leadership, Professor Cheryl Shavers
  5. Management 703 (1 unit) – The Balanced Scorecard, Professor Leidecker*

* – I really enjoyed and got a lot out of this class, but I’m not sure I’m really ready to put a 1 unit course on here.  I have a few more electives that I’ll be doing over the next few quarters and I think number 5 will change (actually, take a look at Econ 466, which I’m taking now).  But those top 4 are solid.

where business and law schools meet…

Recently, I had a discussion with a student at Santa Clara University’s School of Law who is also pursuing an MBA at the Leavey School of Business.  There are only a few joint degrees at Santa Clara, and the JD/MBA is one of them.  However, to put it simply, it’s a bit haphazardly organized.  I believe that up to 6 units can be cross listed; the rest of each program has to be taken in its entirety.  That part is actually pretty standard as compared to other joint degree programs around the country.  What is a bit off is that it seems that for every student there is negotiation about which courses are credited across the two programs.  For one student, courses A and B are accepted by both schools.  For another student, it’s X and Y.  

More importantly, however, law students seem to be unsure about what classes to take to embellish their JD.  The MBA, presumably, will contribute to the education they are already receiving about law.  But while there are concentrations for MBA students (leadership, finance, etc), there isn’t anything like “classes a law student interested in intellectual property might want to take” guide.

Well, as I have made it through the MBA program and have taken a LOT of classes (2 years in, I’ll have done…I think 66 units out of 70 required), primarily in management, I have my own commentary about what classes at the business school might pique the interest of a law student. Because students can pursue so many different areas within the field of law, I’m going to focus on Intellectual Property and Social Justice, and follow this post up immediately with my “top 5 classes” which also contribute to the impact of a business education in conjunction with the law (for the most part).


Helen Popper: global economics expert, and my professor

Marketplace: Global cooperation is way to recovery

This is an interesting link for two reasons.  First, it is one of many really mind-opening discussions on our economy, the global economy, and how we need to look at so many variables for just about everything.  And everyone has a different perspective.

Second, I am taking a class with Professor Popper this quarter. 

“I’m studying management”

When I’m interacting with classmates in my MBA program, especially when I’m meeting someone new, I am often asked “what is your concentration?”  Many people answer that they are pursuing the finance track, or economics, or perhaps operations.  I say that I am pursuing the management and leadership concentrations (they are two separate ones).

I have to admit that I always feel a bit like an underachiever when I answer that way.  Like back in my undergrad days when I said I was majoring in History.  There was always this dangling question of “oh, and what is your “real” major?”  Now it’s as if learning about management is some kind of fall-back or perhaps even illegitimate field of study for someone getting an MBA.

Part of this is because I am in fact not very good at finance or economics, though I’m deeply interested in both.  I would love to be able to gauge beta and risk and how to create arbitrage scenarios while managing a hedge fund, or spend my day (seriously – my entire day) looking at how macro-economic policies shift our currency trends and overall national conditions.  

But, those aren’t my strengths.  I’m not sure I’m a great leader or manager so maybe my strengths aren’t there, either, but “running things” is something I’ve generally been good at since I was in high school.  Allocating resources, creative problem-solving, working with others – that’s just breathing to me, most of the time.  In the end, it may turn out I’m a management asthmatic, but for now I feel it’s what I’m good at, and it’s what I am pursuing. 

But it is kind of weird to say that I’m studying how to be better at management.  Too broad or something.

Review: Kevin Walsh, IDIS, Leavey School of Business

At a glance

  • Workload:  Light
  • Teaching Style:  Guest lectures, some interactive sessions
  • Interest in students: Unclear
  • Relevance to outside world: High

Overall Professor Rating: 3-4 (hard to tell due to so many guest lecturers)

Overall Course Rating: 4 (but them guest lecturers are good!)

IDIS 612 is an interesting course.  It’s basically all guest lecturers, but they are good ones, as Professor Walsh knows a LOT of people in some seriously powerful positions.  I recommend the course to anyone wanting to take a qualitative and, in all honesty, easy course while taking another, much harder one in the same quarter.  You get a lot out of it, while not beating yourself up with two difficult courses.

The Review

This is the latest of my reviews on the professors I’ve had while an MBA student at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. There are lots of sites out there that provide feedback and rates – ratemyprofessor is the most notable. The SantaClaraMBA Yahoo group also has a big database of comments and lots of additional information in its message archive. That database can be a bit hard to wade through, and the comments are short and often just link to other threads, which are themselves pretty short and superficial. Only here can I write as much as I want  🙂

I review professors from a variety of perspectives.  First, I explain the context(s) under which I took the class.  Time of year, time of day, etc.  Then I talk about the quality of the class and the professor, and finally about the professor as a person.  After all, we are trying to learn about our interactions with people, so knowing that side of a teacher is critical, too.  So these would be interactions outside the classroom, etc.  I also just write whatever it is that I think is relevant or will be helpful to others.  That is my overall goal.

This review goes way back to Fall 2008, so just last quarter.  It’s a bit later than I had hoped to do, as is obviously the one for IDIS 696 Social Benefit Entrepreneurship, which I also took last quarter and will write in the next few days.

The facts

I took IDIS 612 in Fall 2008, Mondays and Wednesdays, 5:45-7 (this is the new first slot in Leavey’s 2-course-per-night schedule).  Professor Walsh is an adjunct with significant ties to Silicon Valley and a number of high-ranking executives, from start-up CEO’s to marketing presidents at large companies.  

