Last Thursday I was reliving some of the best things you can get from MBA besides highly acclaimed (and frequently challenged) credentials, cursory introduction to critical business knowledge and skills, and chronic sleep deprivation .
I went to a celebration of the end of the first summer module by first and second year part-time MBA students from GWSB. The gathering was held at a bar right on the GW campus that has already become an unofficial headquarters for GW students socializing. There were at least 30 people gathered there. The only other time I saw so many part-time MBAs from GWSB gathered informally was at the same place after my very last class in the program, when most of us were celebrating the end of MBA program.
I met a couple of these students in my classes during the program, and some more at the baseball game outing organized by one of the students in May. I have seen some of the names in GWSB emails. But I consider myself really lucky that I had two classes with one particular person and got friendly with him in my Business Communications class in the very last module of my part-time MBA. More on him later in this post.
As I mentioned more than once throughout this blog, one of the biggest drawbacks of the part-time MBA mode without cohort system is that students do not have as many opportunities to form meaningful and sustainable bonds with each other. Moreover, majority of part-timers do not even attempt to overcome the objective constraints imposed by full-time jobs, part-time studies, and family obligations in many cases. I have witnessed this and have been guilty of this mindset throughout most of my program.
Only after I came back from my study abroad in France I realized how bad we really had it here. Out of my frustration I even wrote an “Open Letter to Part-time MBA Students” . And in the last seven weeks of my MBA program I was trying to catch up on socializing with my classmates and getting to know them beyond the classroom setting as much as I could. I succeeded somewhat, but it was a bit too late in the game.
That’s why I am completely blown away by what I see going on in this class of part-time MBA students, most of whom are slated to graduate in 2014. It all started very modestly by one of the students opening the Facebook group for the MBA class 2014 in August 2011, even before the classes started. For a couple of months there was very little going on, and by the end of the first module they only had about a dozen members and hardly any interaction in the group.
Then another student sent out invitation to the whole class to celebrate the end of the first module with happy hour. After that the group tripled within about a week and a snowballing effect started. Then invitations for other happy hours started to trickle down more regularly.
My classmate in Business Communication – Matteo, whom I mentioned earlier in this post, really took it to heart to use the group for organizing regular (as in “weekly”) happy hours. As they were meeting more and more often, more support and participation was coming from a broader student base. The Spring 2012 part-time MBA intake were incorporated in the group. Through Matteo I got included in the group just a few weeks before graduation, as well as a few other more “senior” part-time students. As of now the group has over 100 members many of whom are quite active in the group and events organized through it.
So even after graduation I can stay informed, and sometimes involved, like last Thursday, with the students of part-time MBA program at GWSB. Another example of involvement was the networking event at Honest Tea two weeks ago, invitation to which I also received through this Facebook group.
And now they are planning to have a wine tasting tour, and tubing tour over the summer. All these things are rather natural for undergrads or even full time MBA students, however for part-time graduate students this is a very remarkable and commendable pursuit.
And these weekly informal gatherings are really not only about drinking and schmoozing. I could easily see on Thursday night the cohesiveness of the class 2014. This cohesiveness actually spills over in other areas of their MBA experience. From the emails I used to receive in Spring from GWSB office I know that the group of part-time MBA students, mostly comprising class 2014, got involved in dialogue with the business school administration. They challenged some long-standing and crippled conventions about the status of part-time MBA body at school, scheduling issues, academic issues. Through the series of meetings with the business school deans the students were able to actually make some progress in changing the status quo on some very important issues. It is all work in progress, of course, but what I see is already remarkable.
So these students of Class 2014, and for me specifically – Matteo who is really passionate and proactive about gathering the classmates together for informal fellowship, are my real part-time MBA heroes. I talked to many of them last Thursday telling how incredible it was that they were getting together and having fun regularly and in such numbers. Some of them thought that it was natural and normal. But I know better. They are – anomaly, and I hope they will stay that way. I tip my hat to all of them and plan to crash their parties from time to time .