This article is written by Keith Soranno, a GWSB Class 2014 graduate. Keith has been one of the key figures in forming the image of this remarkable class and is well known for his straightforward no BS attitudes and expression.
Going to graduate school for me was a different decision than for most individuals. Being a little older, I did not see an MBA as a way to get ahead or make more money, but rather a way to round out my professional career and to backstop against any future jobs where an advanced degree might be required. Due to this, my decision was based on cost to benefit vs. maximum benefit with cost not being as critical.
I was also working full time so it was a key to have a program that was flexible as well as close to my office. This narrowed down the choices to the 3 major schools in D.C. I was accepted to all three programs, but one was too expensive for what I calculated my payback to be on the degree. One school was too far off the metro line (this is how petty some of my criteria were). And the final school was George Washington, 4 blocks from my office, advertised flexibility to accommodate the working professional and a nationally recognized program. After visiting with the admissions group I felt confident to commit the next two years of my life and signed up.
Orientation came and went, and I settled into my first class, Accounting. Immediately, I began to question my decision to come to GW. As I sat in the first lecture listening to the teacher berate students over the most insignificant items, I thought I had been transformed back to undergrad. It was comical to listen to this teacher verbally abuse a student who had to be at a deposition in CA the day of our mid term exam. So much for flexibility, right?
This seemed to be a common theme that punctuated the dysfunction of the MBA program. Lack of cohesive leadership, apathetic teachers who were disinterested in the students professional advancement, a fragmented student body consisting of Full and Part-time students that seemed to be kept separate by the administration to allow infighting as a cloak to the real issues facing the school, and finally, an administrative group that seemed more interested in telling student why they could not fix anything and that it was their fault classes were canceled.
So what is an upset, angry and disenfranchised student to do? Well, in my case I was very lucky to have an amazing group of peers in my program who were just as upset and motivated to do something about it. So after many drinks one night at a local bar we decided that we were going to take matters into our own hands and run for roles on the MBA student organization. We were going to unite the students, bring a common voice to the students and force the administration to listen to our needs. Sounds simple, right?
The next 12 months were filled with such highs and lows, from the dean of the business school getting fired, to creating and building a common voice for the students the entire process was amazing. What I learned about an MBA program, it is not about coming in and getting served, it is about going out and making the experience into what you want it to be. If you sit around and complain, nothing gets better, you are truly in control of your own destiny, and if you make a small effort to find people who you connect with where and what those connections will lead to is endless.
Grad School is just like life. You find some mentors you truly value their insight and opinion, and others who you wish you would never have to see again. You make connections in the strangest of places and find that strangers may become friends for life. The administration are bureaucrats and not interested in getting anything done, rather they are most concerned with protecting their job.
Overall, it opened my eyes to the world and made me realize that if I wanted anything I was going to have to go out and find the circumstances I wanted and if I could not find them, I would have to make them. While this was always something I knew, having to deal with it first hand was a good reminder and an excellent prep for my future endeavors. I do recommend going to grad school and I would recommend GW, not for the faculty and administration, but for the students and people that you can connect with. Remember though, you are in control of what you want and what you will get out of the program. If you relinquish control, you will be disappointed.