Them’s the facts (slim as they are). Now read on for the review.

Psyched out by class schedules

Last night, I found out that one of my classes is not going to be what I had hoped it would be.  So I was then fretting over what other class to take.  In a bout of craziness and lack of logic, I dropped a course for which I had heard good reviews before checking how full it was, then added an entirely different course that I’m not sure I really want to take.  After re-reading (yes – I had read them before) the positive reviews of the course I had just dropped, I tried to re-add it…but it’s full.

So now, after having gotten an initial registration appointment very, very early during the week to sign up for classes, I find myself potentially locked out of one of the classes I had intended to take.  A class that was part of my “plan,” that was about as compelling as any other class I was considering, and was, finally, from a teacher that is supposed to be a bit harder, but in a challenging way, rather than a “just to be difficult” way.

Stupid move.

The Marketing of a Business School

Some discussions between…various people and I have covered the issue of how the Leavey School of Business, where I am pursuing an MBA, markets itself.

First, I’m not really sure how the school sees itself.  On the one hand, I think it’s well-known that the biggest benefit of the MBA program at SCU is that it’s an evening program that is pretty flexible.  In fact, the slogan at the top of the Evening MBA program page says “Where Flexibility is Key.”  Since most students are in the Evening program (and not the weekend or accelerated ones), this is a pretty important branding effort.

And the program is very flexible.  You can finish the program in 2-6 years (though 2 would be really hard), you can take quarters off, etc.  The faculty are so far universally understanding of the fact that students are working professionals that one of the first things they say is that they realize we might have to go on business trips and that missing a class here or there is not a big deal.  Classes are only offered at night or on weekends, and I know of only one course that has any events that start before 5PM (Management 701, the subject of my next review…).

For me, certainly, this flexibility was why I am getting my MBA at SCU.  Just the honest truth.  I like my current job, I think I am working on some interesting stuff, and I don’t want to give that up.  Yet here is a program that is academically sound and, more importantly, flexible and allows me to work on a pace that makes sense to me.

It’s pretty clear, then, that the school is about flexibility.  If you look at what other programs are offered, it’s about flexibility, too.  Sure, the Executive MBA program is pretty much standard fare these days, but they also offer a program for applicants with less than 3 or so years of corporate experience.  This option is pretty hard to find.  FWIW, while I have friends in this program that are way smarter than I am, I am a bit concerned that I go to a school where 3 years of corporate experience isn’t a flat-out requirement.

The concern, therefore, is why the school doesn’t make a bigger deal out of its academic credentials.  I mean, I still care quite a bit that it’s a good school, after all.  And it is highly ranked – in the top 15 for part-time programs (that includes executive programs, I believe).  But other than a blurb when the rankings come out I don’t see much about how good the program is, academically.

Which I find a bit weird…

Getting school over with…or not

I was having the conversation with a classmate the other day about trying to take Capstone, our final class in our MBA program, this spring quarter.  I know a few people who are taking it in spring so there is incentive (it’s a team-based course).  However, I would have to change my schedule a bit and take an extra course next quarter to finish all my requirements in time.  Or, if I really wanted to get in on spring, I could have taken just one of my remaining three required, core courses this quarter and been all set.

However, it makes me wonder about the timing of the program, and the sense of urgency to just get it over with.  This goes hand in hand with previous posts about why I choose certain classes taught by certain professors over the same course by a different one and my progress thus far.  I don’t feel a particular urgency to get the program done, though I will admit that I’m getting a bit jaded lately and the fatigue of going to classes at night after working a full day is not something I will miss when I am done.

But, with a course as important as Capstone, it’s rather important for me to make sure I have a professor from whom I will learn a great deal, and with whom I will be able to create a solid business plan (that’s the real purpose of the course).  So making sure that I take courses such that I can take Capstone at my earliest possible moment…not so sure about that.  I’m pretty comfortable setting myself up for Fall term for Capstone (though I hope I know some folks in the class).

I’m also quite lucky – my work will start paying for up to 2 classes per quarter starting next term, and that is a benefit I want to take advantage of for at least 2-3 terms.  It gives me the freedom to wait until the right Capstone professor comes along.  Few enjoy this option.  But even those that do, many are determined to power through as quickly as possible.

The MBA will come in time.  Instead of 2 years I’m looking at 2.5.  Almost certainly less than 3.  That’s pretty okay with me.

The damnation of too many course materials websites

Here at SCU, we have two major online course materials systems.  One is called eres, the other Angel.  The former is really just a document repository.  It does have folders and a weird variant of a discussion forum but it’s a place where a professor can put a bunch of files and students can download them.  Angel is a full blown learning management system, designed as a central stopping point for actual course content, links out to other places, the ability to have a drop-box for delivery assignments, etc.

While I do have my own personal complaints about eres as a system, my particular whiney complaint today is about the fact that we have 2 of them at all.  I never know where to look for what.

Before the quarter started, I went to both and looked for my three classes.  I found none of them at either site, and tried to remember to look back again later.  When the quarter began, I discovered that both of my quarter-long classes were on Angel.  My 1-unit course, which only meets 1 weekend, I just forgot about.  Turns out it’s on eres.  And it turns out that the professor expected all of us to go there and find it…appparently a while ago.  Now I’m behind to some extent and feel a bit stupid about an e-mail I sent and a response I received from the management department (it’s more about my feeling stupid than them making me feel that way).

It’s just frustrating that we have two different systems and I’m somehow feeling guilty because I didn’t spastically check both of them on a regular basis.  Just frustrating.