At first glance, they appear to have little in common: A civil engineer from China; a football player for Michigan State; a frustrated pianist from Bogota; and a tanker officer who's been at sea for seven years.
But while the MBA Class of 2003 represents more than 60 countries, each member arrives with the same eagerness for business knowledge, enthusiasm about the academic possibilities ahead, and hunger for direction in their careers.
And if you survey the 324 newest MBA students and 48 LFMs (Leaders for Manufacturing) about why they're here, you'll hear a great deal about environment, MIT, and networking.
“Excellent program, excellent resources, excellent people,” is how Piedad Rodriguez, a systems engineer, sums it up. “When I researched b-schools, I pre-selected those with better reputations. But when I visited Sloan, it became my first choice.”
Students repeatedly cite MIT Sloan's welcoming atmosphere for its lasting impression.
“Students welcomed me right away. There was a warm feeling,” says Susan Lee, a Hong Kong native coming off seven years at Proctor & Gamble.
Craig Rottenberg, previously with an Internet start-up and a family jewelry business, says he was drawn to MIT Sloan's smaller class sizes and more intimate setting.
“Sloan was my first choice because of the focus on different cultures,” says Cindy DeTar, on leave from Deloitte Consulting. “When I sat in on classes, I didn't hear the same accent twice. I think that exposure will prepare me better. I want to learn to work with different sorts of people, to learn the nuances of communication.”
“It's so important to engage with as many people as possible,” says David Gagnon, who spent 11 years at Paine Webber in Japan. “You're exposed to the people behind the ideas, CTOs and CEOs, the students who came up with different ideas. You hear the inside stories. To do that on your own would take several years; here you can do it in two.”
MIT Sloan's entrepreneurial approach and openness to students influencing curriculum are also strong draws.
“Sloan's emphasis on innovation and collaboration among students is key,” according to Cam Mackey.
Brendan Miller hopes to share his interest in “the intersection of policy and public realism. I'm most interested in helping people see how the choices they make everyday affect the larger social sphere.”
“At Sloan you learn how to come up with creative solutions for business challenges. We're not just going to apply a model, we're going to transform things,” says Rodriguez.
That kind of independent thought is also reflected in this class's commitment to the wider MIT community. Mackey, who wants to work in marine transportation, plans to take classes at MIT's Center for Transportation Studies. Rosamund Lu, a registered engineer with a masters degree in construction management and public administration, also plans to include courses at the Institute.
“When you look at the different schools, MIT was unique in the application of technology, combined with operations and finance,” says David Gagnon.
Entering at an average age of 28, most students say they have only a vague notion of where their careers will head, but all are keenly aware that a MIT Sloan MBA will open doors. Everyone recognizes that the contacts they make in and out of the classroom begin to form a lifelong network.
Federico Stubbe, working toward both an MBA and masters in construction management, is “looking forward to getting a clear direction in my life and how to get there, based on the relationships I make and things I'm exposed to.”
Rob Spork, who used to work on mergers & acquisitions at Price Waterhouse, sums it up. “When I walk out of Sloan, I expect my career path and the level of focus that I will have will be totally different. A new ballgame. Phase 2 of my career.”
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